I’m Driving With Hannibal Lecter Next Time

The average American drives 12,000 miles a year.  If you are married with children, you must multiply that number by 28 since each mile traversed is like an uphill climb on a sheer mountain pass littered with glass shards. And you’re without shoes. Or legs. The GPS readout on a family road trip goes a little like this:

HOUR 1:  WHEELS UP aka THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF YOUR LIFE

The hours spent laundering clothes that will be soiled in seven minutes and preparing sandwiches that will be flattened against car windows in four all come down to this moment of emancipation.  Husband has packed the back of the car with a wall of luggage more ominous than the Iron Curtain. You have torn it all down, citing inaccessibility to fruit snacks and the emergency crapper. He rebuilds with shockingly less order and sensibility than the first time. You notice his use of Hefty bags instead of suitcases to contain his clothing. While your bag is squarely on the bottom, crushed under the weight of a case of non-refrigerated milk boxes leaking on your one dressy outfit, he has delicately placed his suit on top of everything with a death threat by caning to all if wrinkling or staining ensues.  Perhaps a garment bag, or some Ziplocs, would have been a wise choice, you mutter.  Children are strapped into carseats with the hopeful expectation of arrival exactly one handful of Cheerios later.  Reverse out of driveway. Gas light illuminates. Husband looks at you as though you’ve revealed a sexual affair with a lower mammal and says something patronizing and short-sighted like, “Your only job was to fill the tank before we left.” You check the glove compartment for the Chloroform you bought from an online medical supply company in Mexico. Just in case.

Window splat on Sandwich One.

HOUR 2:  CRUISE CONTROL aka THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

The kids have exhausted themselves from hurling their torsos against their restraints, like a couple of criminally insane patients being transported by gurney from one holding cell to another. You only had to raise the whaling harpoon four times. Allowing them to watch Whale Wars has proven to be sound behavior modification. As their eyes flutter closed and their frenzied breathing becomes rhythmic, you and Husband ease into the cockpit, smile, remark about how magical they are and bemusedly wonder why people stop traveling once they have kids. You even hold hands for a little while until his right hand becomes reflexively drawn to the radio dial, searching endlessly for a channel playing non-stop Guns N Roses.  You bury your nose in neglected back-issues of Parents and Better Homes and Gardens, dogearing recipes you’ll later declare ‘a total waste of time’ and methods to get your kids to stop calling you ‘shithead’.  You permit the fourth replay of Pour Some Sugar on Me since, after all, you…are…on…vacation.

HOUR 3:  REVERSAL aka THE FOREHEAD SLAP FOLLOWED BY IRRELEVANT BICKERING

The miles quickly ticking by are interrupted by a sharp intake of breath, forehead slap, and choke-hold to the neck. Husband steers violently into oncoming traffic, while shouting, “What? Where?  Are you in labor?” The kids are awakened by the parental outburst and the bleating of horns and grinding of steel from an 18 wheeler now overturned. You declare dramatically that something very dire has been forgotten.  This something is so essential that without it the entire family, and the thinning sheath of the Ozone Layer and the tidal pulls of the oceans, will be jeopardized. Did we forget a child? Much worse than that: Underwear.  And that flashlight that should blink a myriad of colors but only the green actually illuminates.  The kids love it.  Go back.

You are unsympathetically told to go Commando or to keep alert for a swap meet. As for the flashlight, what kind of kids are interested in a flashlight that doesn’t work properly?  What does this say about their intelligence?  Why are we paying so much money for Montessori if they’re dumb enough to play with broken toys? Why don’t you expect excellence? Why didn’t you pay the electric bill? Is DVR really necessary? Did you use my toothbrush last night?

Your hand reaches for the glove compartment but you realize you’ll have to drive the rest of the way if you take him out now.  Pull hand back. Forge ahead without underwear or flashlight for kids with low IQs.

HOUR 4:  ENGINE TROUBLE aka PARENTAL UNDERCUTS

The winds begin to gather from the backseat.  The Dollar Store toys you believed would hold their fancy for years have lost their luster.  One by one, they are unceremoniously thrown toward the windshield. You tell husband it’s time.  Time for what?  Time to put on the Children’s Music. No, he insists, I will not listen to the irritating voices of children singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot.”  He said the word ‘Teapot’.  Mutiny ensues.  Rather than slide in the CD, quieting them faster than the Propofol injection you are preparing, he begins to draw comparisons to his youth, which sounds like a Susan B. Anthony autobiography. He didn’t have CD players and special kids music.  Nor car seats or air conditioning.  Even if he did, he wouldn’t have used them.  Why do you submit to their demands so easily?  We should be teaching them to live in a democracy in which we all must cooperate. And while we’re at it, why do you allow D to wear pink and to tell people he wants to be a ballerina?

