Driving in an RV with your family has a way of testing the bounds of your relationship. Sure, I may love my little brother, I may have even cherished him and even at the age of seven and possibly I’d take a bullet for him, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to kill him from time to time. When we had the tent trailer, the family was packed in the purple station wagon and we’d all spend time in close confines for hours of the day. The only solace came in the form of a ‘80’s car gimmick.
A fold up seat was in the very back of the 1989 Chevy Celebrity wagon. To this day, I’ll never understand the naming scheme of that car; no celebrity would be caught dead in it. Perhaps Chevy ‘This is Marriage’, or Chevy ‘I sold my BMW for this?’ wouldhave made more sense. Regardless, Chevy thought this station wagon was the bee’s knees and added a rear facing fold up seat. It’s like someone from MTV’s Pimp My Ride broke into R&D and instead of adding useless plasma screens they threw in a fold up bench seat. Some saw it as an inconvenience, an uncomfortable seat that made you car sick. “Why would anyone make a seat face the back of the car?” they might say. “Who would want to awkwardly look at everyone as they drove behind you?” Clearly they had never met a seven year old with an over active imagination.
I saw it more as a tail gunner seat for a B17 Flying Fortress. Every Escort, Accord, Tundra and Explorer were German BF-109’s and Japanese Zero’s coming up on our six. Day after day, I’d save the family by shooting down each at every plane sent our direction. “We got ‘em!” I’d yell over my shoulder. My sister would only roll her eyes.
“Great kid, don’t get cocky!” my lifelong friend, Jon would say to me as we manned the guns in the back of the 1989 Flying Celebrity.
“We’ll stay in the car,” we reasoned with my mother. “Someone has to keep the Tiefighters away from our R2 unit.”
Even on trips to the grocery store with just my mother and me, I’d insist on riding in the back, facing the cars behind us, treating treating like a chauffeur I had recently given the cold shoulder to.
“Man the guns,” I’d whisper to myself. “We have a squadron of German Stuka bombers heading towards the Sylvan St. community. You and your Chevy Celebrity are the only ones that can save Daisy the Earth Pig and Figaro the crazed!”
In my mind I’d say goodbye to my friends, I’d pat my dog on the face and tell my mom to save some OJ for when I get back. Just before stoically entering the back of the wagon, I’d turn to face my friends for one final farewell.
“Goodbye my friends I shall—“
“Get in the car flyboy,” my mom says, easing me into the back of the car. “Cub Foods closes in 30 minutes.”
Driving in the RV was completely different. There was no tail gunner seat in the motorhome. The back was not a seat facing backwards, but a double bed with windows flanking it. Hardly as exciting. Vulnerable to counterattack. Above the cab of the car there was a bed, with a window that was fun for a while to lie down and stare out the window. But the Death Star trench run could only be exciting for so long. And after twenty or thirty minutes lying on my stomach, my neck was sore from craning and the felt bedding made my chin more raw than my brother’s diaper rash. By the time we reached the I-5 freeway, I was bored.
The worst and best part about road trips is that half the point of the trip is the driving. Especially in an RV. There’s no point in hurrying because if we wanted to go fast we’d take a flight out of Portland or get in a car that gets at least double digit gas mileage and can break the 60mph threshold. I was bored of driving before we finished half of the first day. And we’d have three more weeks of this kind of activity. “Are we there yet?” no longer had any power, nor purpose. There was absolutely nothing to look forward to. I couldn’t ask my mom, “Hey about how many more painstakingly, long, torturous hours do I have to spend with all you schmucks?” If she were to answer truthfully, we’d have to pull over to the side of the road to calculate about how many hours there were in a 21 day period.
To make matters worse, my six month old baby brother produced more spit and vomit than, well nothing actually. In true baby fashion he managed to disgust and endear at the same time. He had a perpetual bib made of slobber, our family went through reusable rags faster than an alcoholic goes through a fifth of cheap vodka. We devoted one of two storage compartments on the RV for the holding of little Sam Blakslee’s regurgitated puke towels.
“It’s just spit,” my mother told me as she not so tenderly attempted to rub the contents of Sam’s stomach off of my favorite towel-fabric shirt.
“Look at this! The towel-shirt is sopping it up like a towel! I’ll never get it out. And look here, the zipper has milk all over it.” I stretched my arm out and held the T-shirt between my index and thumb, so as to not taint myself. “The shirt is dead to me, mother,” I told her when she attempted to throw it in the clothes hamper. “Burn it and toss it out the window along with the love you say you have for me.”
“Oh, get over yourself,” she rolls her eyes the way she always had; a way that always and still does leave me impressed. To this day, she holds the trophy in my mind for best off-handed, indifference. Once she’s done with her current career, I think she could have a real shot at teaching the youth of America on how to best infuriate their parents. “Please, oh dramatic one,” the pubescent girl shouts as she pulls out a notebook, “teach me your ways of passive dismissal!”
She’s the queen of eye rolls and comments like, “cry me a river,” and “life sucks, and then you die…” When she becomes intoxicated, her use of the term ‘whatever’ increases approximately seven billionfold. She throws the word around like a parent trying to impress their teenager with hip lingo. You can gauge her level on intoxication the same way we count seconds to measure the distance of thunder. For every ‘whatever’ that resides in one of her tirades, it’s one drink. Two in a sentence and it’s a cocktail. Three: a Mom Island Ice Tea. Four? That calls for a tall glass of water and soothing phrases like, “Mom, you’re drunk” and “somebody in this house between the ages of 40 and 50 is completely schnockered.”
“Mom,” I told her one night, “You can’t mix peppermint schnapps and R&R whiskey.”
“Oh, whatever.” She tosses her head and eyes this way and that as if I had just told her she couldn’t go to prom with her high school sweetheart.
“Mom, don’t buy sixteen new tomato plants,” my sister reasons with her as best she can. “The first fifty you purchased are dead or dying. Maybe take care of those first?”
“Puh,” she says crossing her arms, looking off into the corner. “Whatever.”
She can throw her eyes in an arch with reckless abandon and tilt her head in a way that’d peeve me if I wasn’t so impressed glory. You can’t help but be in awe of how well she does it.
“Keep looking back there,” she offers when I try to recreate her eye roll, “maybe you’ll find something to keep you entertained.”
With nothing to do but count down the days, avoid the toxic contents of my brother’s stomach, and give my mom harsh looks, I began a quest for quenching my thirst for excitement.
On the first day, I watched The Three Amigos three times. I counted nineteen steps from the back of the RV to the front. Guess Who became mundane after thirty-four games. Connecting four checkers in Connect Four only held a seven year-old’s attention for so long. I could no longer feign having to go to the bathroom like I was able to in the Celebrity since the god forsaken machine had a bathroom in the back. I was bound to hell, and my family was along for the ride, though perhaps I have the two switched.
I lay in the middle of the aisle with my arms and legs splayed outward, moaning that I wish we had brought the Nintendo 64.
“Why don’t you read a book?” my father asked.
He would have greater success asking me to jump out of the moving ‘Recreational’ Vehicle, pull my toenails out with a pair of pliers or stick my head in the toilet. I was inconsolable. I was experiencing the worst travesty that could befall a 2nd grader: complete, unadulterated boredom.