It was, I admit, an ambitious effort.
As I collapse into my Big Comfy TV Watchin’ Chair ™ I let the road wash from me like a bad hangover. The car’s engine ticks cool in the garage and the foyer is a landfill of discarded luggage and once well organized duffel bags now stuffed with crumpled clothes and the random accoutrements of a two-week trip.
My son, my darling infant son who is the light of my life, scurries around the room, unwinding like a ball of twine rolled down the hill, and I wonder seriously not for the first time today whether I would, given the choice, use category 1 narcotics on the boy for a moment’s peace. I decide, again not for the first time today, that no I would not, but I would be hard pressed not to use them myself.
With 3014 miles recorded on the GPS, we are home. Let’s never leave it again.
If you followed the news last week you know that the number of Americans traveling for this festive November holiday season is up pretty dramatically. I can confirm based on personal experience that the reports of increased holiday travel is not over stated. And as many as half of those drivers should be brought up in international court on charges of crimes against humanity.
I have, for example, many times driven the wasteland that normally is I-57 between Champaign, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee. This 400 miles of interstate is the relative mid-way point for our cross-country excursion, and it is normally the kind of road where one simply pushes the cruise control and then evaporates into a fugue state of nodding occasionally to convince the wife that yes, in fact you are listening to her discuss the various maladies which have befallen people you barely remember having met in the first place. Yes, dear. I swear I am listening.
This time, however, these normally tame roads are packed as though the entire southern population were evacuating the kind of hurricane that Roland Emmerich might make a movie about. In the spitting rain of Paducah, Kentucky -- an apropos meteorological metaphor for that area of the country -- a string of red lights stretches before me as far as the eye can see like the holiday decorations of the damned in whatever circle of hell you go to for changing lanes without using a blinker. I conclude that all future interactions with far away relatives will be conducted exclusive by web cam or telegraph.
The infant has just finally broken down whatever emotional barriers had been stemming a hellborn tide of heretofore unknown rage. His is the fury which bards of yore would have sung of in minor keys and hushed voices lest their verse beckon forth his ire. And my older son, in what I can only describe as an uncharacteristically savvy effort of self preservation, moves not a muscle as he quietly plays New Super Mario Brothers on the DS lest he be noticed and asked to stem the demon tide spewing forth from the mouth of his sibling.
It was here, in this moment, that I realized how much I rely on video games to preserve my sanity.
The trip as a whole to that point had been largely pleasant, but the decision to migrate permanently to a portable computing solution felt this past week like the sort of move my present self should go back in time to thank my past self about. Having Dragon Age right there at my disposal in the periodic downtime between processing unusual foods and engaging in friendly banalities with pleasant but mostly unfamiliar relatives-in-law was a comfort of home that gave me much needed succor and comfort.
But the road -- that damnable road -- aside from the occasional round of Flight Control while pumping gas at dingy Alabama “fillin’ stations” there was no gaming to be had. As babies screamed and brake lights flared, my mind fixed firmly on the glorious release to be had when I sat in said Big Comfy Chair and put controller in hand.
Now that moment is upon me. The baby, his demons again tempered behind whatever emotional barriers he has tenuously erected, entertains himself happy to be free of the five-point harness which I believe is the only thing that prevented him from tearing the flesh from our face and necks. My wife has absconded to the bedroom where she escapes into a Stephen King book in which horrible things happened to people who are not us and no one is stuck in traffic. I press that glorious button at the center of my white controller and jump into the world of Forza 3.
With glee, I will crash into every car on that first race track.