You hear all the time about people who are good to be with—in small doses.
But most of the people I know—me included, I think—are actually better in large doses. Less noisy. More reflective. More relaxed. More honest. More focused on the few things that matter, and less distracted by the avalanches of shit that doesn't. More liable to laugh like a little kid.
I'm back this week from a road trip with my old writer pal Paul Engelman. In a four-day round trip from Chicago, we saw my boyhood home in Ohio, his boyhood home in New Jersey, the Wall Street protest and McSorley's Wonderful Saloon in New York and a wedding at an opulent but rainwashed horse farm in Connecticut.
I've had more than my share of road trips in my life, but they've been on motorcycles lately, and it's been awhile since I did this in a car. All that time to talk. Dozens and dozens of hours, to talk.
I'd forgotten what happens on a car trip that long.
The adrenaline wears off by the second day and your conversations take on an unfamiliar rhythm. Their properties change. Their purpose changes, and then sheds all purposes, except for passing the time. Long stories short? No, short stories long!
You stop trying to justify the stories you are telling as being apropos of something. It's "Hey, this just popped into my head, so I'm gonna tell it to you."
Should we get something to eat here, or wait until we have to get gas? There are too many of these decisions, so you dispense with chivalry and you settle on a reliable system: You impose your will when it is strong. And you do what the other guy thinks until you decide he's gravely wrong.
As you cruise the last few hours in gathering quiet, you begin to realize that a four-day conversation between two friends amounts to a kind of Constitution As Far As We're Concerned. Nothing that you'd ever try to get anyone else to sign—but written, and stored where you can get at it. You know, in case of any future dispute.
Do you have a good friend you've never had a road trip with?
Find a reason. I'm glad I did.