By DANNY KALIS
Sitting around jobless can make a man do crazy things. Some men turn to drinking or drugs. Some might find new hobbies or start exercising. Others might go back to school and prepare for their dream careers. I visited Chickasha, Oklahoma.
An old friend of mine from a past job got a new job offer in Chickasha, Okla. He asked me if I could help him drive the more than 2,000 mile round trip so he could finalize some paperwork. He is a man of few friends, and I got the impression that this job meant a lot to him and his family.
We left last Thursday night at around 7 p.m. That’s when he decided to tell me that his new boss needed him to be there at noon the next day and that he needed to be home Saturday night.
We made it to Fort Wayne before 9, and I saw Indianapolis for the first time in my life at 11 p.m. Thursday. We had spent those first four hours catching up, and then we were out of things to talk about. It was about that point when I remembered that we were never really that close when we actually worked together. We got out to stretch our legs and he took over the drive.
This “friend” and I had worked together for almost a year without really talking when our wives hit it off at our work Christmas party. The wives talked back and forth, stayed in touch, and had even met up for cocktails a few times. Last summer I decided to move to Morenci; my “friend” and I hadn’t talked since. I realized these things in Indianapolis, trapped in a car, alone with him, heading for Chickasha, Okla. To distract from the awkward silence, he put in a CD. It was a Harry Potter audiobook. It was then that I realized I had made a mistake.
Four excruciating hours of Prisoner of Azkaban later, we stopped for a rest break. Being an awkward person myself; I had a real dilemma. I did not want to listen to Harry Potter. This was his car, though, and we were just outside of St. Louis, Mo. I looked up the walking distance to get back home and avoid a confrontation. It was 139 hours to walk from St. Louis back to Morenci. Harry Potter started sounding a little better.
I took the wheel and drove us south through Missouri, listening to Harry’s adventures the whole way. Just about at my wits end, I came up with a great plan. I said, “Hey man, I’m getting a little tired; do you think we can put on some music?” He said, “Sure,” and I breathed a silent sigh of relief. He grabbed his phone, and put on Korean pop music. I am not joking. Korean pop. I thought that nothing could be worse than two grown men listening to Harry Potter. I was very, very wrong.
I would like to say that I decided to tell him that this music was worse than Chinese water torture. As I mentioned, however, I am an awkward person, so I bobbed my head to the beat as a little part of me died inside. He never wavered; we listened to Korean Pop and Harry Potter the entire way there and back. We arrived in Chickasha just before noon. Talking with the locals, I learned that it is pronounced Chick-a-shay not Chick-ash-a as I had been calling it since I first heard of the town two days earlier.
We toured the area a little bit, looking at the housing options, and then we turned right back around for Michigan. I tried not to seem annoyed, but I think I did a pretty poor job. It wasn’t even just the K-pop and Harry Potter. He went on about his fascination of Anime and Asian women in general for much too long to be acceptable in any social situation.
I drove the last leg of the trip from Indianapolis back home early Saturday afternoon. I got out of the car and we said faux cordial good-byes. I haven’t heard from him in the 10 days since.
Looking back, I wish that I would have had some more patience and simply enjoyed the ride. My “friend” was just being himself. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the things he likes, we just don’t share the same interests. I would have rather rocked out to some country music, but he shot that down when I suggested it, which is his prerogative.
I did get to see some amazing things. I saw the St. Louis Arch, both at night and in the daylight. It’s beautiful. I got to see the red dirt of Oklahoma and the Mississippi River.
Would I do it again in the same way? Probably not. But, hey, I learned that Chickasha, Okla. is pronounced Chick-a-shay, so the trip was not a total loss.