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January 23, 2023

Recorded for Quality Assurance

By Tim Miller

"Hello, thank you for calling Adopt-A-Highway. How may I help you?"

"Hi. Is this the information line?"

"Yes, this is the number for Adopt-A-Highway information."

"OK, good. I really need some information."

"Are you interested in adopting a stretch of California highway?"

"You mean, like, adoption? Like a kid? Like I would be a parent? To a highway?"

"A portion of it. Yes, sort of. Your oversight would be similar to that of a parent-child relationship in that you would be responsible for the well-being of a portion of the road. But you won't have to change any diapers, if that's what you're worried about."

"Diapers? We're still talking about the highway right? Or is it like a two-for-one deal, the highway and a kid. Like the kid comes with the road."

"No sir. I was just joking. It's a pretty humorless job so I try to kid around when I get the chance."

"Oh."

"So are you still interested in a stretch of highway? Most people start with a two mile section."

"Two miles? I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to pass. Even though it's just concrete with some yellow paint, it still sounds like more responsibility than I'm capable of at the moment."

"I understand. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

"Yes. I was sort of hoping for some information ..."

"If you have access to the internet, I can direct you to the CALTRANS website, which has all the need-to-know information regarding adopting a highway, as well as updates to all CA Department of Transportation programs. For example, the annual Spring Clean-up Day has been cancelled due to COVID-19."

"No no no, that's not the information I need."

"The Adopt-A-Highway program began in 1989, one of the truly successful government-public partnerships of our time. More than 120,000 Californians have cleaned and enhanced over 15,000 shoulders of highway miles."

"No. Stop. Just stop. I mean, that's great. The highways should be cleaned up and all, it's just ... I'm in serious need of information. Like generally speaking."

"General information. All right. Perhaps you could tell me a little bit about yourself. You see, truth be told I don't really get all that many calls, and the ones I do get don't have much in the way of conversation."

"I'm forty-six years old and very much alone. I had what you can call a mental breakdown when I was twenty-one. I was an economics major at a prestigious university, but it all felt wrong. So I left. Just started walking. For Alaska. I never made it, though. Found a little abandoned shack in the Yukon and made it my home. Learned to hunt with a crossbow. I lived in that tiny cabin for twenty-five years. In that time I've made peace with myself. And with God. So I just decided to come back. See what's out here."

"Wow, that's, um, some story. I'm forty-three and still live with my parents. I feel alone too. Tell me more."

"I came out of the wilderness just a few days ago. Hitchhiked along the highway -- that's when I saw your sign. It had this number and said to call for information."

"..."

"Are you still there?"

"Yes. I'm here. Go on."

"So yeah. I got picked up eventually. It took awhile. Nice guy. Loaned me some money for a couple nights at a motel. Ended up at this old local inn. The clerk is this young gal. Maybe twenty years old, if that. She's always on her phone. So I asked her about it. And she told me, but I think she was having fun with me. That's another reason I called. I really just need someone to talk to. Someone I can trust."

"You can talk to me."

"I appreciate that. I really do. You mentioned the internet. So did the gal. I don't know what that is."

"The internet is this thing that people use to get information. I think Al Gore started it or something. Hold on, let me google it."

"There's another one. The clerk said that one, too. Google. Never heard of it."

"Google is a search engine people use to find stuff on the internet."

"An engine, like in a car? I don't understand. I'm just so confused, it's like I want to explode."

"You poor thing."

"I made a list of all the things I never heard of. Well, the clerk helped me with it. She was pretty incredulous. But again, not in a good way ... I've never heard of any of the following: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia, Uber, Netflix, Youtube, Airbnb, Tinder."

"There's so much for us to talk about."

"The clerk said she would've told me but she had a headache from playing beer pong all night. What's beer pong?"

"You didn't come across it at college? Before you dropped out I mean."

"No. You could say I was sort of a loner."

"Beer pong is a drinking game. You arrange cups of beer in a triangle on each end of a ping pong table. Hold on, I'm googling it ... looks like it got started in the 50's in college fraternities. Dartmouth College is believed to be the first. Says it started with the use of paddles ... interesting. I've only played it where you throw the ball with your hands."

"You've played beer pong?"

"Yes. I'm not very proud of my college years. That's something else we can talk about. I feel like I can tell you anything. I see by the caller ID you're up near Fort Bragg. I'm actually not too far away. I know the area. I get off in an hour. Want to grab a Starbucks?"

"What's Starbucks?"

"Oh it doesn't matter, you silly silly man. Nothing matters as long as we're together."

"I don't even know your name."

"I'll tell you my name. I'll tell you everything. The whole world. It's all in my pocket. I just need you to do one thing for me first."

"What?"

"A brief survey about customer satisfaction. Please say yes."

"Yes."

"I knew I could count on you. No matter what happens, please stay on the line."






Article © Tim Miller. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-12-28
Image(s) are public domain.
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