Once Mom and I formulated our hypothesis, we continued to observe. We were in the ideal research vehicle to avoid contaminating our subjects. It was like we were invisible—you know, in our 59-foot long, 18-foot tall Road Warrior monster pulling what was essentially a Toyota Corolla. Rarely did any cars pull up next to us. (And if they did, I avoided eye contact. Mom, on the other hand, waved. She was not educated in the finer points of scientific observation, as I was.)
Eventually, our hypothesis became a full-fledged proof. There could be no doubt. We continued to watch, fascinated.
After a little while, we observed one young man whose behavior was slightly different, though no less odd. This guy, probably 19 or 20, parked his hatchback, got out, walked around to the back, opened his hatch, and rooted around in the back of his car. The hatch was full of trash bags, each of which contained various clothing items. And he changed clothes. There behind his car. Outside of a McDonald’s. In the middle of the night. You know, like everybody does.
I don’t know how you were raised, but that’s not “normal.” He’d put on some outfit, go into the restaurant, and come back after around 15 minutes or so. He’d open his hatch, jumble around in the bags, select some other set of clothes, and change again. There behind his car. Outside of a McDonald’s. In the middle of the night. We observed him perform this ritual at least five times.
My best guess is he was either participating in some kind of fashion show I’ve never heard of before—you know, like the kind they have in McDonald’s restaurants along the Connecticut Turnpike in the middle of the night in summer—or, he was turning tricks in the McDonald’s restroom. :( Neither scenario seems to have much of a bright future.
And then suddenly, right in the middle of our naïve schooling, a shimmering light. A brilliant beacon of happiness that still spreads a smile across my face to this very day. A red convertible Ford Mustang (with the top closed) pulled up. It broke the monotony, in that this particular car contained two guys. They were young-ish, college-aged, early 20’s, I’d estimate. They pulled in, quite literally, right into the middle of this hip scene, and parked. The driver turned off the headlights. They didn’t get out. They didn’t go into the restaurant. They didn’t look around at the other cars. Instead, they reached into the back seat and produced two pillows. Each guy tilted his respective seat back, leaned as distantly far away from the other guy as was possible, leaned against his own door, and attempted to get some sleep. My mom and I looked at each other and smirked knowingly. This was gonna be fun to watch.
They were there for probably 15-20 minutes, trying in vain to sleep. I don’t know if you know this, but the thing about sleeping in your car in a parking lot is, it’s a serious hassle when every 2-3 minutes, another car pulls up alongside you and turns off, and its driver sits and stares at you for several minutes. Then, once it becomes obvious to that driver that you’re not going to return his gaze, he starts his car, turns his headlights on, and moves on to another space. This cycle repeated itself for our Mustang honeys several times.
The passenger, now visibly irritated, looked up and rubbed his eyes. He sat there blearily, looking all around, watching the cars moving around. After several minutes of watching, he reached over and grabbed the shoulder of his buddy the driver, shaking him awake. A heated argument ensued, with lots of hand gesturing, the kind borne out of that frustration that you can really only experience when you are truly, completely, utterly exhausted.
The passenger convinced the driver to see for himself, so they both sat there, looking around for several minutes, while the meat market ritual continued all around them. They spoke some more, far less angrily—more bewildered, really. The pillows were jettisoned into the back seat. Both seatbacks flipped suddenly upright, like catapults. Seatbelts were whipped around and fastened. The engine was gunned. Tires screeched. As quickly as they had arrived—actually, much more quickly—they were gone.
Sadly, they still had only each other. And the rest of us missed them terribly.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever observed on the Connecticut Turnpike? What about elsewhere? Did you ever have a crazy awakening to a completely different lifestyle?