Vice Squad: On Assignment in the Gulf

Dateline: 12:36 pm, CST, Saturday, September 3, 2011, Pensacola, Florida

Vice Squad here, on location from Florida’s panhandle. I’m on assignment this weekend with a bachelor party for an old friend, conducting field research into the depraved and licentious behavior of young American men bound for holy matrimony. This has required me to go undercover, to blend in with my subjects, to become one of them. Do I do this willingly? Of course not. I do it all in the interests of academic integrity and for the benefit of you, my dear reader. Mostly.

To be certain, I am exposing myself to a certain amount of danger in submitting this field report. As I write, I am sitting outside under the swirling clouds of Tropical Depression Lee. It is gently spitting rain and generally punishing this part of the world with a force equivalent to the cooing of a newborn baby. This weather event, touted as causing a current state of emergency, has prompted local residents to look to the sky and casually proclaim, “Meh.”

The greater danger comes from the circumstances surrounding the preparation of this very post. I’m among five of my closest friends. For a bachelor party. At a beachfront Florida town. On Labor Day weekend. On the first college football Saturday of the season. I’m sure you can imagine how popular I am right now, as I sit here preparing this post. I would love to share with you the things that are being said about me. But I can’t, not unless they’re heavily edited, and even then, I don’t think they’d make grammatical sense. So trust me, I’m enduring a significant amount of personal ridicule to file this field report.

Oh, look. The first round of kickoffs just happened.

The trip so far has been filled with observations about the products we depend on in our daily lives. I’ve highlighted five of those observations for your consideration.

1. Google Maps. We’re staying at my buddy Matt’s house in Pensacola. I’ve never previously been to this city, and frankly, had no idea how to get here or how much time it would take. These problems were quickly solved courtesy of the Google machine. Almost instantaneously, we had alternate routes available and estimated times of arrival. For the most direct route, 7.7 hours from Abnormal Use headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. No sooner had we gotten this information from Google, something funny happened. We turned on Google. In the blink of an eye, the information provided by Google became an enemy. It was questioning our manhood. “Google says it will take almost 8 hours. That’s [redacted]. I bet we can get there in six and a half. Probably six.” The entire car agreed without hesitation. Literally one minute earlier, none of us had any idea where we were going. One minute later, after Google had shown us the way, we had unanimously voted that Google didn’t know what it was talking about. In fact, we saw Google as challenging us. The machine was daring us to beat its time. Challenge accepted, Google. We left Greenville at 5:45 pm.

We pulled into my pal’s Pensacola driveway at 12:30 am–6.7 hours after departure. Unfortunately, Pensacola is a time zone behind Greenville. It was 1:30 back home. We had been on the road for exactly 7.7 hours. Touche, Google.

2. Chick-fil-A. We decided to stop for dinner on the far side of Atlanta, and we decided there was no better place to recharge our batteries than the Original Chick-fil-A location. The original restaurant is in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, which backs up to the far side of the Atlanta airport. If you’ve never been here, you need to go. It’s everything you love about Chick-Fil-A, multiplied by everything you love about Waffle House. There’s table service, a full menu of side items like sweet potato souffle and mac and cheese, and it’s open 24 hours. This raises two important points. First, when I say “full menu,” I mean full menu. Specifically, they serve beef. At a Chick-fil-A. Riddle me that. The second point is even more staggering: it’s open 24 hours. Everyone knows that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. And we have found ourselves on more than a few Sunday mornings wishing that our Creator would make a special exception just one time so we could get a chicken biscuit. Our prayers have gone wholly unanswered. This blew our minds, so we asked our resident Chick-fil-A expert and waitress Tammy how this works. Apparently, the original is open until 4 am on Sunday mornings (almost certainly a prime business time) and then closes until Monday morning. However, Tammy has assured us that she is putting a proposal together to see that the original will also close promptly at midnight. We’re fine with this and we support her efforts. After all, if not everyone can get Chick-fil-A on Sunday, then no one shall get Chick-fil-A on Sunday.

3. Automatic Vehicle Collision Detectors. We took my car to Florida. My car does not have an automatic vehicle collision detector, but I had the next worst thing: my buddy Nick. Somewhere on a quiet stretch of I-65, Nick saw a car on my rear quarter (the only other car around for miles, mind you) start to merge into me. Rather than inform me in a clear, cohesive manner that we were about to be involved in a mass fatality situation, Nick releases an incomprehensible cry that can only be described as the mating call of a yeti. It had been dead quiet in my car before, making his cry that much more alarming. I nearly wrecked from the shock value alone. The merging car moved back in its lane before anything more serious happened. Nick collected himself and explained that the car, at its closest point, was a mere inch away from us. Reports from other parts of the vehicle indicated that while we had a close call, it was nowhere near as close as Nick’s freaking out suggested. Certainly, if we were in danger, a collision detector would be useful, and the risk makes me wish I had the capability in my vehicle. But the fact of the matter is that even if I had a collision detector, Nick’s caterwauling would have drowned it out. Maybe a better feature would have been a cone of silence around his seat. This would have been useful for most of the trip.

4. Cigars. I love a good cigar, especially when I’m driving. There are certain risks involved, though, that are not for the untrained aficianado. First, you’ve got to be careful of where you ash. Hot ash in the lap is not pleasant, not as bad as a boiling hot cup of coffee, sure, but still, not good. Second, you’ve got to be careful about checking your blind spot with a stogie in your mouth, unless you just really like a trail of hot ash streaked across your window. Finally, in particular regard to stick shifts, if you’re pushing into third or fifth while holding your cigar, you’re likely to end up with ash in your cd player. Not that I know first hand about any of these problems . . . .  Moving right along.

5. Matt’s TV. Let me begin by saying that I am grateful for Matt opening up his home to us. However, Matt’s TV is a problem. To be fair, it is a large, flat screen manufactured by a reputable company (which shall remain nameless). And it’s designed for 1080p HD picture quality. Unfortunately, Matt is in a service area that can’t deliver that picture quality, so everything you watch ends up looking like a Tim Burton movie–animated computer graphics. The limited amount of football I’ve been able to watch while writing this post looks like Madden ’12. I say all this for 2 reasons. First, technology is great if there’s the ability to use it. There’s no point in having a Porsche if all the roads are dirt. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t Matt’s fault. He was relocated to Pensacola from an area that had the ability to deliver high picture quality. But second: now that you’ve moved, Matt, you’ve got to get a TV that doesn’t make everything look like it was made by Pixar.

As an epilogue, I understand that Matt is working on getting a new TV. His flat screen is mounted on the wall with an assembly that is rated to support 30 pounds. Matt’s TV weighs 90. This problem may take care of itself in the very near future.  In related news, I predict my next post will consist of live-blogging a TV falling off a wall.  I’ll be sure to write it with a view toward the post becoming admissible evidence, either in regard to Matt’s insurance claim or his wife’s murder trial.

This is the report from the field. Vice Squad out.