“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mr. Emerson clearly did not travel with three small children. The girls and I headed down to La Quinta to my parent’s for a little vacation last week, a good time was had by all (more on that later), once we got there.
I have learned in the almost four years of parenting I have under my belt, to plan my travels around sleep schedules. Things go more smoothly if I have sleeping children at least part of the time. And so, I chose to leave for my parent’s home after Samantha finished school at one o’clock. That way, she and Ella would have just finished lunch, and it would be time for both Ella and Penny to take their afternoon naps. Samantha should be fine for the two and half hour car ride, as long as I made sure she used the potty before we left school. So, that’s what we did.
We left the parking lot of Samantha’s school at one twenty. Penny began crying immediately, because she hates the car unless we’re going fifty-five miles an hour. I headed toward the freeway, stopping at the gas station right before the on ramp at one twenty-five. I pulled up to the only open pump, got out, and tried my credit card. There was a glare from the sun on the screen, I heard beeping, but couldn’t see anything. I pushed the clear button and swiped my card again. Shading the screen with my hand, I still couldn’t see anything on the display. I then realized the beeping was from the adjacent pump and my pump wasn’t working.
I was a little annoyed, anxious to get on the freeway with the screaming baby, but I calmed myself down. No problem, I got back in the car and waited for the white van in front of me to finish. And I waited, and waited. Getting more annoyed, I realized the driver was inside the gas station. Then I looked around and noticed every pump was filled with white vans, and all the drivers were in matching grey pants and navy blue shirts. Fantastic, a fleet of some kind was filling up. They were strolling in and out of the gas station, chatting with each other, and overall dilly dallying.
Penny was screaming by this time, so I started the car and headed across the street to another gas station, apologizing to the girls for the wait and trying to hush Penny. I pulled up to the pump, got out, and then noticed this station didn’t take credit cards. (Seriously? Who doesn’t take credit cards?) Back in the car and back over to wait for the fleet to finish. Finally, after twenty minutes (yes, twenty) I managed to get gas. We got on the freeway at one forty-five.
Penny was in a state, screaming her head off. Soon, I assured her, soon we would hit that magic fifty-five miles per hour. I pulled onto the 105 freeway. Traffic. Going thirty miles an hour. Not fast enough for Penny. I pulled into the car pool lane, we were able to go fifty, still not fast enough. The traffic slowed to a stop as we exited to the 605. Crap, crap, crap. Screaming baby, whining Samantha, at least Ella was asleep. We finally, made it to the 60.
Still traffic, still screaming baby. Samantha started in with the “are we there yet?” every two minutes. When I repeatedly said no, she continued with the “are we almost there yet?”
Still crawling along in traffic, despite being in the carpool lane, Samantha said, “I have to go potty.”
You have got to be kidding me. I was not familiar with the area. I looked to the right, we were just coming up to an exit. I was in the carpool lane, no chance to make that one. I exited and pulled over four lanes of traffic, getting off at the next exit. I noticed we just passed a strip mall. Perfect, we’ll pull into the strip mall. Ella is still asleep, Penny is still screaming. We’ll just pull into the parking lot, I have a portable potty in the car for just such occasions. I can feed Penny, since we’ve now been on the road an hour and a half, then get right back on the freeway with Ella still sleeping.
Of course, I pulled off one of those exits where the strip mall was not accessible and into a residential area that lasted a few blocks, before entering an area of heavy construction. I saw some shopping center areas up ahead. The first has no parking. I decided to get to one across the street so I could easily get back on the freeway. Bad choice. I got stuck in even worse traffic, I had to make a U-turn to enter the parking lot, and then had to wait through three traffic lights, not moving, just slightly too far to enter the driveway. All the while, Samantha was wiggling in her seat, “I have to go potty! I have to go potty!” Penny was still screaming. Finally, it became clear we weren’t going to move the four feet, so I took the SUV a little off road on the sidewalk into the parking lot.
I found a nice secluded spot, situated the portable potty in the passenger seat, and got Samantha in position. Penny was still screaming.
“I don’t have to go potty,” said Samantha.
No kidding. No potty. I did feed Penny, Ella did wake up, crying. A full thirty minutes after we exited the freeway, we were back on. Still in traffic. Penny screaming, Ella crying, Samantha asking if we were close yet. It was now three o’clock. I estimated we had another two hours of driving. I considered turning around, but didn’t. There was traffic the other way too.
After another twenty minutes, the traffic let up and we had an uneventful, yet loud, two hour drive. We arrived at five o’clock, after spending ten minutes with the security guard getting through the gates. (Did he really think I was up to no good? Really? If I were going to do something illicit, did he really think I would bring along three screaming kids? Just give me the freakin’ pass already, I’m on the list.) We pulled up to my parent’s house, exhausted and ready for bed (Oh, wait, that was just me. The kids were well rested and ready to tear up my parent’s house).
The return trip went much more smoothly. I loaded everyone up at bedtime. By the time we hit the freeway, less than twenty minutes later, they were all asleep. I turned on some classic rock, popped open a Diet Coke, and enjoyed the silent drive.