Meet the Queen of the Road

Have you ever sought out the services of a psychiatrist? If so, what were they like? If your experience was like the one my brother described in Running With Scissors, your shrink was a freak in a Santa suit with a goodie bag of pills. But if it was like my modern-day experience, your shrink was conservatively and properly dressed, polished, articulate, and inscrutable.

You may ask yourself, “What is she (the shrink) really like?”

Some of you may claim no personal experience with a shrink. But even you must have an idea what they’re like, from watching Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos.

You may even go so far as to muse, “Would she do something wild like that?” I will leave the definition of “something wild” to your imagination for the moment.

This afternoon, I read a book that answered some of those questions. The book is called Queen of the Road, and it’s by a real shrink named Doreen Orion. In the book and in real life, she has a mate named Tim who is also a psychiatrist. For Tim, being a shrink is not enough. He has dreams of becoming a Machine Aficionado, like me, even though he knows that doing so might change him forever.

In the beginning, we see Doreen as a sedentary and spoiled female with few if any practical skills beyond those required for acquiring and maintaining a medical license. She does not perform manual labor. She does not know how to operate heavy equipment. She does not design or even program computers. She does not own or covet exotic weapons. She has a dog, but it’s a housebound poodle. She does not have a passel of beagles under the porch. There are no old motor vehicles on blocks behind her house, and no farm machinery. She does not race bicycles or airplanes.

Queen of the Road tells how those lifestyle deficiencies began to affect her husband. Finally, he was seized with such a lust for powerful machinery that he bought a bus. A fairly large one; a Prevost for you bus lovers. Forty thousand pounds, with three axles and a large diesel engine. The nature of the engine is not clear from the book, but there are clues.

Doreen ponders the difference between a 6V92 diesel and an 8V92. Both are products of the Detroit Diesel Company. The 6 has six cylinders, the 8 has eight. 92 is the size of each cylinder, in cubic inches. It is evident when she writes this that her sheltered life is about to change.

He has lured her into the bus world, and they undertake to convert their bus into a motor home. Already, the conservative shrink facade is crumbling. Then . . . they quit work!

They move into the bus, and depart on a year of cross country travel. It’s the same scene I lived in the 1970s, without the drugs, guns, and loud music. Or maybe its not. But if they have drugs, guns, and loud music, they do not mention them here. Reading the story, you too will long for a bus unless you already have an abundance of machinery.

If you are a female, you will wish you had a mate like Tim to operate your bus. If you are a male, you will wish for two females like Doreen to accompany you. And the “two” is not my idea. It is hers, and she mentions it twice.

Together, Tim and Doreen experience many things together that I have also done:

They repair a broken bus by the roadside

They confront armed robbers

They travel the Alaska Highway

They visit the Cyclorama in Atlanta

They have trouble with the Law

Reading their story, I felt glad I had undertaken my wild times with a bus at age 20, and not at age 40. Her bus driver was a gentleman. My bus driver was a whiskey-crazed mad dog who drove an armored bulldozer in Viet Nam. Hopefully (because I remember my own times in a bus) our experiences differed in certain key ways.

There are elements of romance to the story, but I myself do not write romance and I am not qualified to report on it here. I will say there are indications throughout the book that Doreen likes her mate, and her mate likes her. I do not think either of them will be appearing on the True Crime TV shows anytime soon, but you never know.

On the cover, the bus is described as having a “mind of its own.” I’ve known a lot of buses in my time. One of our long time customers owned the Peter Pan Bus Company, one of the largest bus fleets in the United States. I’ve been in their bus garage more times than I can remember, and I’ve seen hundreds of buses up close, but I’ve never seen a sentient one. I believe that was an error or exaggeration, or perhaps literary license.

But they are close to Area 51 out there, so maybe her bus is Different.

At the end of the story, Tim and Doreen still like each other, and they remain married. It’s clear that they have both acquired many new skills and their view of the world has changed. At the end, Doreen remains a psychiatrist, but Tim’s future is less certain. I think both are happier. I plan to go to Boulder in March, where I will examine them in person and report back.

They may regret that, because my knowledge of machines extends far beyond buses. And Doreen and Tim are already on a slippery slope that’s covered in diesel oil. And I know where it leads. I myself have a house whose driveway can accomodate the largest buses. My garages can hold seven cars and two motorcycles. And I have many pieces of Diesel Machinery here on the property, including a Front End Loader. Anyone who likes buses will also like a Loader.

You will never look at a psychiatrist the same way again. And you will never take a bus driver for granted, either.

Her book is coming out this June. Here’s a link to it:

Here is her blog


Doreen Orion said…
Thanks, John!

I guess Tim and I will have to be on our best behavior when we see you in Boulder in March!
John Robison said…
There's no need to impress me. You are already on that slippery slope with the bus.

Have you looked at motorcycles yet?

How about a trip to South America by Land Rover?

Perhaps you need a bulldozer to clear a parking area for the bus.

I see more machinery in your future, for sure.
Doreen Orion said…
You're a cruel, cruel man.
John, I really enjoyed this post. Many 'book reviews' are dry, dull and do a disservice to the book. Hearing about it in your words makes me curious to read it.

Holly Kennedy said…
I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I've had it marked on my MUST GET list for a while now!

Yay, Doreen :)
Chris Eldin said…
This sounds like a wonderful book. I love reading about people who do these sorts of things.

And by the way, this line cracked me up:
I plan to go to Boulder in March, where I will examine them in person and report back.

Do they know about said examination? Have they agreed? Will you take photos?

Sandra Cormier said…
John, even your book reviews bring tears of laughter to my eyes!

I'm in the middle of Running With Scissors (to compare your brother's view of life with yours) and I must say that Dr. F was one messed up - um, person.

Ditto with Chris on the 'examination' remark. Ha ha!
Doreen Orion said…
Queen of the Road, here.

I suppose, since I just started a contest on my website with a prize of a poopin' moose key chain (and a signed galley of the book), that no one is going to believe me when I say that all psychiatrists are not necessarily as poop-obsessed as Dr. F. Bad timing on my part. Really. (Really.)

As for John's "examination" of us when we see him... I'm all for turning tables - or couches. I've already declared Tim certifiable, anyway. (I mean, why couldn't he be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette instead of wanting to live on a bus?)
John Robison said…
Doreen, he could still do those things too, and more. Getting a bus does not preclude getting an additional girl or a car, or a bulldozer, or a bike, or one or more of each.

And you are not exempt from such changes. Girls go wild too. I've seen it. That's why they have Wife Week, down at Daytona Beach.
Doreen Orion said…
Actually, John, getting a bus precludes Tim getting anything more for the rest of his life, or even having one nanosecond more of fun. Trust me. (You've read the book. You know what I'm capable of.)

As for me, you do have a good point. Maybe my next memoir will deal with the midlife crisis I plan to have. I'm open to suggestions.
Sandra Cormier said…
That's exactly where I am -- on the poop page. Ewww.

No mid-life crisis here yet, unless you count Bitches Night Out.
Paprikapink said…
Great review, John!
Jen P said…
Hey, I left a comment back to you on my site. Here it is:

"John, I actually had that picture as a part of the banner but when playing around with the different screen resolutions I had to cut one of the 2 of them out. I guess to be fair. I'll put it in the side bar just for you!!! Thanks for being so observant! Did I mention that I'm reading Running with Scissors now? We rented the movie a while back and it was interesting to watch having read your book first."
Unknown said…
I'd love an excavator...

I don't think my neighbors would but I have a great hill of a backyard that I could rearrange whenever I was bored.

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