Next week, the Griswolds, otherwise known as the Baker/Kaprowys, will embark on a week-long tour of New England. It’s an ambitious adventure, involving visits to six colleges in five days. Our mornings will be filled with intense tours and information sessions. Our afternoons will be racing to the car to get to the next town or city. Our nights will, very likely, involve clutching a wine glass as if a life preserver.
It’s likely, very likely in fact, that when we return, we won’t be the same.
As I’ve been planning this tour, I’ve been thinking about what it is that can make a family road trip so stressful. I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to do with the time you spend together in the car.
The problem is: Car time has everything to do with the verb “endure.” The driver is not particularly happy to be driving. The passenger tends to fall asleep, making the driver feel like a chauffeur. And the back-seat occupants are likely partially car sick and/or prone to making driving suggestions, once again irritating the already irritated driver.
In our family, I am almost always the passenger. Regrettably, a whopping failure of a passenger.
Remember when you had to go orienteering in middle school? And you had a map with treasures hidden in certain places in a park and you had to use a compass to find those treasures? On that day, I was so hopeless, I had to resort to cheating. And by cheating, I mean following the other kids and pretending that I wasn’t.
Because I am so bad at navigation, I am an extremely anxious passenger, especially when it comes to restaurant selection and location.
Our family is Pretty Particular about where we eat, so my job is to locate a winning restaurant that, a), doesn’t have trouble dealing with a nut allergy, b), isn’t far away from the route we’re taking and, c), is delicious. This seems simple and straightforward. It should be simple and straightforward. But it isn’t.
I start searching and calling and this translates into me becoming irritated because I am, bottom line, worried beyond belief that I’m either going to be responsible for a bad meal or, worse, Gabrielle is going to die of anaphylaxis at a restaurant of my choosing.
William is the driver of our crew. William is also an extremely avid fan of race cars and Formula One. In fact, he has raced at Putnam Park and Mid-Ohio tracks, and, for one week a few years ago, he attended driving school, which, among other things, involved learning how to skid correctly in a Porsche 911 Turbo.
I can assure you, this penchant for speed makes for an interesting road trip. To explain, William is a fast, efficient driver. However, he expects in turn that the drivers around him will likewise be fast and efficient. I promise you this is not the case.
So William gets quieter and quieter. He gets frustrateder and frustrateder. And eventually, he goes into teaching mode. This lesson involves tailgating the car in front of him to prod that driver into driving as fast and efficiently as William.
The lesson doesn’t go well.
Gabrielle gamely sits in the back seat, even though she’s much taller than I am. Luckily, she has never had a problem with car sickness, however she is extremely, almost ridiculously smart (hence the necessity for the New England college tour) and so can be prone to making suggestions.
Generally, this has to do with inputting information into the car computer. Since we will have a rental car in New England, I can imagine there will be a lot of suggestions made, made, perhaps, with a slight air of superiority.
I am so hopeless, I just stay out of subjects like Bluetooth and podcasts, however Gabrielle and William both like to have input in this arena, conversations that often end in the sentence: “Thank you, Gabrielle, I am not an idiot.”
And so, with our idiosyncrasies packed as tightly into the car as our huge suitcases, we will make our way through New England next week. I ask you to wish us luck. I need you to hope for traffic-free highways on our behalf. Please think of us when you’ve driving alone to work in the face of a glorious sunrise and enjoying peace, quiet and no judgment. We will need all the help we can get. And yet, as I finish writing this, I can’t wait either.