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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Camping's Out

Several years ago, Bill and I agreed to take our two boys on a camping trip. The boys, who owned more electronic equipment by the age of two than I have in my entire life, felt that they had been rudely neglected and possibly abused because they had never been camping. They’ve never skinned a chicken either, but that’s beside the point.
“And don’t argue the whole way.”
Bill and I exchanged a knowing look. “Okay,” we agreed. The last time they caught us in a discussion of escalating proportions, they locked us in the bathroom together overnight.
Early one summer morning, we arose in peace and harmony, swallowed our body weight in coffee, threw ourselves into the car and drove in silence and numbed goodwill for several minutes.
“Hand me the map,” my husband said, extending one open hand while juggling his travel mug, aspirin bottle, and steering wheel in the other.
“Map?” I asked, eyeing him quizzically.
“You didn’t pack a map?”
“If I wanted to pack something I couldn’t read, I would have just brought along War and Peace in the original Russian.”
He looked at me as if I had just suggested lining the bed of his truck with dotted swiss, jammed his foot down on the brake, and squealed into a gas station.
“Never mind. I’ll be right back.”
“Mom, is this an argument?” A puffy face blinked sleepily at me over the back seat. His mouth was ringed with chocolate milk and PopTart crumbs, and his hair looked like a weeping willow in a windstorm.
“Of course not, sweetheart. Pop just needs a map to find difficult locations like Asia or our mailbox.”
The boys exchanged knowing looks. “It’s a fight.”
Coffee in hand and map accordianed across the dashboard, we resumed our trip. “How much farther?” he asked, guiding the car steadily around a mountain curve. Some people just can’t be taught. I consulted the map and lifted my gaze.
“According to this, about a quarter of an inch.”
“Never mind,” he answered steadily, his knuckles whitening on the steering wheel. “Where do we go at the junction?”
“The Shady Rest Hotel?”
Snarling, he lunged abruptly for the map, drowning any final shreds of civility in a flood of hot coffee.
“Don’t overreact,” I said soothingly, blotting up caffeine with the Northeast section of Macon County. “I was kidding.”
My husband regarded me with the same intense stare I’ve observed on the faces of cheetahs watching sickly gazelle stragglers on Wild Kingdom. If he had one, I would swear I could see his tail twitching.
“Look,” I purred, wringing out the map. This chocolate drip is the campground. That potato chip grease is where we are now. All we have to do is follow this dotted line across those squiggles and we’re there!”
I don’t understand how some people can live with themselves the way they speak to other people who are trying to help.
“How was I supposed to know those squiggles were the Blue Ridge Mountains?”
“As long as you have the entire map of the United States unfolded in the front seat, try reading the legend.”
“Okay, but you know I get sick if I read in the car.”
“One quick peek won’t hurt anything.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure.”
Later, when we finally found a service station with equipment to clean the upholstery, I heard the boys talking behind the gas pumps.
“Do you think we’ll get there alive?” one voice asked.
“I don’t know, but if we do, we’re gonna lock ‘em in the bath-house.”

6 comments:

Dawn said...

I can't read a map either!! And I get all nervous if I'm asked to! Love the line about War & Peace!

One day, I am going to post a collection of "My Favorite AmyDoodle Lines." :D

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining post. Laughed lots while reading it. It is amazing to me some of the situations you can get into traveling with the kids. Hope you'll post more on the actual camping experience with them.

Steve Davis
http://stamperdad.wordpress.com

Janna said...

Oh, my aching belly. Enough with the laughs!

Actually, no... I really dig your posts. Keep 'em coming!

Nita said...

Maps are readable? So, Miss Amy of all knowledge, what is the difference in a guy (male person)reading a map (most of 'em like the things) and asking for directions (most of 'em won't)? Don't they give the same results? I mean they use a map to get from point A to point B, and asking directions will give them the same information, but try to get a guy to ask for directions. Durn near impossible.

Melanie Avila said...

My mom can't read maps either so my dad taught me early. We drove from Chicago to southern Mexico with me as navigator. I'm hear to tell about it so I did something right!

AmyDoodle said...

Nita--This one's easy. They read the maps to be self-sufficent, like a cheetah in the wild. Oh yeah, and mostly so we can't say "I TOLD you to ask for directions."