Car Talk, Volume 2

Car_toySummertime, and the livin’ is easy–ISH.

I know I am lucky to be a teacher, because I get to enjoy a longer summer vacation. But anyone who has kids knows that “vacation” can mean anything but relaxation. Change is difficult, especially for kids, who crave routine. We are into our second week of summer here at the Trainer household, and everyone is beginning to adjust. Part of our plan includes a local camp through the township. Last week was a bit tense, as the boys worried about who they would know and if it would be fun. Today, as I dropped them off, they seemed like they had been going there all their lives.

This morning’s car ride to camp was much more lively than any morning last week, as the nervous energy was replaced with excitement. I must admit, I was a bit grumpy, as it was pouring rain. I’m talking buckets! Here in Pennsylvania, we just ended our wettest June on record. Suffice to say, I’m a little sick of getting soaked. Luckily, our car talk pulled me out of my foul mood. The following is a transcript of our ride to camp:

As we pull out of the driveway, a middle-aged woman turns on to our street and waves me down.

Lady: Can you tell me where Phipps Avenue is?

Me: I don’t know, Miss. (I see she has directions printed out. I ask her to read me the last few lines. After she fumbles through some street names and landmarks, I am able to direct her to where she is going. A car pulls in behind her, and patiently waits for me to explain things to her)

Lady: Thank you so much.

Me: You’re welcome! Have a good day. (I wave to the car behind her in appreciation–happy to see that it is my neighbor)

Owen(8): That was crazy!

Hayden(7): Yeah, what the heck was that?

Me: That lady was lost, guys. And she needed our help.

Owen: Yeah, but she had no idea where she was.

Me: Exactly. Did you see how nervous she was?

Hayden: Yeah.

Owen: Were you nervous?

Me: (I immediately dismiss this as a silly question, but then it dawns on me that I was a bit nervous). Well, I was a little worried that the car behind her was going to honk or yell at us to hurry up. People have trouble being patient. I know I sure do sometimes. But, it’s important to help someone when they are lost, because someday…(I go up an octave when I say “day” hoping they will finish with “someday you might be lost.” They don’t bite.) Someday you might be…

O and H: LOST!

Me: Yes. Lost. Not even “might be”–will be. Everyone gets lost. Everyone. That’s why it’s important to be patient because someday you will be in a similar situation.

As we drive, the roads are flooded and traffic is slow. We pass the community college where there is a delay at the entrance. A young man has a flat tire and is stuck in the middle of the entrance. Cars begrudgingly detour around him.

Me: Oh, no!

O and H: What?

Me: That poor guy has a flat tire. He’s not having a good morning. You know, we’re lucky because we’re on summer vacation, but a lot of people have to go to work today, and it’s raining, and it’s Monday.

Hayden: I HATE Mondays.

Owen: Me, too.

Me: Now, Mondays can be rough, but you can’t hate a whole day. And why would you hate it if you’re on vacation?

The boys ponder this as they watch lines of cars going this way and that. We stop at a red light.

Owen: Dad, look! There’s your car, but in red. (I drive a 2005 Saturn Vue. )

Me: Oh, yeah. Look at that. (There is a Prius stopped right in front of us at the light.) I’m thinking my next car will be like the one if front of us. It runs partially on electricity.

Owen: Can you get in blue, please?

Me: I’m sure I can.

Hayden: I want you to get a car like the one Big Dave has (our next door neighbor). A conterv, a conventi…

Me: A convertible?

Hayden: Yeah.

Me: Well, that’s not really practical for us, and that car costs a lot of money. Big Dave is older than I am, so he’s been able to save more money because he has worked longer than I have.

The green turn arrow appears on the stop light above us. The lady in the turn lane next to us angrily honks her horn at the car in front of her.

Me: That woman seems to be having a bad morning, too. She needs to be more patient.

Owen: If you quit your job, do you have to give all the money back that they paid you?

Me: No! That money is yours. You earned it. (Then I make the mistake of trying to further explain the consequences of quitting a job. I use words like “benefits” and “stock options”. I do not even know what the hell I am saying, I just want them to know there are consequences when you quit something. I dial back the rhetoric.) The goal is to always get a better job than the one you had before. You will have a lot of different jobs in life. You might even get fired or laid off. (Here I go again–more depressing employment speak. Topic shift…) You know, I recently read that 30% of the jobs that will exist when you guys are adults, don’t even exist now.

