Jesus Christ, can somebody open some windows in here? Talk about stuffy. Place smells like a morgue.
Whew. Sorry ’bout that.
So, yes, I’m back from my weeklong semi-hiatus, and much love to you the faithful who have continued to return, day in, day out, to see if I’ve gotten off my ass and written something for you, only to find that I sucked, and hadn’t. (Which reminds me: Hi! Have you met my sort-of-daily Photo of the Day-ish feature? It usually comprises not only a breathtaking piece of photographic brilliance, but also some elegant, witty and wonderful prose relating to said photo. I generally update it Monday through Friday—unless I’m, say, staying at my in-laws’ and working until 3:30 a.m. on a side project three consecutive nights in a row, or driving to/home from Philadelphia for six hours after a full workday … so, even when all those words on the homepage look old and stale, there’s usually something new to look at and read by clicking on that little Photo of the Day thingy over there on the right. And thank you for allowing me to indulge my inner salesman right there, whose presence I was unaware of until I just slipped into full-on Photo of the Day-promotion-whore mode.)
Alrighty, then. So, how many of you, once every few months, take a 700-mile-roundtrip drive with your 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son? Raise your hands. Mostly just me? Well, then you are missing out.
Around 7:15 last night, about 50 miles into our journey from the suburban-Philadelphia area to the suburban-Boston area, Zan, who was playing a game on his Nintendo DS, began clapping his hands together—slowly, forcefully, loudly, repeatedly. A few moments later, I heard him frantically scratching something plastic against something plastic.
“Dude, what the bloody fuck are you doing back there?” I asked when the next round of clapping began. (No, not really; “bloody” is considered very offensive in Britain, and we’re raising our children to be citizens of the world.)
“I’m playing my game,” he said.
“And you have to clap like that for the game?”
“Yes!” he said exasperatedly.
Then the frantic plastic-rubbing-plastic sound again commenced. I turned to Wonder Woman, who turned to look at Zan, who was seated behind the driver’s seat. She then turned back to me and pantomimed for me what she thought Zan looked like as he flailed his plastic stylus back and forth across the touchscreen in an effort to make his cartoon hedgehog run faster. She contorted her face in a look of extreme physical exertion, tensed her entire body and wagged her hand maniacally back and forth in a masterful display of air-Nintendo. I managed not to crash the car as we laughed our asses off.
While all of this was going on, Jayna was watching “Tinkerbell” on the DVD player, the two screens for which are mounted on the rear of my and Wonder Woman’s headrests … meaning the speakers are, like, three millimeters away from our ears … so our heads were filled with the sounds of clapping and scratching and “Tinkerbell”-ing.
And Jayna doesn’t just watch the movie; she accompanies the movie with her own running commentary. In fact, she accompanies every waking moment of her life these days with a running commentary so rapid and incessant that onlookers probably think we have her hopped up on crack.
“Zan, look! See those glasses! They make his eyes look BIG! AGGGHH! He’s silly! Zan, which one is he? Zan? Which one is he? Which one is he, Zan?”
“I’m trying to play my game, Jayna!” Clap-clap-clap, scratch-scratch-scratch.
“Mommy? Mommy? Mommymommymooooommmmmy? Mommy? Mah-moo?”
“Yes, Jayna? Yes? What?”
“Which one is he?”
“Which one is who?”
“The one with the glasses. Which one is the one with the glasses? Which one is he?”
“He’s Bobble, Jayna!” offers Zan.
“Oh! Yeah! Bobble! Haha. Bobble! Bobble is sooooo silly!”
And now Wonder Woman and I are having a laughing fit, because we have both looked at each other and shared a non-verbal, spontaneous epiphany, and that is: we live in a fucking insane asylum.
In all fairness, the kids are actually great at doing this ride. Five-and-a-half hours is a hell of a long time to expect two kids to sit in their car seats, and they have never once complained about getting in the car to do so. Part of that is because they’ve both been doing this drive several times per year since birth, and part of it is because we leave shortly before bedtime, and they sleep most of the way home. (And part of it is because, seriously, they’re really great kids, if I do say so myself.)
We have this trip down to a science. We leave around 6 or 6:30, and, when the first bathroom break is requested—usually about an hour into the drive—we make a pit stop so that we can all use the bathroom and I can top off the gas tank. That is usually the only stop we make, and shortly thereafter, I am the only one left awake in the car. Me. And silence. For hours. And an iPod full of Howard Stern. Ahhhh.
Of course, every now and then, that first bathroom request can come at an inopportune moment … like, 12 miles from the next rest stop.
“Mommmyyy, I have to go to the potty!” Jayna alerted us.
“OK, sweetie, we’ll pull over in a minute.”
And then we saw the sign: “Next services: 12 miles.”
And it is at this point that it became time to play the “Let’s Distract You and Appease You and Make You Believe We’re Almost There” game for 10 minutes.
“Mommmmyyy, I can’t hold it!”
“OK, honey, we’re almost there. We’re just looking for a bathroom.”
Another two minutes pass.
“I know, sweetie. Daddy’s just looking for a place to stop.”
Daddy is also trying to find the right speed at which to travel—one that is supersonic enough to get us there before she pees herself, but yet, reasonable enough that the nice policeman would be understanding if he pulled us over and discovered on board a wailing three-year-old with a soon-to-burst bladder.
During the last few miles before we reached the next rest area, Jayna gave up on words and instead let out a pitiful whining sound every 30 seconds or so, to which we responded each time with an “We’re almost there, baby,” and a “It’s right up here, honey” and a “We’re just about to pull over, sweetie” until finally, thank sweet Jesus, we made it. (And there’s always something kinda cute and special about seeing the kids in their pajamas and sneakers heading into a rest stop; it’s as if their participation in this journey gives them carte blanche to break some kind of “Pajama-Clad Children Are Supposed To Be In Bed” law, and they feel like they’re getting away with something.)
Once we got back on the road, I soon had a carload full of sleeping family, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home … except for the fact that the car, which had handled so splendidly all the way from Boston to Philly, and halfway from Philly to Boston, started making The Noise again … the very disconcerting noise … the one that made me wonder if something really, really catastrophic was about to happen … but then quickly subsided and made me think that I should just keep going and hope for the best … which is what I did. Thankfully, we made it home in one piece, and, while a story about abandoning our packed vehicle on the side of the Garden State Parkway in the middle of the night for fear of a potential catastrophe would probably make for a fascinating blog entry, I’m glad I kept going.
And on that note, it is time to begin repairing my sleep pattern before my transformation into a vampire becomes irreversible. Buenos noches.