Hour 5:  GAS IN THE TANK aka FEED THE ANIMALS

Husband has eaten all the snack food reserved for the kids. including the contents of the bag marked “This is for the kids should we be stranded without cell service and AAA and are teetering dangerously close to consuming the dog.” We need to stop, you decide.  The kids are hungry and it’s occurred to you that you haven’t eaten in 72 hours preparing for this trip.  Husband consents only because there is an Arby’s. It is un-American to pass by an Arby’s.  Repair to the bathroom where you fantasize that Jeff Bridges is lurking in the adjacent stall, ready to toss you in his trunk and bury you alive like in The Vanishing. You rejoin the family to find Husband elbow deep in three Ham N Cheddars while the kids roll upon and lick the floor.  Consider which is worse: Rest stop floor-induced Staph or hormone-injected fast food beef. Rapidly ingest a bag of pretzels while dropping scraps on the floor for the kids. Return to the car. Fill with more gas. Consider dropping a match in the gas tank…just to see the boom.

Window splat on Sandwich Two.

Hour 6:  TRAFFIC AND CONGESTION aka NOT THE TIME TO QUESTION THE GPS

Traffic begins to grow as do the demands from the kids. Average speed decelerates to a rate a three-legged Alpaca could outpace. You wonder if there are any Alpacas available for hire. Kids love animals and the outdoors.  It’d be good for them to take in the sights of Massachusetts from the back of an Alpaca. They’d arrive months later, expert at herding and making wool ponchos. Husband mutes the GPS and ominously states you will forge your own path, like our brethren of the Oregon Trail.  As the car is taken off road, you recall that everyone on The Oregon Trail died of dysentery. You glance wistfully at the GPS and pray that Husband doesn’t attempt to ford a river or fix a broken axle.

Hour 7:  SCENIC OVERLOOK aka DON’T MAKE A SCENE ON THE HIGHWAY

The declaration every parent of a potty trained toddler fears: Have to go to the bathroom. You briefly contemplate slipping a Pamper under his tush but realize that is the very definition of ‘one step forward, two steps back.’  Child declares unwillingness to go outside unless Daddy goes too. Scout a shoulder location with only a 75% chance of arrest for indecent exposure.  Father and son lower pants in unison.  Son stops short and proclaims this grass to be of the ‘wrong’ sort. Husband looks at you in desperation. You must find different turf as your son is inspired to urinate only by certain blades of grass, you explain. Husband drags son to various patches of land along the side of the road while vehicles passing by slow to take in a scene that appears vaguely criminal.  You yell to Husband to get the job done for phone calls to 911 reporting the Zodiac killer on the Merritt Parkway are being made.

Hour 8:  ARRIVAL aka DID THE DIVORCE PAPERS ARRIVE FIRST?

Arrive to destination more jittery than a pile of mogwais doused by a bucket of water.  Parents are exhausted.  Kids are ready to run. Begin to load 14 bellhop carts with luggage while childless valet stares in horror. Relocate Chloroform to your purse. Check in at front desk.  Will that be one King bed or two Doubles?  Exchange a wordless look.

Two doubles.

(Share your road trip horror stories)

0saves
If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed.

19 thoughts on “I’m Driving With Hannibal Lecter Next Time

  1. This all sounds too familiar. I want one of those Uhaul trailers to put everyone in when we travel.

  2. I was so traumatized by the unending road trips my parents took me on that I swore never ever to take the kids on one. At least not until they can amuse themselves by reading a book or play a videogame by theirselves.
    Oh and if you forget underwear again: just take his. Mens underwear is quite comfy (no, you do not want to know how I know this).

  3. on our daily trip to school many years back, Mrs .McC (name kept secret) kept a coffee can in the back for you know what!!! Disgusting! Maybe she and son should have tested the grass too!

  4. Tell me you did not drive to New York City? Jersey? Sweet Jesus. And you survived? I love it when he said “And your only job was to” – can I tell you how many times I’ve heard that? It’s a good thing I don’t own a firearm. And the Oregon Trail. Remember that computer game. Freakin loved it. Fording a river. Hilarious.

