You can see some pretty strange stuff at the side of the road as you drive along the highways of America. And I'm not just talking about water towers in the shape of tea pots (Lindstrum, MN) or watermelons (Luling, TX), either.
No, what I mean are those sudden encounters with things that have no business being on the shoulder of a highway. For example, I'm always puzzled to see a sofa just sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere. Usually they look too good to have simply fallen off a truck -- they're right-side up with the cushions are all neatly in place. Clearly, someone deliberately put it there. But why?
Did someone decide to watch a little TV in the breakdown lane? It looks all the world like they dropped off the sofa earlier, but needed another trip to fetch the TV set and coffee table. Presumably they'll be back any moment to finish setting up and then they'll switch on the big game and relax with a bowl of chips.
I'm also amazed by the sheer, blind optimism of those enterprising souls who think they can set up a business on the shoulder of the road. This makes sense if you're selling farm-fresh corn, I suppose. But there are just some things that I would never, ever buy from the back of a stranger's pickup truck. Beef jerky and fresh fish, for example. It takes a certain leap of faith that I just can't muster to buy unidentifiable meat products from a guy who has more tattoos than teeth.
The same goes for fish. Oh sure, that nice little flounder is chillin' on a bed of ice right now, but where was it 36 hours ago? Of course it's possible that the reason Sam the Fish Guy is able to offer you deeply discounted fish at his fine establishment (just past the culvert on Oak Street) is because he cuts out the middlemen by picking up the daily catch in Maine at 1 AM and personally driving all night and day to Dayton, Ohio -- just in time to sell it you on your commute home from work. It's also possible that IRS will mail me a refund check for a million dollars with a note pinned to it saying "Our bad." I wouldn't count on either, though.
I suppose I'm not in a position to point fingers at people who buy stuff from the back of a truck. In a moment of weakness my wife and I once bought a set of living room furniture from (as I like to put it) a "rolling showroom." Some guys were going door to door in our neighborhood asking if anyone wanted to buy some furniture cheap. When they knocked on our door, my wife wisely realized that one person acting alone could easily make a bad decision, but it takes two people working together to make a monumentally stupid one. So she told them to come back when I got home from work.
When the guys returned they explained that they had just driven a truck full of furniture up to Minnesota to make a delivery -- but as luck would have it! -- the store that ordered the stuff had gone out of business while en route. Their boss told them to unload it any way they could. And that's how they could pass the savings on to us!
For some reason, this made perfect sense to us at the time. In our defense I want to point out that their truck wasn't on the side of the road. Technically it was in front of our house.
We ended up getting a sofa and matching loveseat. The best part was that they took our old sofa away. I have no idea what they ended up doing with it. My guess is that it's sitting on the side of the road somewhere in the middle of Iowa.
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