A compilation of writing based on texts to Ruth, while awaiting truck service in New Orleans

I’m figuring this vehicle fluid service might take an hour with the “extree” (Southern pronunciation) service work I requested: tire rotation, fuel filter change kit, oil change, DEF top-off, factory recall of brake pedal bolt that could fall off and cause catastrophic damage, and overall major system inspection. The factory calls the recall a “campaign,” which makes me feel like I’m part of the team. I’m killing time watching Rachael, the cooking show, in the waiting room with six TVs. It’s interesting watching how Rachael and her guest—who appears to be shilling for her cookbooks and kitchen products, and wears the perpetual Botox smile on her middle-aged face—jockey for camera angle dominance. The audience are all women, no doubt carefully selected for age and ethnic origin, and they all clap in unison, prompted by the “Clap with enthusiasm!” illuminated screen above their stadium seating. All these women have That Look—you know, “Awww, How Cute!” They’ve been coached.

Now watching TV’s workhorse, Let’s Make a Deal. People dressed like clowns, making fools of themselves, between inane commercials; wait a minute, the entire show is a commercial for products that all the contestants cry and fawn over, all for a free trip to . . . wait for it . . . Washington DC. Where the King of Clowns pontificates, and awaits their genuflection. This is a study of reality TV at its inception, and has enjoyed 56 years of opiating the hearts and minds of mid-day viewers. I can imagine the contestants’ smiles morphing to smirks, and then to sad faces when confronted with having to give back their humiliation-earned cash and wait months for the show to air, then pay the IRS their 30%. Then there are those who win cars and have to pay their share of taxes, all this for a staged endorphin crowd-sourced rush.

On another TV—I’m almost wishing our vehicle service won’t end . . . NOT—Judge Judy presides over two identical twins who are suing each other for some past transgression. The judge stares quizzically, uncertain who is the guilty party. It seems during the commercial break, they switched sides. Civilization! It’s no wonder aliens refuse to make contact with humanity.

Nutrisystem: I lost 60 pounds!; the “One Call Ya’ll” lawyer just saved Stieve [sic] who is an “actual client,” $200,000. There are more of these lawyers’ billboards around the South then there are trees. Speaking of Let’s Make a Deal, what sort of deal do you suppose there is between accident lawyers and the insurance companies to not contest an accident? Certainly enough to plaster the skyline with 40×20-foot big screen advertising. I was standing outside our Airstream at the French Quarter RV Park while a constant sound burst upon my synapses. The ever-present drone of ambulances and emergency vehicles was all around me. True, we were almost beneath I-10, a major interchange, but it was ever-present, even waking me up in the middle of the night momentarily, a specter seeking to convey a message: You need some money? Have an accident—call the EMS—make your lawyer booty call—the lawyer makes their insurance deal—you get your cash—and the sirens wail!

A tall black dealership salesman swaggers up to the cashier’s station. This man is pressed to the bone (as they say in the South), with perfectly creased silk slacks complete with proper shoe break, in a stylish fedora. He greets us all in the waiting room with Southern politeness patois, escorting a frail old woman, who had just purchased a used car but could only put in a down payment of $5,000. I’m guessing that’s probably $4,500 more than its value. A series of closers bring her paperwork to sign as she sits in front of a commercial for an in-home handicapped stairway lift. This is amazing synchronicity. It’s the I-Ching, the tarot, the horoscope, the psychotherapy of media imitating life, imitating media.

An African American woman looking like an Egyptian queen in my mind’s eye, trimmer than a gay man’s goatee, just sat down next to me. I find myself compelled to discover some excuse to look over my shoulder, pretending to await the arrival of our truck. Her jet black hair falls in fluffed ringlets to her shoulders. Momentarily, I capture a view of almond eyes you could fall into in ecstasy. Her flawless brown skin perfectly balances in contrast with skin-tight black leotards stretched tightly over the waist and hips of a Muse. I’ve imagined myself informing the service manager to “take all the time you need!” and all thoughts of the TV montage fade away. Too much staring will get me into trouble, and her vehicle service completes in time for her panther stride to the cashier in front of me, and out the door. Back to the mundane.

“Doctor” Phil interviews a couple searching for their missing daughter, presumed lost somewhere on drugs in America. The once seemingly Ozzie-and-Harriet family, now sobbing in embarrassing closeup shots, pulls at the heartstrings of America. Text scrolls across the screen asking for anyone with knowledge of her whereabouts to contact the network. Tear-stained faces agonized in grief, cut to images of the open road somewhere in the southwest that for me invoke memories not of loss but wonder and beauty to be lost into. Luckily, I have no parents to weep for me.

Now a tenth-tier career university is being advertised by a has-been actress, and a very aged Joe Namath is shilling for private Medicare company benefits. Can he still walk on those former-football-hero broken legs? Must have brought him in to film in a wheelchair. Reality TV starlets are taking selfies of themselves in mirrors, Botoxed, fat lipped, Barbie supersized breasts, tiny waists and bowling ball-enhanced butts, waiting for genetic engineering to attain their ideal form. Humanity stares at its screens, visualizing the image of mass mind reflecting back to consume itself. We all have looked into a mirror, looking back into a mirror that curves off into infinity, no matter how we try to peek around the corner, the final image always remains frustratingly out of our sight.

Ah, finally the truck is pulling up to the waiting area. I’ll fuel up for our next leg before coming Home!