Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Dad Drives


Dad woke up in the passenger's seat. "Where the hell are we?" he demanded.

I gripped the steering wheel tighter. I'd hoped to get away with this one without anyone finding out about it.

"No worries, Dad," I said. "We're doing great, and you can go back to sleep."

"Yeah. Where the hell are we?"

Clearly he wasn't going to just let it go. I was busted, but I'd gotten us into this, and by golly I was going to get us out.

"I'm on top of it, Dad. We're doing great. Go back to sleep."

"I don't believe I'm sleepy," he said in a calmer, conversational tone, and for a moment I thought I had him buffaloed. But then he asked, in a mildly curious voice, "Where's the interstate?" and I realized he'd started using that falsely calm voice people use when they're trying to talk down an armed lunatic.

So I tried my hardest to sound perfectly reasonable. "I have accidentally and temporarily misplaced the interstate, which by the way could happen to anyone, but I've got things well under control."

"But why did you get off the interstate?" he asked.

That really bugs me when people go and dig up ancient offenses instead of letting the past go. It's past, people. Live in the now, I say. Carpe diem and stuff.

But Dad has always been unnaturally stubborn, so I had to describe the repetitive thumping that had me concerned that we were losing a tire or possibly the undercarriage. ("That was just the way the highway was paved," he said, so I told him I knew that, and he said if I knew that then why did I exit the highway, and I said okay, I know that instead of knew that.) Anyway, I'd pulled off to check the tires but had found myself in heavy traffic and couldn't turn left to get us headed back in the right direction, so I'd ended up turning right, but again due to heavy traffic couldn't turn where I wanted to, and then a very rude little blue car had prevented me from taking my second choice either, and one thing had led to another, and now here we were.

Now that I was finished with the nuisance of having to explain every little thing, I went back to concentrating on my driving, which after all was the important thing here, and spotted a gas station we'd been about to pass so I took perhaps an overly-sharp right turn and barreled us almost up to the door of the station.

"What're you doin'?" he shouted.

"Committing a crime, Dad. I'm stopping to ask for directions." By this time I was getting out of the van. "It's no good trying to stop me because I'm a hardened criminal." And for a dramatic exit I added, "It was my upbringing."

Just as I was preparing to slam the door in a a theatrical finish, he asked, "You need me to come in with you?" in a tone of sincere concern and a desire to be helpful.

I gave a strangled howl of frustration.

* * * *

"Do you know where we are?" he asked as soon as I opened the door.

I climbed into the van.

"Do you know the way now?" he asked politely.

I leaned over the mess between the seats and started pawing through it.

"Which way do we go?" he asked impatiently.

I was too busy with important stuff to fool with conversation. Finally I found a pencil and paper and turned to go.

"Pam," he said insistently. "What are you doing now?"

"I AM GETTING PENCIL AND PAPER TO WRITE THE STUPID DIRECTIONS DOWN ON!" I yelled at him, and stomped back inside the service station.

So even though he's never mentioned the incident again I'm pretty sure that's one of the reasons why Dad always stubbornly insists that he's going to drive.

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