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It Might Have Been Worse: 09/22/17

It Might Have Been Worse by Beatrice Larned Massey

The Lincoln Highway opened for business in 1915. In 1918 Effie Price Gladding and her husband made the drive home to Ohio from California by way of it. She reported their trip (and their side tour through California) in Across the Continent by The Lincoln Highway. Shortly after, Emily Post of etiquette fame, made the drive both famous and fashionable.

It Might Have Been Worse by Beatrice Larned Massey made the trip with her husband and a companion couple she dubbed the Doctor and Toodles. She cites making the trip based on Post's memoir as her inspiration.

Emily Post's road trip book was highly influential in Gladding's own trip and writing. In Gladding's book the emphasis was on the places visited and the difficulties of the road, of keeping the car in good working order, of getting lost, and so forth. Massey's book is more concerned with the difficulties of being fashionable under the conditions of a dusty road trip with a convertible.

Massey doesn't keep the comments to herself. She has numerous criticisms of the people she meets on the road, fellow travelers, and locals alike. Very few people are fashionable enough for her or Emily Post's tastes. On the other hand, some take the fashionable road trip to extravagant extremes, bringing too many fine things, making the whole fashionable bit look too obvious and gauche.

Finally there is Massey's own racism. At one point on the trip the Lincoln Highway was diverted to a muddy, rutted, slippery mess. In the middle of this, she saw a pair of Black men sitting along side the road next to their over turned truck, their life's possessions scattered across the mud. Massey rather than being sympathetic is dismissive. She calls them lazy and nearly accuses them of wrecking their van just to make her late.

Three stars

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