It happens sometimes when I least expect it.
Behind the wheel on a road trip, as I was earlier this week to St. Petersburg, I'm suddenly thrust into a scene from Jerry Maguire: There I am, as Tom Cruise, singing along with "Free Fallin' " or some other ridiculous piece of music I have no business belting out at 11.
Jerry Maguire, of course, isn't the only flick to capture the hidden diva that emerges on the highway. In Tommy Boy, Chris Farley and David Spade duet atonally on "Eres Tu." And there's music involved in that final scene of Thelma & Louise, but let's not go there.
So what's involved in these Interstate love songs? Are there rules that govern the customs and etiquette of such outbursts?
Or am I just unnaturally attracted to the chorus of "High Time" by the Grateful Dead, the song that crept into my head this week?
Here are a few theories:
* Pick a good song. Ballads can work, but fast songs are recommended. "Born to be Wild," the ultimate poster child of the hit-the-road-wind-in-your-hair genre, is an old-school rocker.
* Be alone. Yeah, Farley and Spade sang together in Tommy Boy, but that's the exception to the rule. Most people would never subject themselves to such embarrassment in front of a passenger. P.S.: Always beware of the shocked gazes of passing motorists. A real buzz-kill.
P.P.S.: Don't expect the kids to put down the iPod and join in. The generation gap is wide between the front and back seats.
* Keep it on the road. Any respectable mobile rock star knows that songs about being on the road are always winners: "Radar Love," by Golden Earring; "Take It Easy" by the Eagles, and "Goin' Back to Cali" by LL Cool J would all qualify. Of course, almost any Chuck Berry song -- from "Maybelline" to "No Particular Place to Go" -- has something to do with a car.
* Take some expert advice. Rolling Stone has a list of Top 25 road songs. The Top 5: "Immigrant Song," by Led Zeppelin; "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen; "Highway to Hell," AC/DC; "Runnin' Down a Dream," Tom Petty; and "Truckin'," by the Grateful Dead. Visit OrlandoSentinel.com/soundboard to see it and add your favorite.
Jim Abbott can be reached at jabbott@orlando sentinel.com or 407-420-6213.