Look at this bastard. Sitting over there, gazing out the window, smug as hell. Sure, he knew all four faces on Mount Rushmore while I forgot about Thomas Jefferson for a millisecond… and yes, he knew South Dakota was the 40th state added to the Union, but this madness has got to stop. What was I thinking, agreeing to give Trebek a ride across the country like this? And why did I listen to him and take this insane route? Really, what did I expect from this guy? He’s a total know-it-all and if he corrects my pronunciation on some other trivial matter—a town’s name or a river or something—I swear I’m going to snap. Honestly. He’s going to find himself on the side of a road, explaining why America’s favorite Canadian gameshow host is hitchhiking.
Oh, he’s saying something now. In that tone he has. What’s that, Alex? The Western Hemisphere’s largest underground gold mine was in a town called “Lead,” before it closed in 2002? And it’s pronounced Leed? And it’s right here in South Dakota? What an interesting tidbit!
Shit, he’s doing that thing where he answers his own statement with a question. He literally just asked, “What is the Homestake Mine?” and then he chuckled. You think he’d be so tired of his own game show conceit by now. This is brutal.
I’d better respond, while trying not to look engaged or encouraging. I’ll give him just enough to shut him up. I’ll tell him he’s probably right, but I won’t make any eye-contact.
Ugh, I waited too long. I can see out of the corner of my eye that he’s raising his index finger, which I’ve come to learn means that he has another boring point to make about something out here. Go ahead, Alex. Say your piece. SAY IT! What’s that? It’s the only capital city that doesn’t share any common letters with its state? I’m going to go ahead and guess “Pierre,” since we’re busy heading right toward it, through this desolate no man’s land with no escape route. I’m correct? Well! What a wonderful factoid! Now stare out that window, bitch!
I mostly blame myself for this. Then again, it was a total fluke. How was I to know that Trebek had been craving an epic road trip? I’m just trying to move from LA to New York and wanted to get a part-time driver and share some of the cost. There was no way to guess that the Craig’s List ad I answered about a “guy who’s ready to get out of the city and get on the road and see it all and will happily pay for gas” would be the Alex Trebek. It makes no sense! Why didn’t he just take his car or buy a Winnebago or something? Isn’t that what people his age are supposed to do?
I mean, yes, I suppose I get why he’s here. He wanted the adventure that can only come from hopping in a car with a total stranger. That’s what he hollered at me in the middle of Nevada, at least, while refusing to roll up his window. And who would’ve guessed that Trebek would be such an “On the Road” fan? That the book had such a profound impact on him as a teenager, hitchhiking across Canada and blah blah blah. Every time I yawn, he quotes that fucking passage about how the only people for him are the mad ones who burn, burn, burn, or whatever. Well guess what, man! I yawn sometimes! OK? It’s a normal physiological human response to being bored out of your mind by constant facts about anything and everything!
I made the mistake in Wyoming to suggest that we should listen to music instead of talk. It was around the time that Trebek was mentioning that Wyoming is the 10th largest state in the country at 97,000 square miles. I think I managed to issue a halfhearted, “Whoa” or something. Then I yawned and he nailed me with that Kerouac line, so yeah, I was like, Why don’t we put on some music, never in a million years thinking that Trebek had packed an entire suitcase full of Sting CDs. But only the solo stuff. If there is one thing worse than listening to Alex Trebek recite information on Wyoming, it’s listening to him sing along to The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Who even OWNS The Dream of the Blue Turtles? He’s honestly the first person I’ve met in my entire life with that CD. Hey, I’ve got a remix for you, Alex—how about, If you viscerally dislike somebody, set them free. You know? How about that? How about I set you free out here in South Dakota? Huh?! I think I’m getting worked up. This trip is raising my blood pressure. I’m seriously stressed. I found a clump of hair on my neck pillow this morning.
Speaking of hair clumps, if there’s any consolation about this whole mess, it’s watching Trebek’s facial hair grow in. I always thought he looked better with a mustache, honestly, and it seems to be springing back to life. But that’s small penance in exchange for this barrage of useless information. I considered myself reasonably intelligent before all this. Maybe I’m just not trivia-minded! OK?
Great, he’s saying something again. We’re crossing the what, Alex? The Missouri River? That’s it right there, huh? Gotcha. I wonder if I could land it in by jumping out of the driver’s side door. I’m in a weird mood. Is this guy literally still talking? Let’s listen in, shall we?
Oh, really? The state is divided by this very river and residents refer to the land as either “East River” or “West River”? Amazing. When I say, “Amazing,” of course, I mean, “Amazing that anybody in the world would bother bringing this up.”
We need gas. At least he has that freakin’ gold card. I wonder if there’s any way to convince him that we need a couple thousand dollars worth of fuel this time around. Just rob the bastard blind. I feel like that would give him that Kerouacian sense of adventure that he’s after. And somehow I don’t even think he would notice. How much does this guy make per Jeopardy! episode? Enough to pay for everything, that’s for sure. He should be buying my food. I don’t even know who I am, anymore. He’s broken me down completely. I might scream. Or cry. Or scream-cry. Is there a word for that? Scry, maybe?
I’ve put thousands of fingernail marks into this steering wheel. Look at this thing. I need to think about something else. This is getting out of hand. Besides, we’re almost to Iowa. This guy can’t possibly have much to say about Iowa? Right? What do I even know about Iowa? Nothing? Let’s see… the capital is Dubuque, isn’t it? Or is it Des Moines? Or Cedar Rapids? I seriously need to check my phone when he’s not looking, at least figure out the capital before we get there. We have a couple hours, I think. Maybe while we’re fueling up, I can research some quick stats about Iowa and try to challenge this motherfucker. That’s the only way this can work. If I stump him once, I can make it through Iowa to… where? I don’t know what state comes after that! Minnesota? Illinois? Indiana? How do I not know this? Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like?
He’s saying something again. What’s that, Alex? Oh, he’s telling me that I said “Missouri” wrong about 10 miles back, that many of the locals say, Missouruh.
Yep. We’re pulling over.