Are We There Yet?
Whoever said “it’s the journey and not the destination” wasn’t in the car with me yesterday.
We were slow out of the gate. The ritualized closing of the country house takes more time in the fall (heading into winter) than in the warmer months of summer. The refrigerator, as usual, is emptied, defrosted, wiped and left unplugged, open to the air. The floor is swept. The dishes and glassware are washed, stowed and covered. The water is not only turned off, but in anticipation of the cold it is siphoned from the toilets and the hot water tank, to avoid the catastrophe of frozen, bursting pipes. Electricity shut off. Doors and shudders latched. It’s a frenzy of cleansing and storing activity. Then finally, en route.
The back roads from our little village to the highway are bucolic and picturesque, but their meandering makes for uncomfortable stomachs. Buddy-roo lost her breakfast about fifteen minutes into the ride. I am smart enough to bring a few plastic bags – her car sickness is also a ritual event – but not smart enough to check those bags for holes before tucking them into the pocket of the car door. The little pink plastic sac I shoved under her precious, ashen face just before she puked had a teeny tiny hole in the bottom, which became big very quickly, dumping most of the contents of the bag into her lap. Who knew how fast I am out of the seat-belt? Or that I could be a contortionist, reaching around the front seat, wiping up the mess with the four paper towels left on the roll? Oh, happy drive.
De-facto had the idea to stop at a giant Decathalon store just before the on-ramp to the highway, for what was promoted as a quick errand. When I finally found him, he had set up house in roller blade aisle. Short-pants and Buddy-roo had each been fitted with a pair, and they were shuffling around, finding their legs like baby foals, while he examined roller-blades in his own size. Of course, each pair that he tried on required a test drive. He’d skate circles around the girls, their giggling filled the store despite the height of its hyper-sized ceiling. (He didn’t intend to buy them for the girls, by the way, he was just giving them a quick lesson, gearing up for the winter skating season, and keeping them occupied while he contemplated his selection.)
How hard is it to select a pair of roller-blades? Apparently not so easy when you’re deciding whether or not to splurge for the super-geared-up sexy pair or just go for the solid they’ll-work-anywhere ones. While he weighed his options, I explored the store and got sucked into the vortex of early Christmas shopping. Which meant the additional game of get-through-the-checkout-without-anyone-seeing-what’s-in-your-cart, which I managed to win, but without any help whatsoever from the very un-elf like cashier.
I should have known we were in trouble when De-facto whispered the forbidden word: “McDonalds.” It’s not at all in his nature, stopping to eat at a rest stop. He’s more of what-can-we-scrap-together-from-the-fridge-and-eat-in-the-car kind of road tripper. So while the peanut-butter-and-Nutella sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs and sliced cucumbers aged in another bag (no holes in this one) at the foot of the passenger’s seat of the car, he ordered up a few super-size-me meals and we even sat in the restaurant to eat our fries. (It is absolutely in my nature, to eat fries.)
Our little pause would have been an exotic change of pace if the rest of the drive had been business-as-usual. But it wasn’t. On three different stretches of the A20, we inched along in the cruelest of single-lane traffic, passing through miles of orange-coned construction zones without the sight of even a single hammer. That meant three distinct opportunities to spend 45 minutes traveling the distance that normally takes about five minutes. And
then, when we were so close to home, with what should have been less than ½-hour to go, we found ourselves nose to tail-light with thousands of other idiots like us, stuck in rush-hour traffic during a (seasonal) train strike. The journey from our country house to Paris should have taken just over four hours. We were in the car for nearly eight hours.
The girls, it must be said, were marvelous. Napping. Reading. Coloring. Singing. The computer came out and movies were cued up. They are professional travelers. No whining, “Are we there yet?” Not a single complaint from the peanut gallery in the back of the car.
Just a few grumbles from yours truly in the front seat. Regretting that McChicken sandwich, or something like that.