an excerpt from Running From The Taxman, A Great American Road Trip, by Chris Plante

April 18, 2013

Dear Maggie,

We hit the road early this morning on our way to find another diner bathroom gig. It was not long after we left the diner that we came across an older couple in a late model SUV stranded on the side of the highway and out of gas.  They were really nice at first.  “We’re on our way to CostLess to return this TV we bought eleven and a half months ago.  Did you know they let you return electronic items for full price up to twelve months after your purchase?  We do it with our televisions every year, that way we always have the newest model!”  The lady turned her head away from us and gave a smile to her husband.  “You brought that steak with you too, didn’t you dear,” she asked him. She turned to me, “they let you bring food you don’t like after you cook it back too, for a full refund!  We do it all the time, even if we like it!”  “That’s nice,” I said to the lady, then went on, “there is a gas station about ten miles back and another one about thirty miles ahead.”  WB chimed in, “We have some gas we can sell you for ten dollars a gallon.”  “Ten dollars!  That’s ridiculous!”  The lady was really bent out of shape. “They wanted six dollars back at the last station and we wouldn’t pay that, either!” “Well, here you are,” I said.  “We only have some emergency ration gas for ourselves, and we need thirty bucks for three gallons.”  The man gave us a dirty look.  “We can get it at CostLess for four-fifty, there’s no way.  We’ll call our tow service and get the next thirty miles for free.”  Then he added with a sneer,

“Thanks for nothing.”

We left the couple there after we heard them make a call to their tow service.  A truck delivered them to the CostLess gas pumps about three hours later, while we were sitting out in front of the CostLess Café polishing off the last of our hot dogs.  I could see the lady yelling at the driver, and someone walking past us who had been close enough to hear the exchange laughed about how that couple was mad because their free service was “out of radius.”  “They have to pay seventy five bucks,” said the guy, stopping long enough to tell us so.  “They thought they got thirty miles for free, but they only got the first ten!”  With that he went off to meet a group of big-haired women wearing strange floor length polyester muumuus and pushing carts full of food.  They were headed toward a line of three Winnebago motorhomes parked on the edge of the CostLess lot.

As an aside, and one only taken in your best interest, I noticed the women looked very comfortable in their muumuus.  I would expect, given the loose cut this style of clothing is designed on, that travel and daily chores are less constricting for those who sport such attire.  It certainly seems to work for the large Hawaiians who do so.  Considering this, and knowing that you spend an exorbitant amount of time during the day managing your complex of dwelling units, going to and from one apartment to another and meeting with tenants and sub-contractors, I thought that you might want to play with the idea of adding a few muumuus to your wardrobe.  I’d be happy to help you pick out some floral patterns over the Internet.  Just send me some links when you get a chance.

Later I heard the couple taking turns yelling at one of the managers as I stood in the checkout line with my box of ready-made gluten-free sandwiches, bananas, and vitamin C packs.  Those C packs are great to have around.  I can add them to any tap water I find on the road.  The water always tastes better that way, and I get my daily dose of Vitamin C, too.  The manager was telling them that the return policy on TV’s had been reduced to three months.  I can’t help but think of all the time it took that greedy couple to get there, and how the last thirty miles took them three hours, most of it spent sitting in their SUV and waiting.

I wonder if they have a their own business, because then they could claim the TV as an expense and write off the trip, including the towing service fee and the value of their time.  There is a box you can check and a space where you can put whatever dollar amount you want to make up for each expense in a program I got for free online.  The hint prompt pops up when you check the box and suggests that you avoid numbers that end in zero or five.  I’ll show you the program when I get back.  Anyway, I’ll send this letter over on the free Wi-Fi broadcasting from the café and get back to you in a few days.

Yours truly,
Simon