There’s nothing like a good road trip. Well, I’m talking about the kind where you grab your friends, some food, some party CD’s, lots of alcohol and take off for a fun destination. Road trips with young children, on the other hand, aren’t the same. I don’t know how my parents survived a trip in the car with the four of us. Oh, wait—we were well-behaved; for the most part. We knew my Dad would open a can of whoop ass if necessary. Of course he wasn’t the one who usually served up the whoop ass. That was Mom’s specialty. She could step out of our car gracefully at 15 MPH, open the back door on the right side of the wood-paneled station wagon, spank a few of us, then glide around to the left side, open that door and smack the rest of us; then trot back to her passenger door and hop in; that way we didn’t lose any time on our trip. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but I’m pretty certain she was the one who opened up the back door of that station wagon to serve up our spankings on the way to Utah one summer. I may have told you this story—after too many shenanigans in the back seat, Dad pulled over and Mom hopped out to deliver the whoop ass to us via the back door of that station wagon. A highway patrol pulled up to see what all the commotion was about, and asked my Mom, “What seems to be the problem here?” She replied (without stopping the whoop ass session), “I’m just disciplining my children, Officer.” To which he responded, “Carry on, Ma’am.” To which I said in my head, “Get that toothpick out of your mouth and call CPS, you beer-bellied bastard.” Well that’s what would happen today. Back in the ‘70s … not so much.
But really, how much could our parents take of “SHE’S TOUCHING ME!” and “ARE WE THERE YET?” and “I HAVE TO PEE!” and “I’M THIRSTY!” and “I HATE YOU!” … all of this accompanied by the constant sounds of us smacking each other with the seat belts we weren’t wearing.
Actually, Mom didn’t have to break out the whoop ass too often. For the most part, we were pretty well-behaved. We had plenty of food, drinks and fun to keep us occupied. This consisted of:
- A metal cooler neatly packed with deviled egg sandwiches (or PBJ’s if we were lucky), a pound of green grapes and a few bottles of store-brand lemon-lime soda (or cola if we were lucky)
- A grocery bag with one large bag of store-brand barbeque chips and some Styrofoam cups
- If we were REALLY lucky, there’d be a stash of homemade brownies … or disgusting Neapolitan wafer cookies
- Oh, and these:
A good ol’ game of Auto Bingo would last at least two hours; depending on where we were, it could be pretty hard to find the fruit stand, or the fountain. I wonder if kids these days play Auto Bingo on their smart phones? Nah, they’re probably too busy listening to music on their iPods, watching movies on their portable DVD players or killing zombies on their handheld Nintendos.
Once we were sick of Auto Bingo, we’d start playing Beaver, which is the old school version of Slug Bug. We’d yell out BEAVER every time we saw a Volkswagen Bug on the highway. But we didn’t punch each other like kids do in the current version of Slug Bug. Instead, we’d punch each other for other reasons—maybe because one of us looked at the other one too long. Oh eventually we’d settle down. We’d all try to figure out the best way to lie down. We no longer had my Dad’s ‘63 Pontiac Grand Prix once the Station Wagon came along, so we didn’t have a back window ledge to throw Melissa up on. She’d usually climb over the front seat to sleep on my Mom’s lap. If the back of the station wagon wasn’t piled with luggage, me and Coleen would climb back there and sleep. And of course, Tracy would stretch out on the back seat. Once we were asleep, my parents could change the radio station back to their oldies. Yeah, they let us listen to our rock station on road trips. We were pretty lucky.