Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back Seat Syndrome

Sorry I have been AWOL from the Porch lately.

The clan and I piled into the minivan last week (yes, a minivan. Shut up. I make it look cool) and traveled to Washington, D.C., for my brother-in-law's wedding. With all the planned nuptial activities, I didn't have any free time to post while there. Honestly, I'm still recuperating from the drive and five nights sharing a tiny hotel room with my entire crew. (Oh, I love them dearly, even in a tiny hotel room, but I love them slightly more in our rambling old Craftsman with its 16 hiding places, err, rooms.)

I don't know what happens to your family when traveling, but my crew tends to come down with a serious case of BSS: Back Seat Syndrome. Unfortunately, BSS is rarely confined to the back seat, so doctors really should come up with a better name for it.

The longer we travel, the worse our BSS becomes. Last year, we went to the Smokey Mountains for a few days. On the third day of the trip, the kids and I had formed our own traveling Bluegrass band, Root, Froot & Toot. Despite what my husband/manager told the tabloids, we were talented. There was a future for us in them thar hills. Sadly, however, Toot let success go to his head and decided to break out on his own. Froot became addicted to Sour Skittles and needed rehab. And Root, well, I haven't felt the music since losing Froot and Toot. I have new empathy for the struggles of Crosby Stills and Nash.

On our trip to DC, we didn't reform the band, though there was a moment when we took turns jamming to classic Journey with our makeshift lotion bottle microphone. (What? You don't do that? I'm sad for you.)

Fortunately, I kept the kids, 13 and 7, entertained on the 12-hour drive with the snack box. Let me clarify: snack CRATE. Most people are content with a few road goodies in a bag. Uh-uh. Nope. This was a long drive, and I didn't want to hear, "How much lonnnnggger?" or "She/He's smacking his gum in my ear" 500 times. My solution? Give them so many snacks that their mouths were too full to complain about an-y-thing. I filled the crate with Twizzlers, Cheetos, Pringles, peanut butter crackers, goldfish crackers, miniature candy bars, M&Ms, PopTarts, cereal bars and a partridge in a pear tree. The kids hit the junk food lottery!

For most of the trip, the magical crate worked like a charm. Sugar-filled children are happy children. But tragically, on the rainy, foggy, slow, tense return journey, the leftover snacks became weapons.This is an actual, honest-to-goodness quote from a stay in a hotel room on the return leg: "So help me, if you throw that Cheeto at my face, I will straight up wallop you upside the head with this bag of Twizzlers. You think I'm playing? Try me, Cheeto boy. Try. Me."

And then my children pleaded with my husband and me to stop abusing perfectly delicious junk food.

Once we had endangered snack foods, we knew we needed to break out of the hotel room. But where to go? We were in a small town in the Virginia mountains on a Sunday night. Friends, that left only one option: Wal-Mart. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

It wasn't hard to find it. We just followed all the pick-up trucks down the mountain. Turns out, if you've seen one Wal-Mart, you've seen them all. We quickly tired of flipping through magazines and trying to find someone NOT in camoflauge, so I created a new game: We could each pick out one item that someone else in the family had to carry throughout the store. I picked out my husband's item first:

Oh, yes, excellent sport that he is, he carried his super hero underwear proudly throughout the store. I still relish the looks he got from the locals. But when he headed to the back aisle of the pharmaceutical section to choose my embarrassing item, I decided it was a dumb and immature game, and we should stop playing it immediately.

The next day brought more travel fiascos. My son, who has never had a food allergy before, had a sudden and severe allergic reaction to a hotel breakfast. (Thank goodness I am a neurotic mother who packs a medicine cabinet when traveling. Never, never, never leave home without Benadryl). And while refueling later that day, a gas pump failed to cut off once the tank was full and doused the (way cool) minivan and my husband in gasoline. That smelled really yummy for the next five hours, especially when the husband decided the best way to cover up the gasoline smell was to bathe in cologne....

We couldn't reach our Old Kentucky Home a moment too soon.

Seriously, we had a good time and met some great people. You owe it to yourself to meet Greg the WooHoo Guy at the Hilton Garden Inn at Courthouse in Arlington. He's the happiest man I've ever met in my life, and your day will be immensely better once he WooHoos you. Trust me. I've been WooHooed a time or two. I know these things. And his WooHoos are fantastic.

We also saw some of our nation's most endearing sites; danced (literally) on top of that fabulous city at the wonderful, Top of the Town wedding reception; and took the kids on their first subway ride.

I even took precious, non-super-hero-underwear-toting pics, like this, that make my heart full (or maybe that's due to the trans fatty contents of the snack crate):

While it's fun to travel, after each trip, I feel a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home, so get these crazy, Back-Seat-Syndrome,Cheeto-tossing people out of this van."

Or something like that.


  1. i'm still smarting over the total lack of WOOHOOOs i got. and i'm *local* - he should have been shouting it through the PA system.

  2. Don't think for a minute that "the game" is over! One of these, missy! One of these days....