Small Wonders: The mind wanders in traffic

Few drives are more monotonous than Golden State (5) Freeway through California's Central Valley. But what does make it worse is a big-rig crashing into a tractor-trailer, bursting into flames and closing three of the five southbound lanes when you're trying to get home from a family vacation.

One's mind wanders in inching traffic, 90-plus-degree heat and having exhausted "99 Bottles of Scotch on the Wall." So here are a few things I thought about while stuck on the Grapevine the other day; more musings from the Muffin Top Man:

One of these days, Thing 1, my 8-year-old daughter, is going to figure out that we've never put film into that cheap camera she's been playing with since she was 3. And on that day, there will be much fear and trembling and gnashing of teeth.

I don't know why Lindsay Lohan was so upset about being sentenced to 90 days in jail. A little time in the slammer didn't hurt the careers of Robert Downey Jr., Paris Hilton or Martha Stewart.

Note to the car behind me: If my car is vibrating from the thumping bass of your radio, you should remember that there are other people on the planet, and turn the volume down a notch.

Dear BP, please leave a signed, blank check under the mat.

The breathtaking beauty of the jacaranda tree in bloom is soon replaced by an utter mess. Like a day at the beach or the dawning of a new school year.

NASA should study the molecular bond that cements soggy Rice Krispies to the side of the bowl. It could be used to glue heat-resistant tiles on the next fleet of Space Shuttles.

If you've ever called yourself an "old soul," you're probably not.

It is with both fear of injury and wanton desire that I ponder licking the yogurt off the Yoplait foil lid.

Vampires, Starbucks, Lady Gaga, 3-D movies. They're like Renee Zellweger to me. I just don't get the appeal.

I don't often tell jokes. But when I do, I've gotten them from my barber John. Here's one from the last time I saw him:

John: "Did you hear about that actress that went crazy and stabbed her boyfriend?"

Me: "No. Who was it?"

John: "Reese something."

Me: "Witherspoon?"

John: "No, with her knife."

Swap two letters and Grapevine becomes Gravepine. Which, when you really want to get home from a road trip, is an appropriate description of one's mental state.

Here's one from the wife: Cargo pants were the death of the fanny pack. Sad but true.

Watching the wind brush over treetops or through a field of tall grass on a bright, gusty day is like witnessing the invisible hand of God caress his creation. You may not see that hand, but you know it's there. In the stirring of leaves. In your tussled hair.

Dear Nicolas Cage: Please make a good movie again.

Conflict resolution by a 6-year-old: Thing 2 said to her mother, "If someone does something you don't like, punch them in the face." This explains why the wife hits me whenever I watch '80s movies that I know are terrible.

Unlike apparently every other person in Los Angeles, I have not won an Emmy.

Conflict resolution by a 56-year-old: If someone does something you don't like, claim they have nuclear weapons hidden in their room and invade with shock, awe and no exit strategy. Which is similar to the 6-year-old.

Greatest lost opportunity of my life: I saw Steve Carell at a restaurant eating lunch at a table behind me. He ordered a Cobb Salad with dressing on the side. I failed to turn around and say, "That's what she said."

Dear summer camp counselors: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I know you think you were the first one to discover Trader Joe's, but you weren't. So stop acting like it whenever you shop there.

Halloween stores in July? Really? Is there nothing better to do with the vacant shops left behind by bankrupt businesses?

It's not the gray hairs increasing in number on my head, the deepening wrinkles on my face or the random aches that make me feel old. It's the fact that I now see the convenience and wisdom of carrying a handkerchief with me wherever I go.

I wanted to say something funny about the Swiss government's failure to extradite Roman Polanski back to the U.S. and setting him free. But I couldn't. All I can think is that, once again, if you have enough money and fame, you can get away with just about anything.

I often feel like a misfit alone in a world where everyone else has it all figured out. I let things get me down; I look for answers, solutions and solace in the accusations and "constructive criticism" that people toss my way like exploding water balloons. But every once in a while I'm able to catch one, throw it back and see that everything "out there" is all wet too.

Throw some water balloons back.

PATRICK CANEDAY is an old soul with a fanny pack. He can be reached on Facebook, at and

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