    This summer, we drove from Buffalo to NYC. It was awesome. Traveling with children is a unique and beautiful experience, Erin. I will say, however, that leaving Buffalo was, indeed, beautiful.

  5. How you can write this well and this fast after such an ordeal impresses me to no end. Hilarious from start to finish.

    We’re discussing driving from Texas to Nevada for Christmas. The only reason I’m considering it is for the material.

  6. I’m CRYING about the peeing/grass thing. CRYING. Well that and the chloroform. And Jeff Bridges. I could keep going.

    This was hilarious.

    Our last road trip involved my father being almost killed by something called the Ozone Blaster, a plague that rocked through the family, and a screaming child that made my husband and I alternate our sanity hats.

    Yours was way funnier, though.

  7. Well I can’t write about being a traveling parent (yet) but I can write about traveling with parents.
    When I was around 15, I decided to travel with my mom and step dad rather than stay home with dad and step bitch. My step dads job required them moving about every 4 months, so we were driving from some state to another… then the Uhaul tire goes flat and we sit at a rest stop for hours (in teenager time) waiting on a Uhaul person to come fix the tire.
    When they get there, it’s some woman and a hugely over weight man, that I believe had a trach hole in his throat. Not kidding. They start trying to get the tire off the rim with a crow bar. Frustrated that THIS is our help, my step dad grabs a crow bar and tries to help – thus releasing the pressure off of fat-wheezing-man’s crow bar and POW – right in the kisser! My step dad is now bleeding profusely from the mouth while my mother screams. So my mom is asking these people “where is the hospital?!” (think about it, this is pre-cell phones years…). As we are trying to leave, the lady stops my mom and asks… “Got any cigarettes?”
    So we are at the hospital waiting on the surgeon to get there (there was a pretty hole in my step dad’s lip), and when he arrives, he is covered in paint because he was doing a little home improvement while on call. My mom ushers me off to a scary ass Motel 6 and tells me to lock the door and not leave. Whatev, there was free HBO.
    Also – don’t feed the family dog Krystal Burgers… gives them mad gas! Not good while in a car…

  8. MotherClucker you are hilarious!

    I’m one of 6 kids. We once drove from Michigan to Montana for my sister’s wedding [she's 12 years older]. So we had Momma, her 5 kids remaining at home AND my 3 cousins. Aged 14ish to 17ish. All of us. In a woody station wagon.

    I was only 11 at the time, but vividly remember leaving one of my brothers at a gas station. Didn’t realize for like 20 miles. Apparently he had to pee and was ‘in the grass’ behind the station.

    Oopsie!

    Mom only considered not going back for like a second. Maybe 10 minutes.

  9. Stop it, stop it, stop it!!! Haaaaaaaahahahahahaha!!!! You are CRACKING ME UP!!! I literally laughed out loud all throughout that post. Surrsssly. It started with the fact the children thought they’d arrive one handful of Cheerios later. Loved it, loved it, loved it and now am going to tweet it, tweet it, tweet it.

  10. Freaking hilarious. I remember long road trips with my brother. No seat belts, on our knees facing out the back window. We would try to entertain the cars behind us for as long as possible. Many of them stayed behind us just to watch! My bro had four masks of past presidents and he’d wear one on top of the other, peeling each one off to the utter enjoyment of the strangers in the following car.

    He’d also torture me. Hitting, tickling, teasing. I hated it. I wanted to kill him. We’d slap each other silly until my dad pulled over and threatened to kill both of us. My mom would tell us how disappointed she was. We’d get to our destination in one piece, have a jolly time, and start it all again on the way home. Good ol’ days.

  11. I hate traveling with kids and I really hate traveling with my husband! I think I should just go hang out with my girlfriends and see the world that way.

  12. Don’t you just wonder about “those people” that purchase RVs and actually *choose* to travel together over the highways and biways??? Those people have to got to be missing a chromosome or seven… Makes no damn sense to me whatsoever…

  13. I must stop trying to read your blog when others around me are sleeping. I. Simply. Can’t. Stop. Laughing. And it’s not a quiet giggle, or soft chuckle, it’s a gut-blasting, shake the bed, if I try to hold it in, I’ll explode kind of laugh!

  14. LOL. One of my coworkers describes marriage as getting in a car with you best friend in Maine and driving cross country to San Diego, only to get in the car and drive back to Maine. Saw you on SITS!