Monday, 16 July 2012

CAR TRIPS AND OTHER TORTURES reprinted with permission

Once again, it’s the time of year when parents experience a complete loss of their senses and decide it might be fun to take a family vacation.  This usually involves piling the kids and other nonessentials into the car, and leaving all of the essentials, like peace and quiet, behind.

My parents used to do this every summer.  Sometime around mid-July, Dad would decide that it was absolutely criminal for kids to grow up never having seen the Big Nickel in Sudbury.  Or the Big Tomato in Leamington.  Or Dead Rear, Alberta at dusk.  Then the maps would come out and the red magic marker would trace the intended route, and Mom would start making tuna sandwiches for the cooler.

It’s absolutely amazing what can happen to an otherwise intelligent and amiable sales manager who’s confined to a station wagon with two kids and a dog for thirty-six hours.  In fact, I’m convinced that General Schwartzkopf could not survive the ordeal without becoming a sobbing slobbering wreck.

Like other families in the 1960s, we had what you might call a routine for car travel.  Dad drove and yelled at the other drivers who were all lobotomy victims out on a weekend pass.  Mom also drove while Dad was driving and generally dispensed useful bits of information and comments like “Eeeek” and Wooo”. The dog would bark each time we passed another car, or he saw another car, or he thought there might be another car within a six mile radius.

My brother and I played cretin games like “I spy with my little eye” for the first half hour and then beat each other up for the next thirty-five.

When we got to a ‘place of interest’ things generally calmed down.  This was Dad’s cue to get out of the car to stretch and wander about with a blank look on his face.  He would eventually stumble into another aimlessly wandering Dad and they would begin an animated discussion on how to get to the next ‘place of interest’.  My brother and I would whip through the ten dollar star attraction, and then hit the tuck shop in search of sugar substances.

The dog loved it.  It was the highlight of his life, these opportunities to sniff dog smells and contribute a few of his own.  He was probably convinced that these trips were entirely for his benefit – which isn’t far off the mark, since he undoubtedly had the best time.

After the ‘Rest Stop’ – drolly named – we would pile back into the car, where Mom would recommence Dad’s driving lesson, and my brother and I would punch each other out in the back seat.  This would continue in normal fashion until the dog – having eaten unidentified ground goodies at the previous stop – threw up in the car.

I refuse to perpetuate this ritual with my own family.  Instead, I’m going to import lots of greasy, sugar-loaded junk food and buy some DVDs.  The dog can throw up here just as well as in the car, so why leave home?

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't let this go by without a comment.

    My sister and I had car trips down to a science. There were car games, of course, but nothing as mundane as eye spy and they were usually initiated by my mother in self-defense.


    Because my sister an I staged shows in the back seat. You haven't lived (and suffered) until you hear two adolescent girls belt out My Mamma Dun Told Me and the House of the Rising Sun.

    Dad was deaf to the world (including to entreaties for a washroom) when he was driving -- which was most of the time.

    It was my mother who'd be asking "Are we there yet?"