City Overload

A couple weeks ago, I took the kids to a nearby city for an overnight trip. In this case, “nearby” means three hours away from our remote cow camp home, of course. We ventured north to slumber party in a hotel room with my aunt, who was passing through northern Arizona on a cross-country road trip.

While in civilization, we played at the park, splashed in the hot tub, and ate donuts. I drove down an interstate highway for the first time in six months. I was amazed at how fast the other cars were going – every single one of them was rocketing along at better than 55 mph. What were they going to do if an antelope suddenly dashed across the highway? Weren’t they at all concerned about a hay bale falling off the back of their pickup at that speed? Did they have a contingency plan for encountering a cattle drive? We definitely weren’t on the ranch anymore.

In the hotel room, I also watched satellite TV for the first time in half a year. We watch DVDs at our off-the-grid home, so being bombarded by commercials at regularly spaced intervals was an extraordinary experience. I had no idea the rest of society smiled so much. They all seem so darn happy about vacuum cleaners, dish soap, Jettas, or bleach. Or that Sprint has the best cell phone coverage. No, it’s AT&T. No, it’s Verizon. Basically, it’s whichever company you don’t use, so you should switch right away and save 50%.

I also had no idea that my teeth were too yellow, my car is too old, my furniture is outdated, and that there is an iGadget for virtually every human need. It doesn’t matter if we can identify either our need or the actual product; Apple says we need it, and they invented the iPhone, so they must be right.

I watched more than one commercial where I was unable to discern exactly which product was being advertised. All I know is that people were yelling excitedly and numbers were flashing across the screen. Then everything went black and silent and I thought I was having a panic attack until I realized my toddler had turned off the TV.

The toddler, Milo, also proudly showed me a peanut in the hotel room before popping it into his mouth.

“Aunt Mary Ann, did you bring any peanuts?” I asked with a mixture of hope and trepidation.

“No.”

“Great. Well, he’s eaten dead spiders and dirt before. I guess an abandoned peanut of unknown origin will round out his developing immune system.”

My five-year-old country bumpkin, Grace, jumped up and rushed to the hotel window every time she heard a car engine.

“I think someone’s here!” she excitedly exclaimed.

“No, sweetie, we’re in town now, where there are lots of car engines,” I explained. “Someone else staying at the hotel is probably just parking.”

At home, the only time we hear the rumble of an engine is when my husband returns from a trip to ranch headquarters with a load of hay and mineral blocks. No one stops by because they were “in the neighborhood,” because we live one hour away from our nearest neighbor. Our neighborhood consists of wandering cows, howling coyotes, a flock of woodpeckers, and more tarantulas than I wish to acknowledge.

After a great visit with my aunt, I was relieved to get out of the city and back on the ranch. Out here, I can drive a sensible 15 mph and remain blissfully ignorant of the latest, greatest gadgets that I don’t have.

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My wonderful Aunt Mary Ann and I somehow managed to hold my two squirming kids (barely) long enough for a picture before parting ways.

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