The six of us set out yesterday morning for the City of Brotherly Love: POB (partner of blogger), TLP (our son, the little prince), SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB), DOB (Dad of Blogger and SOB) and me. Three generations. One car. Four sets of directions.
DOB sat up front will me. HOSOB and SOB took row two. POB and TLP were in the third row, practically a full block away from me in the driver’s seat. In fact, the car was so huge, that I entered New Jersey and Pennsylvania a solid two seconds before they did. I was surprised the car didn’t take diesel and we didn’t have to park with the trucks at rest stops.
As soon as DOB got settled, he offered me some hard candy. You know, the kind that old Jewish ladies carry in their pocketbooks for decades and old Jewish men have in every pocket of every jacket they own. Those candies. I make it a point not to eat anything that I think may be older than 9 year-old TLP. I declined. SOB, ever the intrepid one, said yes. She took one for the rest of us, because she knew DOB wouldn’t stop offering until someone said yes.
DOB read every sign out loud from the Lincoln Tunnel to Elizabeth, New Jersey. But he didn’t sing. And SOB was counting on having him sing to see just how crazy I would get. SOB finally asked DOB, “Dad, doesn’t that sign remind you of a song? Like, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again?’” SOB was soooooooo trying to win our bet about how quickly, how much and what DOB would sing. Of course, that kind of cheating is only allowed when I do it.
Soon after Elizabeth, New Jersey, there was a multi-generational bathroom emergency. So we stopped at a rest stop that was named for someone whom I am sure would be horrified if he/she were still alive. As SOB and I walked into the women’s room, our faces already had the scared-and-disgusted-look in anticipation of what we might see in the stalls. We caught sight of each other and laughed but we didn’t have the camera to record. Our looks were not in vain. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty. POB yelled out a helpful, “Use your hamstring muscles, girls!!!”
As I left the bathroom, I noticed the medical waste dispenser with a sign that said, “For your sharps”. I made SOB go back in with a camera and take a picture. When she sends it to me, I will post it. SOB is a doctor and always optimistic: “it must be for insulin”. Really, SOB? You run an ICU in an urban hospital. Are you kidding me? If only the needles were for insulin . . . . We beat it out of there.
We were soon back on the road with traffic, narrow lanes and fellow travelers seeking to go 70 mph in work zones. Of our four sets of directions, two were written, and two were saved on handheld electronic devices. No GPS with the automated voice. No map. Still we had six or seven different opinions on the way forward. TLP (the only child) offered constructive critical questions, like: “Emom, are both hands on the wheel?” “Did you signal long enough to practice safe driving?” “Are we there yet?”
Rules: Always have a diversion for your child. Always have a bona fide map. iPhones and blackberry screens are tooooo small and, with two sets of directions, there is no agreement on the correct exit until after we have passed it. In fact, even when we were within one block of the hotel, no one could make out the directions, and ended up back on the highway and in a traffic jam. One hour later, we got to the hotel. And all the time TLP is asking, “did we get lost?” AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargh.
When we arrived, I had to go to the gym, sit outside for a bit and then nap. No sightseeing. I knew I couldn’t sit outside the old Custom House anymore when men dressed in Revolutionary Era clothes tried to show kids how to hold fake bayonets and march like militiamen. I met SOB and DOB as we were all on our way back to the hotel. DOB couldn’t really handle that much sightseeing. His stamina and physical stature have declined markedly this last year. Still, I think he enjoyed the trip.
DOB doesn’t hear very well and therefore can’t follow conversations so closely anymore. And over dinner, the restaurant music included “The Girl from Ipanema”, and HOSOB and I were trying to remember the woman who sang the original with Jobim. DOB didn’t remember the song, so he just started singing something else that he knew, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. But The Girl from Ipanema was still playing overhead. HOSOB started singing a combo of “When Johnny Comes Marching With the Girl From Ipanema . . .” . Then TLP abandoned singing the Louie Armstrong part of the duet with DOB, and chimed in with “La Cucharacha”. (Not sure why.)
The rest of us started to lose our minds a little. SOB and I took pictures of each other’s exasperated, disbelieving looks. POB retreated to a happy place in her head where her family was not re-enacting a scene from a psychiatric ward.
As we were walking back to the hotel, everyone was amiable and quiet. TLP was holding DOB’s handing, HOSOB was holding SOB’s hand and I was holding POB’s hand. Unwilling to let a wound heal, I started to sing the “Ants Go Marching Two by Two, Hurrah, Hurrah,” to see if I could get a rise out of SOB. She was engaging in willful deafness.
This morning we went to the Franklin Institute, which is worth a return visit. It took us a few tries to leave Philadelphia and at least one electronic device conked out after the second escape attempt. We went a little too far on 295 North (or East, whatever), and had to stop for food and directions at the Frying Skillet, a real trucker stop in Bordentown, New Jersey. Everyone looked at our posse of three women, a child, middle-aged guy and nonagenarian, who were tattoo-less and looked every bit like effete New York liberals that we are. (What kind of lettuce is in your house salad? Just what’s been out on the salad bar that looks like wilted spinach? Hmmmm. Pork, bacon and burgers are the house specialties? I guess I’ll have a grilled burger. Oh, ok, pan-fried in a skillet is fine.)
On the way back, TLP and DOB had quite a sing-along. I wanted to press an eject button but I was the driver.
We powered through and all were safely deposited at their doors, happy to have had an adventure and even happier to be home. Safe and sound and exhausted.