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THE FAMILY ROAD TRIP: THEN VS. NOW

  • Nobody wore seatbelts.
  • Babies, infants and toddlers sat on mom’s lap in the front seat; the older kids argued over who got to lie on a sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon.
  • If you were good, you got to stop at A&W. Otherwise, you ate bologna sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
  • Dad spent most of the trip trying to tune in an AM station that was carrying the game. The signal would come in strong for a while then fade. Sometimes there was no signal at all.
  • If you were too loud, your mom would say you were distracting your father, and then eventually he would just reach back and smack whoever was closest in the head, even if they were the one kid being quiet.
  • This was one of the reasons the middle seat was the worst place to sit.
  • Your station wagon got eight miles to the gallon, but you probably didn’t know that because nobody cared.
  • If you were lucky enough to have air conditioning, you couldn’t use it on long trips because your dad said the car would overheat.
  • If you felt car sick, you were supposed to stick your head out the window.
  • “He who smelt it, dealt it.”
  • Dad would only stop for gas or Stuckey’s, so mom kept a pee jar under the front seat just in case you couldn’t hold it.
  • When you passed a truck, you would raise your fist and gesture for the driver to blow his air horn.
  • If your dad had a CB radio, he would listen to it to find out where the speed traps were. If not, he would try to follow a truck.
  • When another car passed you, a kid in the back seat would sometimes pull down his pants and stick his butt out at you. When this happened, you would say “Looks like the moon’s out early tonight.”
  • Sometimes it was a full-moon, other times it was just a half-moon.
  • After driving for six or eight hours, mom and dad would stop at a bar for a drink. They would leave you in the car in the parking lot to wait. After 45 minutes or so, they would come back out, get in the car and then drive for two or three more hours to a Holiday Inn.
  • You drove because flying was a luxury.
  • You spent 1/3 of your vacation going to your destination, 1/3 at your destination, and 1/3 driving back from the destination.
  • If it was Spring Break, the destination was Florida or Arizona. If it was summer, you would go to a cabin in the mountains or by a lake or on the river.

TIME DOESN'T FLY WHEN YOU'RE FLYING WITH KIDS

How can a two hour and 20 minute flight take five hours?

Electronic check in:

17 17 minutes

Manual check-in after electronic check-in can’t find everyone’s name:

34 34 minutes

Airport security:

37 37 minutes

Pat down, additional questioning after dad was randomly flagged as a potential terrorist (which the kids thought was funny, but the parents couldn’t believe):

11 11 minutes

Flight Delay (cause unknown, but “kid in control tower” incident suspected):

40 40 minutes

Actual flight:

140 2 hours 20 minutes

Wait on tarmac (after pilot announces “We’ll be taxing to the gate in just a few minutes”):

17 17 minutes

Wait at gate:

7 7 minutes

Wait at baggage claim:

34 34 minutes

Wait at baggage claim “lost luggage” department:

19 19 minutes

Time-out for deep, calming breaths:

6 6 minutes

Finding car in long-term parking after losing slip of paper with level and section number:

22 22 minutes

Explaining why there won’t be any more family trips until the memory of this last one has faded away completely:

Forever Weeks

BETTER TO BEND THAN (SPRING) BREAK

Time was, Spring Break was a blurry haze of non-stop adventure where the goal was to cram in as much fun as possible before returning to class – usually more tired than before we left.

But now we have kids, which means Spring Break is still a blurry haze of non-stop adventure, but the fun we try to cram is for our kids’, not for ourselves.

And while we still end the week far more tired than we were before it even started – Why is there no absolute limit to sleep deprivation, anyway? – at least we can take comfort in the fact that we’ll actually remember the memories we’re making now, and be able to look back on them forever and smile.

(Except for the ones involving the flight, which was delayed 2 hours.)

OUT-OF-CONTROL TOWER

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding kids in the control tower, but what’s the big deal? What would really happen if the FAA decided to let kids land planes?

Five consequences:

1. New pre-flight procedures:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, Alaska 827 requesting permission to take off.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Permission granted, Alaska 827, just as soon as everyone on board goes potty.

