A week ago, I was afforded the opportunity to join my blushing bride, Central Planning, and the two boys, Diswan and Datwan, for a week-long "vacation." The truth is that there were still some loose ends to tie up from the deaths of our respective mothers, and since Her Eminence has the ability to work from anywhere there is an internet connection, it was decided that she should take the boys and use this as an opportunity to tie up those loose ends while simultaneously basking in the glow of familial warmth.
As it happened, the powers that be at my place of employment, Big Box Destination Retail, allowed me a week off. It seems that the customer flow and product throughput had assumed the same characteristics as The Nile River during the dry season in that employees outnumbered customer count on three days out of seven. This resulted in the payroll costs soaring through the roof without any incoming profit to offset the loss. Management's solution to this was to send employees home early each slow day.
In my department, rather than play "employee roulette", it was decided to give one employee an entire week off. I, in a rare flash of insight, saw this as an opportunity to accompany my family on their trip. Initially, Central Planning was suspicious at my enthusiasm towards the idea of me joining them. She offered me numerous opportunities to stay behind and enjoy the solitude and I, I must admit for the sake of full disclosure, was tempted to take her up on them.
Normally, a long drive anywhere with Diswan and Datwan along results in me wanting to fling myself out of the moving vehicle. There is the inevitable "Are we there yet?" from Datwan, the constant bickering with his brother, the numerous stops for bathroom breaks (I finally beat that one. When we stop, EVERYONE goes to the bathroom regardless of protestations about not having the urge right then.), and the long, mind-numbing hours at the wheel listening to whatever happens to be on the radio.
Much of my displeasure at long car trips has been ameliorated by the invention of the car-friendly DVD player. I am certain that if the identity of the inventor of this Blessed Device were made known to the public, his or her praises would be sung from the highest mountain tops, from sea, to shining sea, and he or she would never have to pay another bar tab as long as he or she lived, since parents around the world would line up to buy drinks. I keep a bottle of single-malt scotch handy should I ever encounter this Exalted One. It is because of that electronic marvel that silence reigns throughout the Chevy Blazer.
So, armed with The DVD Player of Tranquility, a bunch of snacks, and the optimism of those with short memories, we set off for The Mitten. The first thing we noticed was the scenery; there is a lot of it on the prairie. Everywhere we looked was more scenery. Unfortunately, once we got a couple of hours East, it all looked the same. Endless miles of lush green prairie followed by, endless miles of lush, green prairie. For eight solid hours.
We stopped off briefly at the Eastern franchise of Big Box Destination Retail to buy a GPS unit; the Garmin Nuvi 400. The voice that emanated from the GPS was immediately dubbed "Snickerfritz" by Datwan. I have no idea why he named it that, but it seemed inspired to me. Diswan insisted that it should be called "Helicoprion" which is apparently the name of some prehistoric shark. I don't know how he made that connection, but I have no doubt that it made sense to him. As it was, this little gem of technology would have supplanted the car-friendly DVD player in the Blessed Device hierarchy except for its infuriating inability to accurately locate Starbucks when I was jonesing for more caffeine. Thus, it must remain in Second Place until that deficiency is rectified.
Inevitably, after being burned out on scenery, we needed to find a suitable place to crash for the night. Fortunately, Central Planning, utilizing her mad skills with a Blackberry, found us wonderful accommodations at Country Inn & Suites. We had a two-room suite that enabled us to separate ourselves from our progeny, thus insuring we all had a good night's sleep.
Next time: Into The Belly of the Beast