When my parents bought the house in Florida, they didn’t have a plan. It was an impulse purchase. I know. I buy designer shoes on a whim. My parents buy real estate. As with any impulse purchase, you leap first and think second.
“You guys need to buy a car for Sarasota. Seriously. A weekly rental down there runs the same as the monthly lease on my Saab. And my Jeep was even less.”
“I totally agree with you, PJ,” my dad said, reaching for the latest Road & Track issue. But before he could flip to the pages he'd dog eared, my mom shared her thoughts.
“I want my Mercedes down there,” she firmly stated.
I went silent, knowing full well what was coming next. You know how back in school when the teacher asked a question and you averted your eyes to avoid being called on? That was me. I suddenly became intensely consumed by the rice on my plate. Was it Basmati? Steamed? Salted? How many grains could I wedge between the tines of my fork?
“The Cohans ship their car and the Meyers put theirs on the auto-train,” my dad noted in an attempt to redirect my mom. My eyes lifted ever so slightly so see if the suggestions were being well received.
“PJ, will you drive the car down with me?”
Shit. There it was.
“I’m with dad, ship it,” I said before shoveling a pile of rice into my mouth.
See, travel time between here and there is a little over twenty-two hours. I was being asked to spend just under one entire day of my life trapped in a car with my mom. Let me break it down for you. One day. Of my life. In a car. With my mom. Yes, it’s a luxury sedan with an amazing ride, stellar handling and a supreme sound system. One day. Of my life. In a car. With my mom.
One time we did a road trip together up to New England and she brought an eight hour book on tape. Seven hours and forty-five minutes of it was someone tied to a bed after a sexual romp went awry. As if the storyline didn't already sound wretched, my mom went and made it worse. She accidentally played the last half first and then the first half last. I honestly don’t think this Stephen King story would've been any less dreadful had my mom played it in the correct order, but that's not the point.
Another time, while driving down to Atlanta, my mom forgot to book a room for our mid-drive overnight in North Carolina. Actually, she booked the room but for the wrong night. Turns out Duke was hosting an international convention and the only available resting spot was a pull-out sofa in a conference room at a hotel off the highway. As I rolled around in search of a position that didn’t involve the metal bar ramming into my spine, my mother snoring to my left, all I could think about was the number of post-meeting trysts that had occurred on that sofa bed.
“Put mom on,” I told my dad when I rang their house on Saturday. I didn’t want to say anything more for fear I’d change my mind.
“I’ll drive with you. We’re leaving Friday after work and knocking out five hours. Saturday we’ll head into Atlanta and spend the night with Leslie and the gang. Sunday we’re up and outta there but only after a Goldberg bagel breakfast. That night we’re having dinner at Table because I've been craving their ceviche since April. And Monday, before I catch a flight home, we’re going to that shoe store in St. Armands Circle to see if those Prada sandals I passed on in July are now on sale.”
“I was thinking we could head west first and cut south at Harrisburg,” my mom threw out to test the waters.
“Yeah, no. Don’t push your luck,” I replied.
“Okay,” she said somewhat defeated but still elated I’d agreed to go. “So you don’t want to stop off in Asheville and visit the Biltmore?”
“Oh my God, I would so alter our TripTik path to finally visit the Biltmore! And listen, if you tell me we can spend the first night on the road at The Inn at Little Washington, I’ll agree to drive the car back north when the season’s over,” I offered in a haze of road trip excitement.
“Yeah, no. Don’t push your luck,” she replied.