New Hampshire Part 1
Awkward encounters with highway patrol and ticks
As you may recall, we’re on a Stateside excursion.
After the flight, we landed and picked up a car from Enterprise in Boston’s Logan airport.
When we got to the lot, it was a *much* nicer car than we had paid for. I was loudly impressed and excited. Joel gave me a look to shut up in case they realised they’d fucked up and took away the nice car.
We went to get tacos at a place that the lady in Enterprise recommended, which was full of frat boys because it was Friday night.
Back in the car, Joel played with the lane-keeping and cruise control with the air of a boy on Christmas morning.
“Look! It doesn’t even need me to do anything. It’s just staying in the lines. Isn’t that cool?”
It beeped at him, which was the car’s way of telling him to put his hands back on the wheel. The lanes split and the car juddered from side to side, unsure which lane to keep.
“I mean, it’s not perfect. But it’s pretty cool.”
We cleared Boston and headed north towards New Hampshire. My son fell asleep immediately in the backseat.
The roadside became wooded pretty quickly. I forgot how big the woods are here, and each tree too. The trees are so much bigger than the spindles in the UK. Here, the trees loom. Each tree is 100ft or more.
I asked him what he thought of the States so far.
“Everyone seems so happy.”
I agreed. It’s noticeable, how much happier people seem, at least on face value, compared to the UK.
“I like all the signs too.” He means a strip mall we’re passing.
Eastern Cannabis company!
The strip malls of northern Massachusetts give way to more thinly spaced gas stations in Live Free or Die New Hampshire.
Brake for moose!
Hundreds of collisions!
Home of the first snowmobile - Ossippee, NH
Driving over here is a bit of a mystery. The signs are confusing and hieroglyphic, as if the author had only a passing grasp of word order.
Bridge ices before road.
The speed limit too seems arcane and unconnected to the shape or quality of the road.
Joel is doing 62 mph. The speed limit is 45 mph.
“Joel, the speed limit is 45 here. You need to slow down.”
“Come on, look at this road. It’s HUGE and it’s empty. There’s no one here. In the UK, this would definitely be 60. There’s no way this road is 45. 45 is insane.”
“It may be insane, but it’s still the speed limit. I just saw a sign.”
“I don’t get it. The roads are so wide but the speed limits are so low. It’s just stupid. Especially for such a big country. How does anyone get anywhere? That must be why they all fly.”
We flash past two police cars at the right hand side.
“We’re about to get pulled over. Jesus fucking Christ.”
Blue lights behind us and, all of the sudden, we are in a movie. It’s all so familiar, and so scary.
The cop comes up to Joel’s window, with a flashlight, exactly like in every movie you’ve ever seen where this kind of thing happens. I wonder if I am Thelma or Louise and who gets Brad Pitt in the motel.
“Evening folks. You were doing 62 mph back there in a 45 zone. Where you headed?”
I tell him where we’re going and why (cousin’s wedding). I use my best American accent and smile my whitest contritest smile. Joel hands over his UK licence, tucked inside the international permit. I tell the cop I told him to slow down. Joel gives me a death stare.
The cop disappears back to his car. Joel and I bicker quietly but with passion.
Eventually, the cop returns and gives Joel back his licence and permit.
“Ok, just take it easy on these roads, buddy. We’ve got bear, elk and moose up here.”
I realise he is letting us off and also momentarily find it sweet that he is worried about the wildlife.
“If you hit one of those, it’s not a good day for the car.”
Ah. I see. He is worried about the car.
The next morning, we walk into breakfast and hug everyone and my mom says “I have a tick”.
“Yeah I went for a walk this morning in the woods and I have a tick now. Want to see?”
She is trying to roll up her trousers to show me but can’t get them up high enough above the tick.
“Ok I’m going to go find a tick removal kit.”
She comes back after ten minutes as we’re perusing the breakfast menu. She is holding a white envelope.
“It’s out. Wanna see?”
“It’s dead now.”
My son of course does want to see and pauses his pancakes to go have a look at the dead tick in the envelope.
A local guy at the counter is listening to us and chimes in that he pulls ten ticks off a day.
“Ten ticks a DAY?!”
I am shocked. I grew up not too far from here and throughout my entire long childhood never once had a tick.
Leeches, yes. Black flies, yes. Mosquitos, hell yes. But ticks, no.
I say as much.
“Yeah? Did you live in, like, a town?”
“No, I lived in the middle of nowhere.”
I can feel his skepticism. Tick innocence does not sit well with country credibility.
“Weird. Maybe there are more ticks these days. Climate change, maybe. Anyway, I’ll just tuck my trousers into my socks.”
“No, but you know these are wood ticks and they sail down off the trees….”
We go for a quick hike before the wedding. It is a hot, muggy 65 degrees (in America I revert instantly, instinctively, to Fahrenheit) but I keep my hood pulled up the whole time and sweat barrels. Joel slaps his neck and runs hands through hair every few minutes.
When we get back, my amazing cousin has got us food and Joel sits down cross-legged on the floor of her room to eat it.
And immediately gets back up again.
“There’s a tick on me.”
There it is, crawling on the outside of his trousers, sniffing for a way in. Someone gives him a tissue and he grabs the tick.
He waves it near my food.
“What do I do with it?”
“Any way. Maybe just squeeze it?”
He squeezes and then looks back into the tissue.
“It’s still alive.”
We flush the indomitable tick down the toilet and finish lunch.
Later, we are regaling my cousin with the tale of our adventures with highway patrol on the way up to the wedding venue.
I wonder aloud why he let us off. I am convinced it was my smooth-talking charm, my killer smile.
She rolls her eyes.
“He just didn’t know how to write a ticket for an international licence.”
“Oh my god. You’re so right.”
I am having an epiphany. She is absolutely right. He just couldn’t handle the admin.
“He 100% got back to his car and couldn’t figure out how to write a ticket for a UK licence. Like, what state? What zip code? No way. Too much paperwork.”
He just couldn’t be bothered.
More trouble than it’s worth.