break the limits

United States Road Trip Gothic
  • the ice tea is Different here. you try to remember the various regionalisms — is there sugar? lemon? caffeine? — but you’re right on the border between two zones. (you are always right on the border between two zones.) the beverage that finally comes is acrid and smoky, and you drink it while actively trying not to examine it any more closely
  • the burgers, on the other hand, are exactly the same. this diner calls it something different, something special, something unique, but it is the same burger you had last night, which was also called something different, something special, something unique. not the same as that burger, but exactly the same burger. you have eaten this burger every night of your life. you look around at the other diners and wonder if each of you has your own burger, or if you are all, every single one of you, biting down perpetually into one eternal, ever-recycled meal
  • the speed limit is dropping, as tho you are coming to a town. you would like to find a town. you are tired, your car needs gas, and you could use a break. the speed limit drops from 70 to 55, 45, 30, 25. you have not passed a welcome sign. the speed limit is 10. the road stretches ahead, shimmering under the sun, the landscape around it barren and desolate. the speed limit is 5
  • you are on a meandering back road between two nowheres. inexplicably, there is a heavy truck in front of you. there is nowhere to pass for miles and miles, until at last you reach a long flat stretch and zip around, zoom ahead. you turn the next corner, and find another truck in your way. it is the same truck
  • the highway you are traveling along somehow carries routes going in all four cardinal directions at once. you try to remember whether you were aiming for the state route or the interstate, but all the signs seem to be for county roads. did you need to go west or north across Nebraska anyway? you try to gauge your direction from the angle of the sun, but it is shrouded in impenetrable clouds
  • there are police cars studded every ten miles along this road, crudely hidden behind foliage, around bends. as you pass one — slowly — you look inside and notice there is no one. it is a shell, a malevolent carapace, a scarecrow designed to slow down rather than speed up flight. the husks increase in density until there are vast, glittering piles on either side of the roadway, blocking out any view of the landscape beyond. the drivers with local plates are doing 90 in a 65
  • you see a sign giving the distance to the next town. it’s an hour away. you drive on, and twenty minutes later, you see another sign giving the distance to that town. it is still an hour away. it has been an hour away for as long as you can remember
  • it is day seven of your trip. it is not actually day seven of your trip, but every morning you tell yourself it is, because seven seems like a nice number. you’ve still got a few days to go on day seven, but by day seven, surely the bulk of the driving is behind you. surely, you tell yourself. the bulk of the driving. behind you. that’s what it means to be on day seven, which is the day you are on. if you are cheerful enough in your morning humming, you sometimes forget that you told yourself this yesterday as well, and that you are already planning to tell it to yourself again tomorrow
  • there is road work ahead
On the care and keeping of your scientist
  • Congratulations on adopting a scientist! Regardless of their field they will require much coffee, free food, and love. Here are some field specific tips for keeping your scientist happy and healthy!
  • Biology: make sure they don't get overly invested in their model organism by reminding them about the flaws inherent in their system on a regular basis, but also make sure to join in when they criticize other models in favor of their own
  • Chemistry: don't let them do that 'just one more reaction' at 10 pm. make sure they get out of the lab and see the sun on a regular basis. try to keep them from partying too hard when they do leave the lab
  • Geology: humor their rock puns but don't let the lick the rocks (they will tell you they need to lick the rocks to identify them, but don't fall for it)
  • Astronomy: try not to let them become completely nocturnal. point out nice stars to them and look suitably impressed by their "pictures" of planets that don't look like anything to you
  • Physics: take them to the park on a regular basis to remind them that things larger than subatomic particles exist. bring a frisbee or a ball to play catch with and be impressed by their ability to calculate trajectories
  • Math: always make sure to have free batteries for their calculators and a mathmatica user guide on hand. Humor them when they tell you why space without angles is important
  • Ecology: make sure they remember to wear sunscreen and keep an eye on them in the field. Remind them to come inside and analyze their data occasionally
  • Psychology: don't mention Freud or ever call them a soft or social science, but make sure you gently remind them that social factors can impact reproducibility and try to keep them from drawing sweeping conclusions about the inherent nature of humanity
  • Neuroscience: be suitably impressed by their newest experiment and then remind them that people are not mice as often as possible
  • Computer Science: make sure they take breaks while debugging by limiting their supply of coffee. Nod and smile when they go off on indexing and arrays. Make sure they always have a rubber duck.
  • Make sure to keep your scientist away from engineers unless they have been properly socialized to interact in a translational household. The most important thing is to remember to hug your scientist on a regular basis and remind them that there is life outside the lab