2. Pilots who didn’t follow directions wouldn’t just be grounded, they’d be sent to bed without dinner:

KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Northwest 104, where have you been? Do you know what time it is?
PILOT: Sorry Air Traffic Control, we hit turbulence over Denver and got delayed.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Sorry? It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?
PILOT: But it wasn’t our fault.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I don’t want to hear it.
PILOT: It was the jet stream!
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Then you should have called and told us that. But you didn’t, did you?
PILOT: No.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: You come straight to the gate after you land, no detours or delays.

3. Pilots would be expected to use good manners:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is United 817, request permission to drop to 10,000 feet.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry United 817, request denied – you didn’t say please.

4. No more foreign flights:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202, over… Come in Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202… Air Traffic Control? Hello? Is anybody there?
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry, Ukrainian 202, I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.

5. All planes would have to land by 8 pm on a school night, 10 pm on weekends:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Alaska 111, requesting assistance.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry Alaska 111, it’s past my bed time.

RULES FOR FUTURE HOUSEGUESTS

  1. Don’t make yourself at home.
  2. If you stay longer than invited, you will not be asked to come back.
  3. Ever.
  4. There is no maid.
  5. Seriously — NO MAID, which means whichever host you are related to, or knew first, will end up cleaning up after you (though probably not until after a long, ugly argument).
  6. If you bring a pet, make sure your pet is housebroken.
  7. On second thought, no pets.
  8. When we say “if you need anything, just ask,” we don’t expect you to take us up on it.
  9. But if you really do need something, we’d prefer if you would let us find it for you rather than snooping looking for it in our drawers, closets, cabinets, etc. yourself.
  10. Pottery Barn rules apply: you break it, you buy it.
  11. This rule applies to kids, too.
  12. If you forget your toothbrush, razor, underwear or prescription anti-depressants, please don’t borrow ours.
  13. Just because you walk around naked at home doesn’t mean you should do that here, if for no other reason than seeing you naked will forever change our impression of you, and probably not for the better.
  14. Please refrain from discussing politics, religion or anything else unless you are certain your views are in line with ours, or that we like to argue.
  15. You know that ugly piece of art we have on the wall in the living room? We don’t think it’s ugly.
  16. On a related note, you know the voice you use when you don’t want anyone to hear you? We can still hear you.
  17. Please keep in mind that we invited you, not members of your extended family.
  18. Flush.
  19. And knock.
  20. If you don’t think you can abide by these rules, stay home.
  21. Unless you are family.
  22. And then only come during the holidays, when we are more likely to be forgiving.
  23. And which only come once a year.

CAMERA SHY AT THE DMV

Everybody makes fun of Driver’s License photographs, but how good could anyone look after spending three hours and 19 minutes at a place like the DMV?

The walls are painted a government-approved shade of beige that seems to have been chosen for its ability to induce nausea. God only knows what kind of deadly germs and pathogens are breeding freely on the furniture (which looks like it was bought on the cheap at a Nixon Administration yard sale and then left in a basement storage room for three decades). And if you think tinnitus is irritating, it’s a lullaby compared to the hum given off by row after row of cheap fluorescent lights.

Still, that would all be tolerable if you could just take a number and wait by yourself.

But you can’t.

If you’ve ever wondered what the people on “Cops” do when they’re not getting arrested, or what somebody who considers personal hygiene to be optional looks like, all you have to do is turn to either side of you and say “hello.”

Clearly, somebody has been peeing in the gene pool.

How else can you explain the toothless, tattooed biker chick/meth addict taking the motorcycle test who doesn’t see the problem with asking the proctor if he can give her a hint? Or the old lady renewing her license who insists she doesn’t need a vision test, but then can’t even find the line she’s supposed to stand behind to take it? Or the guy at the center of a booze-cloud you can smell from 20 feet away who gets upset because they won’t let him re-take his driver’s test right now?

As bad as it is to be near people like this, however, it’s a whole lot worse when you realize you’re no different than people like this – because when you get up to the window and the clerk says you need two additional pieces of ID, not one like you thought, you protest…

And say nobody told you…

And say you’ve been waiting all morning already…

And say that they should make an exception…

And say the rules are stupid…

And say they are stupid for enforcing them…

And say just about every idiotic thing you can think of, until you finally realize you are saying every idiotic thing you can think of.

