I went on a voyage this week. An international trek, no less! I complain about road trips with my family and lament the loss of carefree and exotic jaunts in my life, but that’s because I’ve been limiting my travel paradigm to that which happens aboard planes or upon highways. A few nights ago, on the eve of my birthday, I determined to harness all the brain power experts say we haven’t tapped to suspend time and halt aging. I was hoping to block the formation of a few crow’s feet; I didn’t want to convert to Benjamin Button. I’ve got enough babies in my life. If successful, I’d stop the clock on my aging cells; If not, I’d have mustered enough telekinetic energy to at least bend a spoon or levitate a plate, either one gangbusters at a cocktail party.
But so much more happened. I wandered through a wrinkle in time. I warped space-time as we know it. Don’t ask me to explain the mechanics; I’m not Stephen Hawking even if I mumble a lot and drool on my shirt. In the space of moments, I took a trip back through the ages. I passed decades. I reversed through Centennials. From my window seat in my time capsule, I thought I spied the Grand Canyon, but I realized it was just an era – or was that an epoch? – sliding silently beneath my hurling rocket. I asked the flight attendant for pretzels, but she informed me they have yet to be developed. How about pheasant and a gill of whiskey? Before I could dig in to my grouse, we’d arrived.
London. The Industrial Revolution. The Victorian Era.
Where are my sweatpants? My recent ensembles have teetered on matronly, but when did I start wearing a bun and petticoats? “Excuse me, sir?” I asked a passing gentleman who resembled the mentally unstable who work at Colonial Williamsburg, “Do you have the time?” He pulled out a gold pocket watch. Christ, these historical theme park employees and their authentic props are irritating. He hurried down the lamp-lit street as a shriveled toadstool of a woman cackled in my ear, “You’d best be on your way, Love. There’s work to be done.” With that I was teleported to the inside of an 1800s textile factory. I choked on the black smoke hanging thick in the air as I plucked lace blouses off the line. The soot, a byproduct of the steam and coal burning machinery, invaded my nostrils and my eyes. I pleaded for a window to be opened, but there was no way to ventilate the room and the overseer kept threatening to keep my two pence if I didn’t stop my belly-aching. I’m no math whiz, but I knew that even despite the power of British currency that Taco Bell pays better. My head spun, my eyes teared, and I realized both that I’d not been flown in for Kate and Prince William’s royal wedding and that Thomas Kinkade was full of shit. I fell into a heap upon the rodent feces-covered floor…
Allow me to be your guide in making this time-travel itinerary your own. It begins with allowing your husband control of all household utilities. Where you would have opted into a home heating contract that includes seasonal cleaning of your prehistoric furnace, he foregoes such luxury. Soon you notice small deposits of soot collecting around vents, which you ask him to rectify urgently since he is the keeper of utilities. He fails to do so before going out of town. The next stop on this guided tour is to wake in the frigid night to find your house has become one of those igloo hotel attractions French Canadians love to visit. Spend the next 8 hours on the phone with a man named ‘Larry’, endeavoring to make him understand that even Palins can’t endure such temperatures without hollowing out a moose carcass to take shelter within. As you eye the family dog and wonder if Google can walk you through the steps of pelt making, a service man arrives to fix the furnace. He informs you the system was overthrown by a coup of oil burning byproduct. What he does not tell you is that clearing the blockage will throw a plume of soot over your home to rival the ash from Mount St. Helen’s eruption.
After the greasy candleblack settles, you will spend the next 2 days vacuuming, scrubbing, and laundering every surface and textile in your home. Dig into your meat pie, folks, because your whirlwind trip to London circa the Industrial Revolution has begun! The soot will instantly transform your children into Dickens characters, faces smeared with grease, holding up their bowls of ash-sprinkled gruel, “May have I some more, Miss?” No longer will you need to threaten coal in their Christmas stockings because their socks hung by the chimney with care are already filled with it. The Upper Respiratory Infection your family was suffering has been upgraded to more ominous maladies of a Chimney Sweep from the 1800s. Who worries about a little post-nasal drip when you’ve got Coal Miner’s Lung?
Upon my return from the Victorian streets of London Town, I became a more modern literary character. The never-ending billowing of soot had left me delusional, and I became the dark matron tortured by her desire for purity and cleanliness in every V.C. Andrews novel. As my kids screamed in protest, I plunged them into bleach water and vinegar baths so I could rid them of their demons.
Because my husband has been out of town – and not at a filthy textile factory – he has only heard our tales of tribulation through the puffs of our family-pack of rainbow colored nebulizers. After ceaseless wheezing from my end of the line, he asked me to focus on the positive aspects of carbon dioxide toxicity. In the spirit of the holidays, we will take the high road and accept our role as the world’s alpha group in a long-term study of the positive effects of soot. Step aside, Cindy Crawford, those French melons you claim keep your face more youthful than that of my 2 year old are about to be outdone by a cheap smear available domestically. Forget ethanol, we haven’t even needed a battery in a TV remote since our house became its own renewable energy source. We’re really saving on groceries as no one has required a meal in days since soot empties slowly from the stomach. Lastly, if any of my kids show football aspirations, I already know how they’ll look in eye black and a Raiders jersey. Provided the black on the windows doesn’t completely obscure the sun, leaving us with Vitamin D deficiency, we are developing our own adaptation of A Christmas Carol to bring to the American masses. Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit will be portrayed by my husband and daughter while I spice up the chorus with my best Dick Van Dyke rendition of ‘Chim Chim Fuck-meee!’ Our son will play the role of Tiny Mutant Tim. With 3 arms and a nasty case of rickets.
God Bless Us, Every One!