What the %^&* Is Going On Here? by Maria’s Random Rants

Topic: What the %^&* Is Going On Here?

I’m a warrior, a road warrior. Well, among other things. Really. Just hear me out.

Being a family of six limits our options when it comes to travel. Heck, being a family of six limits us financially in several respects, because as you can guess six times any dollar amount usually equals much more than most people can afford. So over the last few years this family has become a band of road warriors, trekking it across the state and the country in our bucket of a minivan accompanied by three little dogs.

Despite the thousands of dollars we save in airfare, road tripping has its drawbacks, the most obvious of which has to be the circus you’re subjected to by all the parties in your car. I mean, who in their right mind really wants to spend ten consecutive hours driving anywhere with four children, three dogs, and a spouse who you will no doubt imagine divorcing at least once before the end of the trip? Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it! Me! And seriously, when have I ever been in my right mind? Let’s be honest, I lost that mental state somewhere between kid two and kid three. Or maybe it was before we got the dogs. Who knows?

In any case, I’m compelled to share with you the most memorable road trip we’ve had so far. A few summers back our family braved a trip from Texas to California, a hefty twenty-two hour drive across 1400 miles. The first 600 mile, nine hour stretch from Austin to El Paso wasn’t too bad, likely because the kids were still fascinated with their new Ipod songs and DS games. Add to that we were still early on enough and cheery in the trip to buy all the kids snacks at every gas station stop. Mind you, we cut that out the drive back and $100 of nachos and slushees later.

The next stretch seemed to wear down the kids a bit more. As I recall, somewhere along I-10 they thought it would be fun to pass the time with a farting contest.  My husband was not amused. They started with youngest to oldest and it wasn’t so bad with the younger eight year olds, but as you can imagine the potency only escalated with each older child.  By the time we got to my oldest son, who was seventeen at the time, my husband, using a shaky I’m-trying-not-to-kill-you-people voice, threatened to pull over on the side of the road, in the middle of the Arizona desert, in 100 degrees of blazing heat just so we could let the car air out.

Ordinarily, this should have put a halt to the game, but alas, not everyone in the car was listening. Not but five minutes later, one of the dogs let out a doozy and true to his word my husband pulled over. Fortunately for us there was a gas station at a nearby exit. It actually doubled as a quirky roadside museum daring tourists to sneak a peek at ‘The Thing’ for a mere $1 admission. While we skipped the museum, we did gas up, air out the car, and I made sure to buy the dog a treat since, hands down, he was the winner of the kids’ contest. Ten minutes later we were back on the road.

I wish I could say our roadside antics ended there, but that just wasn’t written in the cards for us. On the last stretch, about 300 miles away from our final destination we encountered a scene that couldn’t have played out any better had it been ripped from a National Lampoon’s movie.

We had hit the road at 5AM and a few hours later, just as all of the kids started to wake one of the girls let out a scream scaring the bejesus out of the rest of us. Apparently, while she was sleeping one of the dogs had gotten sick and the evidence lie spread out across her lap and most of the back seat. Her startling scream not only woke the rest of the kids and the dogs, but put everyone in a state of panic.

The dogs are barking, the boys are yelling, both girls are crying, and the stench of dog mess is beginning to float its way throughout the van. My husband is frantically looking for a place to pull over while I, of course, am texting because I’m a writer and a storyteller and this was a great story that my chatty impatient self just had to share right then and there.

Without a rest stop or gas station in sight my husband eventually pulls over in an open field. The boys, my husband, and I climb out of the car with the dogs in tow.  As I start yanking things out of the back, my boys are walking the dogs, both girls are still hollering in the car, and my husband is neck deep in the trunk searching for clothes for our daughter. We hardly notice the police cruiser that’s slowly and quietly pulled up beside us. Now in the haze of our pandemonium, my husband and I share a look that says only one thing – sh*t, one of us is going to jail.

With what little energy he has left, my husband asks in a trying I-swear-everything-is-just-fine voice, “How you doing, Officer?”

With a slight and polite smile the officer nods his head and replies, “I’m doin’ alright, but I gotta’ ask, and you know I do. What the %@#$%^! is going on here?”

The boys and I steal a glance at one another and then my husband, call it the silent prayer before a big show, and my husband takes a deep breath before explaining.

“Well sir, one of our dogs took a crap on my daughter and the entire back seat. To be honest we’re just trying to clean out the car best we can because we still have four more hours of driving to go.”

With a look that expressed a little disbelief but a lot more pity, the officer looks from me, still gripping a poop stained pillow, to one daughter, half-naked in the car, and then the other daughter, who had somehow managed to perch herself onto the back console to avoid getting dirty, and then at my sons, one of them standing beside a dog who was now sh*tting beside the cruiser. He looks back at my husband, gives him a look of clear sympathy, wishes him luck, and drives off.

That story remains one of this family’s Top Ten Oh-No-You-Didn’t moments. I still crack up thinking about it. Now I bet you think that incident alone was what made this road trip most memorable. If I was reading this I know I would, but oddly enough it wasn’t.

Nine out of ten times a week, my life is a circus show. We can’t afford half the junk my kids or my husband want, nor can we ever afford to travel via airplane, anywhere. So we road trip it, a lot. The kids complain, my husband grunts, and sometimes our dogs get carsick. Still I make them do it, several times a year. The farting contests, the crapping dogs, the redundant “are we there yet”, and even the constant bickering amongst the six of us over who gets to sit where or who drives, it’s all part of the beauty that makes up the family vacation, the nutty road trip. And it’s all worth it because it always ends the same way.

On our journey back I volunteered to drive and give my husband a break. Once again we left at the crack of dawn and a few hours later we were driving through the Arizona desert. Only this time all of the kids slept through this part of the commute, as did my husband. The sky was clear and colored with beautiful shades of yellow, red, and blue. It was ironic that only five days earlier we had traveled this same route in complete mayhem, farting and escaping arrest, but not today.

This morning in particular the entire family slept on, peacefully.  That moment was what made the trip so memorable. The sun rise, the beautiful sky, the slow and steady murmur of my four children, my husband, and my dogs breathing beside me, and the car pointed south towards home, all those things coming together to, ultimately, create the perfect moment, that moment of clarity. It’s the kind of moment I reach for when everything is going wrong and nothing makes sense and like a compass it reminds me which way I’m supposed to be headed.

So like I said, I’m a road warrior. Well, among other things.

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  1. […] was another piece I’ve recently written for The Write On Project. Please check out their site, if you have time. They are a wonderful writing group and I’m very […]



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