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800 MILES: Part 2

June 26, 2010

Featured Article, Words

“800 MILES: An Epic Journey in Several Parts”

Part 1 | PART 2 | Part 3 | Part  4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Should your offspring’s car ever break down nearly 400 miles from home, I have a bit of advice. When you go to rent a U-Haul truck to haul his sorry-ass car back home from some godforsaken wrecker shop on the backside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, do NOT try and be parsimonious with the U-Haul fees by choosing to make the trip down and back in one day. Which, should you want to run the numbers, amounts to about 800 miles,  17 hours behind the wheel, 47 Peanut M&Ms, four sandwiches, 3 Red Bulls, two liters of Limeade,  a triple cappuccino and one large box of Boston Baked Beans candy.

It’s time like these when I think: my wife and I should have had more cats instead of having kids. Then we’d only have to worry about fleas, the rising cost of vet bills and kitty treats and that morning hairball on the duvet. What was I thinking? Actually, I wasn’t much thinking when my boy called the Monday after Bonnaroo from a Tennessee Taco Bell to say his new-used Honda had expired, the one we’d just bought him to replace the car he’d just totalled two weeks before.

Thinking, no. Cursing, yes. Fulminating. Fuming. Sputtering, too. Taking the name of several gods in vain. The car was inhaling oil on the way down, my boy says, the temperature gauge was rising. But he didn’t stop. Didn’t turn back. Gota get to Bonnaroo, baby! (Didn’t I give him the temperature gauge lesson, I ask myself?) The mechanic says the engine block has probably warped. It’ll cost thousands.I don’t know these guys. I gotta get that car back to my mechanic, who specializes in Hondas. What’s a parent to do in that situation?

“I’ll come get you,” I tell him. No, he and his three Bonnaroo buds had been in a convoy with a friend driving a pickup with a narrow jump seat. They’re coming home with him, leaving the dead Honda at the wrecker shop. But wait — the friend has two other people with him. That means seven of you in a pickup? “Me and Daniel will ride in the back,” says my son. No, it’s not safe, I say. “We’ll lay down flat. Dad, we’ve been in the sun for four days, we haven’t showered. We’re coming home.” Take the Greyhound, I say. “Dad, we’ll all starting to argue. Things are getting bad. We’re coming back in the truck.”

And so they do. Afflicted with sudden onset, full-bore PFO Syndrome (Parental Freak-Out Syndrome), I spend the next seven hours fretting that the phone will ring with a call from some drawling state trooper. Instead, sometime after 2 a.m., the living room curtains illuminate with the headlights of a vehicle turning in our cul-de-sac. I leap to the door, soothed by the arrival in my driveway of a pickup hauling the stinky, frazzled, bedraggled butts and precious cargo of a half-dozen local families. Two bodies pop upright from the bed of the truck. My son is neither one of them. What the…. Oh, wait. He’s behind the wheel. They’ve been trading off during the seven-hour escapade. Kids keep squirming and leaking out of the truck, looking like crumpled Kleenexes dropping onto my driveway.

I stand on the porch, arms crossed. “You know,” I say to them. “Twenty years from now, the trip you took today will be a legend.” A pause. “Tonight, though — not so much.” My son assures me that the pleasures of laying flat in the bed of a pickup truck while cruising north on Interstate 75 for hours upon end are underrated. “With the wind whooshing by, it’s kind of peaceful,” he says. “I slept,” says his buddy, Daniel, a soldierly grin crinkling his face. And so they all depart to their various homes. My son, thank goodness, heads for the showers. Their Great 2010 Bonnaroo Odyseey is done.

Mine, alas, has not even yet begun.

I decide I will retrace their journey to go get the dead Honda that Friday. Which is why I am the first customer through the door at 7:30 a.m. that day at the U-Haul on Hal Greer Boulevard in Huntington. I decide I will not do the math in my head on how much all of this is costing me as the friendly U-Haul Man starts toting up the fees. There’s the daily fee for the Ford U-Haul itself. The 30-some cents per mile after the first free 100 miles. The insurance for the truck, should you drive it into a church bus at mile 645 of your ill-thought-out, 800-mile, one-day Biblical journey to There and Back again.

The car dolly I will need to pick up in Tennessee. Oh, yes, and you should probably have insurance for the car dolly (do you want the $33 coverage for $5,000 or the $66 coverage for the $10,000?) in case you veer it into an 18-wheeler hauling Doritos while changing lanes. You might also like our ‘Going Postal Insurance,’ in case you, like, lose it in the sweltering heat of  a Tennesee summer and decide to ram your U-Haul into the rear of a state trooper because The Man is pissing you off with all his laws and rules, and besides that you’re not allowed to whack your son for whacking two cars in the space of one month because that would be, like, child abuse. Right?

I made that last one up.

We thought that the used Honda, found on Craig’s List, was a steal at $3,000. But once we got it home, it started stealing from us — hundreds for a new exhaust system. And, uh-oh, the driver’s side window had worked on the test ride — why is it NOT working now?! Dang-fecking#$$@!, what do you MEAN that the tire place says the two front tires need replacing?!

“Hey,” says my wife, who is in general a model of equanimity and equilibrium, a natural Buddhist. “It’s just money.” Me, I have to meditate several dozen hours a month just to get to the place she’s at when she rolls out of bed in the morning. Before I leave for the U-Haul that Friday, I tell her to keep an eye out for any roving bands of Gypsies coming through town. Didn’t you used to be able to sell your children to the Roma? We could get some of our costs back on this Honda episode were we to sell my son, I think.

It’s a thought … | To Be Continued

Part 1 | PART 2 | Part 3 | Part  4 | Part 5

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