We took a two-hour road trip to Connecticut this past weekend. Some of you may think two hours in the car is not a road trip. It’s merely a ride. But that depends on a lot of factors.
First, and foremost, it depends on who your passengers are. I remember, many years ago, when there were three young boys crammed into the back seat, each staking a claim on their space – sometimes with an elbow jab or a shin kick – that would blow up into a minor skirmish. And, although I urged everyone to go to the toilet before setting out, there were times when our hearts would stop at the quiet whimpering that exploded into those dreaded words: “I have to poop NOW!”
Oh, how I longed for the day when my husband and I could take a quiet road trip by ourselves.
Now that day is finally here, and I’m still not having any fun on those road trips. It seems the older I get, the more I need my simple comforts – my comfortable chair with plenty of space around me, my own bathroom, my coffee with coconut cream and cinnamon on top – which means I should probably just stay home and watch a travel video.
Sitting in the car any longer than forty minutes at a time makes me fidgety. I check my phone for messages every few minutes. I text family members inane messages like: Stuck in traffic on the Merritt Pkwy. Where are you? When no one answers, I check Facebook hoping I’ll read about someone doing something more interesting than I am.
I can’t read books in the car because I get carsick. Turning on the radio is no consolation because my husband and I have different taste in music. Since he’s usually the driver, he gets to pick the music.
“What do you want to hear?” I’ll ask him.
“Something soothing,” he says. He always says something soothing, and, for him, that means either classical or jazz. I can’t listen to classical music for too long in the car. I need something with a little more zip. And listening to lengthy jazz improvisations makes me so downright crazy that I envision myself opening the car door and rolling out onto the parkway just to get away from the repetitive riffs or licks or whatever they call those musical tangents they go on during jazz solos.
Our bodies aren’t what they used to be either. Usually after only an hour on the road, one of us has to go. But we have different ideas on the meaning of a rest stop. My husband wants to do his business and get right back on the road. I think of the rest stop as a mini shopping tour. I like to get a cup of coffee, walk through the gift shop, pick up the mugs, open up the sweatshirts, buy a candy bar or a donut, peruse the magazine rack, weigh myself on the weight machine and stroll around outside the building between those stalls that sell leather goods and sunglasses. Why else would they have all that stuff at the rest stop? They know people need a break from the tedium of long drives.
As far as stimulating conversations go, I’ll let you be the judge of how interesting our road trip conversations can be….
On our way out this Saturday, we spotted a discarded table on the curb in our neighborhood and pulled over to have a look. The owner came out and talked with my husband for about five minutes and then the two of them moved the table to the man’s backyard.
“What’s going on? Aren’t we taking the table?” I asked, as we pulled away.
“Well? Why did he put it back?”
“He’s saving it for me.”
“When are you going to get it?”
“Is it under a protective awning in case it rains tonight?”
“It’s not going to rain tonight.”
“It looked pretty heavy. Looked like you both had trouble moving it. Was it heavy?”
“It’s a great table! I know exactly where I’m going to put it.”
“Why was he getting rid of it?” I asked.
“He doesn’t want it anymore.”
“They’re moving,” he said.
“No. They’re moving into a ranch.”
“In the neighborhood.”
“Too many steps.”
“Too many steps?”
“Yeah, he says there are five floors in the house.”
“Five floors? Wow! Must be a high ranch setup.”
“Does he have any other stuff he’s getting rid of?
“Yeah, he says he has a dining room set and he can’t find anyone to give it away to.”
“You’re kidding! Anything else?”
“Yeah; lots of stuff.”
“Why don’t you just tell me what I want to know? Why do you make me ask you questions like an interrogating lawyer?!”
“What do you mean?” he says. “I already told you everything.”
Stimulating enough for you? We hadn’t even rolled out of the neighborhood and I was already longing for the trip home that would deliver me back to the novel I left behind on my favorite chair.