Confused looks from the back seat.

Me: Think about it. (Holding up my cell phone) We didn’t even have these until ten years ago. And when I was little, we didn’t even really have computers.

Owen: I wish I lived back then.

Me: Really?

Owen: Yeah, then I would’ve just played outside all day.

This observation saddens me, and makes his younger brother go apoplectic.

Hayden: But Owen, then you wouldn’t be able to play Minecraft! (He hits Owen’s arm to reinforce his shock). They didn’t have Minecraft back then!!!

Owen: It would just mean that I would play it when I was older.

Hayden still looks distraught.

Owen: Your older self could play Minecraft because it exists now.

Me: Well, we had video games, like Atari. (I try to defend my generation and the fact that we found reasons not to play outside all day, too. πŸ™‚

We reach the line of cars waiting to turn in to the school for camp. It looks worse than it is.

Owen: Dad, do you know they changed the drop off spot?

Me: Yes.

Owen: But do you know where to drop us off?

Me: No. But don’t worry. I’ll just follow the other cars.

He seems satisfied by this logic. We clearly see the other campers checking in at the front of the school. I am glad to have returned to the present; to have stopped time travelling into the past where my sons would have played outside more, but now would be middle-aged men; to the future where they may have just been let go from a company that continues to downsize to increase their profit margin. We are here at camp. It is summer. It may be raining. It may be Monday. But my boys are safe, and they feel secure in their new routine.

Greeter: Hello! Is this your first week?

O and H: No, our second! (They bask in their status as “seasoned” campers.)

Greeter: Then you can go find your group behind me.

Female Counselor: Hi, Hayden!

Male Counselor: Hey, O! What’s up?

The boys smile as they enter the now-familiar line of fellow campers. I walk to my car, with a bit more of a bounce in my step. I don’t even mind having to splash through a few puddles.

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11 comments

  1. I don’t know why, but the ending literally gave me chills. Maybe it was my fond memories of summer camps when I was little, or the thought of my little one going off to camp when she’s old enough… but regardless, thanks for sharing! (And for the goosebumps)

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    1. I’m not just saying this, but I had chills, too. I didn’t plan on the end getting emotional, but it happened when I was writing it. I envy you starting your blog why your baby girl is so young–I think it is something you and she will treasure always. Thanks for reading.

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  2. I love your recounting of your conversations and adventures. I particularly remember having no distractions to playing outdoors.
    My mother, who still lives back east only just told me about all the rain. Sounds almost monsoonal. I remember times like that too.

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  3. I love this!! Lecture on stock options and all… πŸ˜‰

    And, boy oh boy – Let me tell you – Minecraft is what my kids live for during this summer break. I have to MAKE them walk away from it to go outside every day for a few hours! And every time I watch them play, I just shake my head. The graphics are terrible and remind me of our Atari days!!

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  4. Too funny that Owen got called “O” by the counsellor. My friend’s little boy, Owen, gets called O all the time. I love it. πŸ™‚ And shame on you for not getting out in the rain to help that poor guy change the flat tyre!!!! What kind of lesson are you teaching the boys there!!!??? lol. (It was already almost done by the time you drove past, right? I’m just kidding around with you. Great post.)

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    1. You are tough on me–he had it covered. Thanks for reading. I always shorten by boys to initials, and the other day I asked if they knew what H2O stood for, and Hayden yelled out Hayden to Owen! So funny.

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      1. Hahahah and nah, I was just taking the piss. I stopped at 1am after work the other night because some poor kid was blocking the road, with his hazard lights on. I started to help him push the car off the road but then his mate rocked up so I left them to it. lol

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  5. Your boys are so smart. I love how they can take something and really go with it. I also believe that sometimes looking into the future makes us worry needlessly and remembering the past can bring such sadness. When we have the luxury of a good present we are so blessed even in all the rain. I loved this post so much. Thank you

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  6. Hi Michael! I realy enjoyed this post, and recognised some of my own parenting in yours – I get in trouble a lot for over-answering my kids questions and giving way too much information! My son is very straight up about it; “Ok mum, that’s enough, you can stop talking now”. Fair enough! We’re just trying to do a realy good job of it, aren’t we? Nothing wrong with that (is there?) πŸ™‚ Hope all is well with you and the family.

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