As the age-old saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, let me tell you what. When you’re an “adult” life throws a shit-ton of lemons plummeting straight for your face daily. Up-to-date on your bills? BAM! Speeding ticket. Credit card debt paid off? BAM! License plate sticker renewal is due. Came into a few extra hundred dollars of overtime? BAM! Your new puppy needs her second round of boosters. (and you have to buy a wet-vac to take care of said puppies lack of house breaking…) Did you just pay off your Disney vacation? BAM! Your piece-of-shit-but-at-least-it’s-paid-off car needs hundreds of dollars of work done because it didn’t pass some stupid emissions test. And to make matters worse–this all occurred in a two week time frame–because why wouldn’t it? Y’all, that’s a LOT of lemons. I basically live in house made from lemons. I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it many times again: adulting is HARD.
In the words of Will Smith, “now this is the story all about how/my life got flipped turned upside down/I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there/ and I’ll tell you how I became” broke as f*ck in a matter of 4 days. You see, last Friday (Payday woohoo!!) I realized that my license plate sticker was expiring at the end of the month–can someone tell me why this is even a thing?? So considering it cost of $100, I did what any responsible person would do, I wait until the week before it expires to pay it off. Low-and-behold. I get an error message stating I can’t purchase my sticker because I haven’t taken a emissions test. First of all, what the F is an emissions test? Where I grew up this was not a necessary part of owning a car what-so-ever. And now I can’t buy my sticker because of this? UHG how annoying. Okay, so after work on Friday I head over to the sketchiest looking emissions facility where I wait two minutes in the grimiest waiting area–which honestly resembles an old toll attendant stand. And the guy calls me back with a smile on his face. “hello ma’am!” (ma’am? Gross.) “Your car has failed the test. Here’s all this random paperwork, blah, blah blah–go get it fixed and come back to test again.” WHAT. What do you mean it failed? SHIT! What’s this going to cost? How the hell does a car fail???
In my delirium, I head over to the mechanic’s he runs a diagnostic. “good news, I can fix it.” YAY! “ Bad news I can’t fix it until Tuesday at noon.” Shit, so I have to take time off work? “ Worse news–here’s the bill for it all.” $360? F*CK!” “ Also, even worse news, you’ll have to drive about 200-300 miles before you can take the emissions test again.” WHAT. WHAT?! This stupid sticker expires 5 days after you fix it. How the hell am I supposed to add 300 miles to my car in that time?
Come Tuesday, I take a half day at the office and drop my car off at the mechanic’s. I have no idea how long this will take so I immediately begin planning multiple route options to take advantage of being off work to drive as far as possible in a day. The sad news is, I can’t head east towards Chicago–as I would get stuck in rush hour traffic. And heading west/south, there’s nothing of interest for HOURS. But I figure driving aimlessly into the nothing abyss of corn and soybean fields is better than spending the same about of time going fewer miles stuck in the traffic of the city.
Once my car was ready, I began my southwest journey into the sunshine of nowhere, blasting country music all along the way. I opened my sunroof and let the sunshine beat down my me–a welcome change of pace from the dreary rain the greater Chicagoland area had been experiencing. Heading out without much direction, I decided I would head towards a town called Dwight which was about 53 miles away from my house–easily crushing 106 miles round trip. What’s in Dwight you ask? Not a whole heck of a lot for a town containing a population of 4,038. So I did what any normal person would do–I stopped at McDonald’s and got an ice cream cone.
Sitting in my parked car in the McDonald’s parking lot, I felt I had a few more miles left in me. I immediately hopped on my phone to see what towns were nearby and if any of them had anything of interest. And there, on the map I saw the holy grail of all that is good. In a town 20-ish miles south west if Dwight was a small town called Pontiac. And while the town had about 3x the population of Dwight, there wasn’t much happening in that town save for one saving grace–Monical’s Pizza.
For those of you unfamiliar with the glory that is this pizza, first of all, you’re missing out. Secondly, this pizza was the staple of my childhood (other than Dunk-A-Roos and Squeeze-Its of course.) Monical’s was present at every birthday party, sleepover, family functions, and countless Friday nights. Anyone who grew up in East Central Illinois can attest to its greatness and all-star “Family Pleaser.” Currently residing in a land where the Chicago Deep-dish reigns supreme, I can determine that Monical’s–and its Sweet & Tart French dressing–will always rightfully hold my heart. (If you grew up on Monical’s you know the proper way to eat pizza is dipped in French dressing, not ranch. Sorry Midwesterns but y’all are missing out.)
So I decided this was well worth the additional 23 miles out-of-my-way drive. I started on my journey but stopped somewhere in the middle of Dwight near the cutest little park so that I could proactively place my pickup order online and have it ready for me upon my arrival.
In addition to the superior and delicious medium pizza I ordered (sausage, onion, pepperoncini, pineapple, and banana peppers–yes my own special creation, don’t knock it until you try it), I also stocked up on their frozen pizza options and a large bottle of their famous Sweet & Tart French Dressing. Did I spend over $50 on my online order…for pizza…you bet your ass I did! The trill of getting my favorite pizza fueled me as I surged down the highway to Pontiac, where upon my arrival, I noticed Pontiac is not only home to one of the most peaceful lakes I have ever seen, but it was also a town that went through the original Route 66. (History people!)
I grabbed my obnoxious order from the pickup counter and it took everything in me not to devour it right then and there. But I held out because I knew my husband would gladly welcome the unexpected surprise once I returned home. Feeling satisfied having driven 75 miles, I decided it was time to turn around. I was feeling pretty good about my drive up until that point but it soon changed. Around mile 88 or so, the music became less entertaining, the road became all too familiar, and I found myself thinking out loud (aka talking to myself). Then somewhere around mile 111 I began answering myself–I was clearly beginning to lose it.
What had started off as an annoying necessity, turned into a joyful solo road trip, and then back into an annoying necessity. Now that I was on my journey home, I just want to be home. My lower back was killing me from sitting in a car for nearly 3 hours, the smell of mouthwatering pizza consuming every inch of my car was taunting me incessantly, and there wasn’t civilization for miles ahead. I was tired, hungry, and cranky. And the time was getting away from me. It would be close to 7pm by the time I got home–and the idea of having to go to work the next day after driving all this way was unbearable. But then my phone rang, my husband was finally off work which meant I finally had another human to talk to! And with only 20 minutes left in my drive I began to see the light.
All-in-all, while this emissions test put a huge thorn in my side, I willingly changed this lemon into a change to make lemonade–I got my pizza after all, so what else could a girl ask for? With 150 miles under my belt, and nearly as many more to go with roughly 4 days left to complete it, I’m off on my next great adventure this evening. Here’s hoping it’s shorter than the last!