What I lack in skill as a roadtrip copilot, I make up for with a total lack of talent as a navigator. As far as I'm concerned, maps have an unfair advantage when it comes to computing distance since there is always more than one inch to travel in real life, and North is never in the same place twice. So, having no sense of obligation to duty, it remains a fact that when I climb in the passenger seat my eyes drop into the closed position, my mouth hangs open, and I have no idea that I’m of this world until I’m drowning in a pool of drool and my internal Rest Area sensor flashes an emergency signal just as we whip past the official roadside facilities.
Traditionally, the personal riding shotgun holds the title of Photographer General in Charge of Scenic Stuff, and fulfills the duties of securing pictures of Important Vacation Memories, such as the historical marker where my bladder gave way to temptation, roadway turbulence and the 64 ounce Biggie drink I sucked down without sharing three exits back. The saying “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” can be downright embarrassing on an Interstate toll road at high noon.
I’m not a family favorite when it comes to photography because, as a general rule, when I assume the nesting position I adopt when traveling, I end up sitting on the camera, so the only pictures we get are of intimate and not altogether attractive family secrets. So far, I’ve felt no inclination to stage a viewing of family vacation slides.
“What is that?” the Captain made a face usually associated with the consumption of unappealing vegetables as he squinted at the blurry object on the digital screen.
“I’m not sure, but I think it’s the Continental Divide,” I answered, accidentally disconnecting power to the camera by tossing it casually out of the car window.
“Hey! We needed that to complete our Four Corners of America Photographic Display!”
“The only display those pictures would complete could get us excommunicated from the PTA, the Smiling Seniors Sunday School Class, and the 7-11 Coffee Club.”
“The Coffee Club?”
I can call his mother any name I want, but even Juan Valdez couldn’t save me if I abuse his coffee privileges.
“They should use a better grade of ink on those cups. The last time I stood up, the words, “Biggie Size is Better” were tattooed on my. . .”
“Okay, so you drive and I’ll take the pictures.”
We retrieved the camera,which unfortunately was still operational after a close encounter with a lurking mud puddle and swapped seats. While I maneuvered the driver’s seat into dwarf position so that I could reach the pedals without having to hire extra feet, Cap popped his seat back and stretched his legs into the glove compartment. Before I could say “What are these squiggly lines on the map,” he was snoring loud enough to set off the car alarm and signal a passing police cruiser.
He jerked awake. “What’s that noise?” His hair had taken a route of its own, there were peanut shells in his ear, and a Ho Ho wrapper was stuck to one cheek.
I waved airily at the officer who had pulled over and was phoning in our tag number to Federal authorities.
“That was the sound of me rounding out our Four Corners of America Photographic display,” I grinned, tucking the camera under the front seat.
There are some vacation memories you want to relive. And some are only good for blackmail.