Traveling Through the Twilight Zone

On the first Saturday in January, I drove to Chattanooga to interview a man who runs a possum rehabilitation center there. Though skies were sunny, icicles hung thick and long from the rock faces that hug Highway 111. It was magical.

Just south of Sparta, I lost my favorite radio station—WLIV out of Livingston, which plays real country music like George Strait and Reba McIntyre and Alan Jackson and Dolly Parton and not the mess that tries to pass for country these days. I pushed the radio’s search button and found 105.3, which was playing a song I adore: “This Is Me Missing You” by James House.

I happily sang along until a gaunt young woman driving a beat-up Chevy pulled out in front of me from a side road. I hit my brakes and swerved to miss her. A cigarette dangled from her lower lip and her left-turn signal was blinking, even though she’d made a right turn onto the highway. When the coast was clear, I passed her.

And here’s the weird thing. “This Is Me Missing You” was playing again.

The young woman accelerated until she was right up on my bumper. Her turn signal was still blinking. I sped up a little bit. She did, too. “Me Missing You” played for the third time. I slowed and hoped she would pass. Yep. Then, turn signal still flashing, she slowed to a crawl. Clearly, for some reason I couldn’t fathom, this woman was playing cat-and-mouse with me.

You can probably guess what else was happening. “Me Missing You” was still playing. There had been no commercials. No DJ chatter. No other songs. Just this one, played over and over so many times that I’d lost count.

My mind wandered from the woman in the Chevy to radio station 105.3. I didn’t know where it was based or what its call letters were. What might be going on at that station? Had something happened to the disc jockey? Maybe he’d suffered a stroke or a heart attack or choked on an atomic fireball. Maybe he’d gone to the restroom and accidentally locked himself in. Maybe he’d stepped outside for some air and accidentally locked himself out or been kidnapped at gunpoint. Maybe the station was simply experiencing technical difficulties.

Or perhaps I was in another dimension, harassed by a stranger in a beat-up Chevy while being driven crazy by a song that was once a favorite but that I now NEVER wanted to hear again.

Then, just as suddenly as the craziness had begun, it ended. On the outskirts of Dunlap, the gaunt young woman turned into the parking lot of the Dollar General Store, perhaps to buy more cigarettes, and I lost the signal for radio station 105.3.

I guess that’s how it goes when you’re trapped, even for a few minutes, in the twilight zone.

(February 17, 2019)