The air was sticky and smelled of cigarettes. The trees were unfamiliar and the parking lot lines were angled instead of straight, like at home. Bryce was told vacations were good for the soul, but he did not believe in such things. What on earth were vacations good for then?
Twelve hours in a car with his roommate. They ran out of jerky by hour three and by hour nine the roomie decided a no shoes policy was the best policy. Bryce had no idea idle feet could obtain such a stench.
The trip took them from their comfortable apartment in the heart of their big city, with its locally sourced restaurants and organic coffee shops, and straight through a countryside that could only sustain chain fast food shops and an occasional corner store brewing pre-burned coffee. Every time he placed a burger order in a drive-thru lane he tried to laugh it off. “When in Rome!” he said, his voice dripping with elitist overtones. His roommate laughed along and always made sure to lift his picky finger when drinking from a “Chug-a-lot” three quart coffee mug.
It was Bryce’s natural state; sarcasm and detachment. He knew it. He trusted it.
At hour twelve of the cross country trip he took the car into a parking lot of a grocery store. He admired the building’s design and how, even twelve hours and hundreds of miles from home, grocery stores looked like grocery stores. The lot felt foreign and the air was alien, but he found a small comfort in the a-frame canopy covering the entrance and the display of farm fresh corn cobs out front.
He wandered the aisles and pushed a cart. At home there were no carts. Hand baskets were all patrons could use; all they needed. Pushing a cart allowed him to move a slower than usual. He made his way through produce and tossed in apples and bananas. He grabbed a loaf of bread at the bakery and some sandwich meats at the deli.
He filled the cart with snacks and junk food and made way for the check out. As he walked he overheard scores of all too familiar statements. A young woman knocked a pineapple saying she had no idea what to listen for. An older man complained of the price of chicken. A mother calmly told her screaming child they would get dinner soon. Two teens were talking about BBC shows.
He had spent much of trip mocking the people of the countryside. He was so sure life in the city was superior to anything else out there. What he heard showed him life could be oddly similar anywhere.
He checked out and made way for the car to rejoin his foul footed roommate.
“Dude! You picked up those onion chips! Nicely done,” the excited roomie said popping open the bag.
Bryce smirked, “thought you’d like that.”
“How was shopping with the yokels?” The roommate asked.
Bryce pondered his answer for a moment. “It was all too familiar.” He turned the key and the duo continued their journey. Vacations, as it turned out, were good for plenty of things.