On an otherwise lovely day last fall I encountered this most obnoxious specimen of parental douchery while waiting to board a return flight to Minneapolis. Ah, the business trip! Three childless days in New York City? Yes please, don’t mind if I do! Note, if you will, the couple in the foreground. Observe their two regulation size human children accompanied by standard travel equipment. And note in addition to said children and accoutrements, the sense of entitlement so large that it required the ENTIRE row of accessible seating to accommodate. Aghast, I thought “Surely there must be something I’m missing here. No conscientious adult couple would intentionally treat provisions for the handicapped like their own personal Gymboree class – would they?” I scanned the area to see if perhaps a valet was retrieving a rascal scooter or iron lung. My faith in humanity took a haymaker to the groin when I realized that was not the case.
Attention sprawlers: YOU ARE NOT DISABLED! While toting toddlers about may limit one’s ability to complete a cross stitch or sip a martini without spilling, this particular infirmity does not warrant federally mandated accessible seating. Simply having children implies that you have agreed to a lifetime of inconvenience. Schlepping absurd amounts of tackle wherever you go is part of the deal. Amateur Sherpa, it’s right there in the job description. You read the contract and signed it – no takesies-backsies. I resented their brazen disregard of this treaty. So there I stood, rage growing by the second while hoping like hell for an actual disabled person to happen along. Praying they might be taken to task on their thoughtlessness and taught a sorely needed lesson. Preferably by way of a wheelchair vs. stroller showdown, a la Ben Hur or The Fast and the Furious. Sadly, the moment never came and we boarded the plane with nary a Tokyo Drift. Sigh. Where is Stephen Hawking when you really need him? Probably at JFK, dealing with the exact same shit.
Picture if you will a warm and sunny, pristinely gorgeous fall day. A nearly perfect day to set off on a road trip from civilized, urban Minnesota to my eastern South Dakota hometown; a five and a half hour schlep through what I affectionately call, the taint of the Midwest. Scenery? None. Cow dung? Plenty. Having relocated to the Twin Cities ten years ago, I’ve come to know this drive all too well. Prior to having my son, the drive was at worst a minor annoyance. Like a paper cut. It has since become its very own brand of torture. Like a thousand paper cuts. On and about your eyeballs and genitals.
The anxiety of long distance car travel with a baby is almost more than my poor 30(ish) year old heart can take. Chalk this up to the fact that my child is a rare breed that detests riding in his car seat. It’s true. Never so much as a “thanks for chauffeuring me everywhere, Ma.” let alone kicking in some gas money every now and again. Nope, only ear drum rattling, glass shattering shrieking. Even in the quiet, content moments I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and the wailing to start. Add to that my own tendencies toward neurotic backseat driving and you have yourself a shit show of epic proportions. Given the choice between a road trip with baby and an invasive gynecological exam, I’m going with the Pap smear 9 1/2 times out of 10.
All things considered, this particular trip was starting out relatively well. We set off at a reasonable hour, our sensible little car packed to the gills for a two day trip (Seriously, he’s two feet tall. How the hell does he have so much stuff?). There we were, on our merry way, when…… IT happened. A routine gas stop set off a chain of events that ended in the barf heard round the world. Stopping the car lead to a very brief interruption in the in-flight entertainment, a portable DVD device playing his favorite television show. This interruption was simply too much to bear, and so began a brain melting crying jag. Crying soon gave way to hysterical screeching. Due to the lingering remnants of a chest cold, screeching begat a coughing fit. Said coughing fit then lead to the most impressive feat of digestive pyrotechnics I have ever witnessed. This includes the solid year where Jagermeister with a marijuana chaser was my beverage of choice. A vomit made all the more spectacular by the fact that all he had deemed fit to consume that day was milk and French fries. It was as white and bountiful as Rush Limbaugh’s ass. And it just…kept…coming. It was the exorcist sponsored by McDonald’s. And all we could do was watch in horror.
A sharp turn off of the highway, and the parking lot of a tractor supply store became our pit stop. Under the watchful eye of a grizzled old man in a John Deere hat smoking a Marb Red, we feverishly attacked the mess armed only with a travel pack of baby wipes (a feat akin to cleaning up the Gulf oil spill with a fistful of cotton balls). With a nod from our one-man pit crew, we were back on the road. And so I sat crammed in the back seat, stroking the hair of a now sleeping, vomit scented child. Four hours left. But hey, at least we get a chance to do it all again in two days.