At which point you go home, get another ID, and wait in line all over again.

And then they take your picture.

Click.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE DMV

  • Even if you are the first person in line, first thing in the morning, you will end up waiting an hour and a half.
  • Anything that can be screwed up will be screwed up.
  • Just because you are half-blind, senile, psychotic or drunk doesn’t mean you can’t renew your license — though if you’re half-blind you’ll have to take the vision test.
  • The fact that you’re supposed to take a number when you walk in only confuses the people in front of you who never learned to count.
  • Instructions are in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai and Vietnamese, but stupidity seems to be the same in any language.
  • If your car gets stolen, it is likely the person who stole it is waiting in line in front of you.
  • Saying you “work at the DMV” is kind of misleading – a more accurate description would be to say you “do as little work as you possibly can so you don’t get fired from the DMV.”
  • No matter how fat you are, there will be a woman ahead of you who weighs at least 100 pounds more than you do. (This may be the one positive thing about the DMV.)
  • One couple waiting in line will get into a huge, screaming argument.
  • One couple waiting in line will dry hump each other until a DMV employee asks them to stop.
  • Somebody will video this couple and post it on Youtube.
  • If you think a set of instructions are so simple even a moron could follow them, the moron in line in front of you will prove you wrong, and require up to 25 minutes of redundant, repetitive picture-based explanation before he or she realizes you can’t just take the driver’s test and get a license, you must actually pass it first.
  • If you accidentally marked “A” even though you know the answer is “None of the above,” you still have to re-take the test.
  • If the fee is $25 and you only have $23, you are $2 short no matter how many times you say “Please” or “Couldn’t you just cut me a little slack?”
  • Even if there are 50 open seats, somebody will sit down right next to you.
  • The person who sits down next to you will make you consider leaving and coming back tomorrow, even if you have already waited two hours and are next in line.

Y RU IR8?

It’s easy to get mad at bad drivers, but sometimes there’s a simple explanation for why somebody stops at a green light, or makes a left hand turn from the far right lane, or just blatantly cuts you off.

(Besides being too tired to see straight because they have kids who still won’t sleep through the night.)

Where the ’70s had custom paint jobs, the ’90s had vanity plates. And even though they’ve become something of a cliche, they’re still an accurate way of understanding what a driver is thinking.

Why is the guy in the vintage car you’re stuck behind going 20 mph under the speed limit? Because he’s “N2PL8Z” not “N2 DRVNG.”

Why did that teenager just sideswiped your neighbor’s mailbox? “I♥TXTNG.”

And why is the Nascar wannabe in the 2007 Dodge Challenger next to you at the stop light revving his engine? Because he’s “2FAST4U” (though, unfortunately for him, not 2FAST4 the highway patrol car waiting behind the overpass up ahead.)

But as good as vanity plates are, they’re not nearly as insightful as bumper stickers.

If it’s “EARTH FIRST!” that means it’s good driving second, which easily explains why that bio-diesel conversion that smells like a giant french fry is driving the wrong way down a one way street.

Not to be too political, but if you’ve ever been driven off the road by a convoy of protesters racing to their next rally, you know that just because somebody’s “PRO LIFE” or “PRO CHOICE” doesn’t mean they’re pro-stop sign, pro-”Do Not Pass” or pro-speed limit.”

And while “MEAT IS MURDER,” running somebody over is just vehicular manslaughter, which is why that emaciated 20-something in the vintage Volvo seems more concerned with finding the only Vegan restaurant in town than looking out for pedestrians.

Not that anyone is perfect, of course, but why call attention to yourself?

It’s great to “PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS,” but not for every single driver who wants to cut in.

WHAT WOULD SCOOBY DO?” He’d let Fred drive because he’s too stoned.

And if we’re supposed to “CALL 1 800 EAT-SHIT” to lodge a complaint, how can we do it from the car if we’re not allowed to use cellphones anymore?

Still, as irritating as other drivers can be, it’s not like we can just walk away.