It’s June, 1988, and school has just ended for the year. Your very ADHD boys, 4-going-on-5 and 6, are driving you crazy as you try to pack for a trip out of state to visit your parents, who are getting up there in age, and neither of whom is particularly healthy. It’s just you and the boys, because your husband insists he can’t take time off from work. Your kids hardly know their grandparents, so you figure this is a good time for them to get reacquainted.
You’ve wound up your studio clients for a few weeks, and the truth is, things between you and your husband are going downhill at breakneck speed. You can’t wait to hit the road, but you’re not looking forward to a two-day drive with two wild things fighting the whole way about who gets to sit up front with you. They’ve packed their pocket games, lots of fruit snacks and juice boxes and their favorite small toys, but they will still argue because they just cannot seem to get along together in confined spaces. You’ve picked out your favorite cassette tapes to play loudly enough to drown out their bickering and you’ve packed sandwiches and fruit for lunch in a cooler. The first day, you plan to drive about half way, staying overnight at a motel with a pool for the boys. There’s a steakhouse right next door, so you figure you’ll treat the kids for dinner. The second day, you should arrive by lunchtime if you hit the road by 6:00am.
Your husband has already left for work an hour away. You make sure the cats have food and water for the day before you lock up the house. One last trip to the bathroom for the boys and you’re on your way. If all goes according to plan, you will cover about 400 miles today. As always, the boys argue about who gets to sit up front, whine when you tell them at 8:30 that it’s too early for a snack, and complain about each other constantly. “He’s making that noise again.” “Make him turn the sound off on his game.” “He’s bugging me.” You ignore their complaints and turn up the music. They like Huey Lewis and the News, so they sing along at the top of their lungs. You pull in for a pit stop around 10:30, top off the gas tank, buy a coffee for yourself and break out the snacks for the boys. Another two hours and you’ll stop for lunch and more coffee. Things are quiet as you get back on the road.
Lunch is uneventful. You stop for gas and coffee and then a few miles up the road, pull off at a rest stop. The boys claim a picnic table, break out the sandwiches and fruit and drink their juice. They run around for a few minutes while you finish your coffee. You’re on the road again after just 20 minutes. Next stop will be at the motel, about another two hours. That will give the kids time to swim in the pool while you relax and read for a while before dinner. Half an hour passes and then it begins. “How much farther?” “I have to go to the bathroom.” “Are we there, yet?” Why is it taking so long?” You put in a Steppenwolf cassette and crank up the volume. They like Steppenwolf, so they belt out “Born to Be Wi-iiild” and their questions are forgotten.
You check in at the motel, dig out their swimsuits and tell them to change so they can go swimming. The older one asks, “Are you coming swimming?” You tell him, no, not today, you aren’t feeling very well, much less complicated than explaining monthly lady problems. “I’m not going in the pool if you don’t.” The younger one pipes up, “I wanna go in the pool. If you don’t go in the pool and mom doesn’t go in the pool, I can’t go in the pool.” He starts to cry. You order the older one to suit up and drag them out to the pool. A sign on the pool gate says, “Closed for maintenance.” Well, damn. You could have stayed in that other place that didn’t have a pool for a lot less money. Your little one is unhappy. Back in the room, they change back into their street clothes. You have nearly three hours until it’s time to eat.
There’s not much to do in the room besides watch TV, but there’s a movie theater a block down the road. You take them to the movies, where you waste money on popcorn and Snow Caps, but at least the kids are quiet. By the time you return to your room after the movie, it’s almost time to eat. The boys wash their hands and faces and change their shirts. The steak house is right next door, a nice looking place, not too busy, prices are a bit high for the area, but AAA rates it’s a good restaurant. A young boy brings you water and informs you that your waitress will be there in a minute. Fifteen minutes later, you go looking for your waitress. She’s in the back having some kind of disagreement with someone in the kitchen. The hostess goes to get her. She finally comes out, quite obviously in a bad humor, and takes your orders. The boys want hamburgers, you have ordered a small steak and salad.
The boys are restless as half an hour passes and there is no sign of your waitress. Again, you approach the hostess, who disappears into the kitchen. A few minutes later, your food comes out. The burgers are cold, but the boys are hungry and they eat them anyway. Your steak is overdone and cold, and instead of bleu cheese dressing, your salad is covered with something orange, sticky and sweet. Your waitress has, once again, disappeared. You invite the hostess to come to your table to check out your food. She murmurs an apology and asks if you’d like to order something else. You tell her no, your kids are tired and you’ve lost your appetite. You offer to pay for the boys’ burgers because they ate them, but you will not pay for your meal, since it was inedible. There is no charge for dinner.
Back in the room, you rummage around in the cooler and find a couple of pieces of fruit left from lunch. That should hold you for the night. You’ll have breakfast at the diner on the way out of town in the morning, and by lunchtime, you’ll be at your parents’ home, where you know your mom will have a delicious lunch prepared. As you drift off to sleep, you make a mental note never to stay in this town again.