Going Nowhere: The Tireless Traveler

Going Nowhere: The Tireless Traveler
It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been so angry and irritated. The morning I planned to leave with my two children to go meet Grandma for a few days on the beach in San Diego should have started off well. Instead, I left Fort Worth in, as they say, “a fit of pique.” I never have known, for certain, precisely what pique is — but I’m pretty sure I was in it.

My husband and I had an argument just before the kids and I left for the airport. What caused it is lost in the detritus of my memory. Just the usual, I suppose: “You never take me anywhere;” “raising kids is so stressful;” “I don’t feel appreciated.” You know: Mom stuff.

I managed to calm down during the flight. When we landed in San Diego, however, I headed right for the telephone to call my husband at home. Just to sneak in the last few licks. When I hung up I felt worse than ever. Mission not accomplished.

Well, no matter. It was time to find Grandma. She came in on a flight from Seattle, landing just after we did. The four of us — the loquacious musketeers — would rendezvous and head off on our grand tour.

Talkative, we were. Yakety-yak. I couldn’t hear myself think as we stumbled and fumbled, gathered our bags and headed for the car-rental place. Trevor, 14, and Stephanie, 12, were pumped. Grandma, too. They acted like they’d all had two double shots of Starbucks’ best coffee. I needed a martini. By the time we arrived at the rental-car facility I felt brain-scrambled as well as mega-vexed, so that’s why I failed to pay attention.

You’ve seen those claw-like things at the gates where you exit the rental-car places? The ones that say something like, “backing up on these claw things will cause severe tire damage”? Yeah, well, I have too. But I just couldn’t compute anymore, in my state of pique and all.

We stowed our stuff in the trunk — yakety-yak — and climbed in the car — yakety-yak. I backed the car out of its parking space and headed for the exit and the man in the little house where they check you out, a nice old fellow who probably got up on the right side of the bed.

I can’t tell you why it happened, but for some reason I drove past those claw thingies and then backed up over them — yes, backed up. This is a definite no-no — in that it causes “severe tire damage.”

When the claw things punctured the tires, the car sort of heaved a big sigh; it sounded like a soft whoosh, like it suffered from extreme fatigue. It shrugged its shoulders and kind of nestled down. As the air escaped we dropped a good foot, just relaxing down into it, coming to a rest on the metal rims.

The kids and Grandma went into hysterics. They sat there, laughing. Big help.

That made me hopping mad. Or madder, I should say. I stormed out of the car and gave the poor man in the little house a piece of my mind. How I had convinced myself that this turn of events was his fault is something that eludes me even today. But it sure made sense at the time.

He listened, stunned, chastened. He mumbled his regrets, apologizing on behalf of the rental-car company. I said, “Well, that’s more like it.” And things like, “How in heck do you think I … ?”

While I vented and that poor soul listened, a car full of Marines slowed down opposite us. The leathernecks took a look at our situation and started howling. I glared at them and let ‘em have it.

“What’s so darn funny? ” I asked, hand on hip.

They addressed my query with guffaws as they peeled off down the road.

We ended up with another car with nice, full tires. We transferred the bags to the new vehicle. Or at least I did. The musketeers stood around and howled some more. I didn’t see anything amusing about it.

Trevor is 23 years old now, Stephanie 21. Grandma just celebrated her 29th birthday again. It does kind of tickle my funny bone, in retrospect.

It’s taken awhile.

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