Carolyn White : Living the Good Life 12-12-11
December 12, 2011
My mother, older sister, Nancy, and I took a four-day vacation in October, driving from Mom’s home in southern Ohio to the coast of North Carolina to visit relatives.
Nancy, who lives just 10 minutes away, was over 20 minutes late on the morning of departure and immediately we started squabbling. Pulling into the driveway in our rented van, she made no attempt to help me load the small mountain of food and belongings that had been accumulating by Mom’s patio gate. Instead, she merely opened both sliding doors and the back hatch, ordered me to not set anything down on top of HER stuff, and then returned to the driver’s seat, where she alternately stared at an instruction book and poked intently about the dashboard.
“What on earth are you doing?” I finally groused.
“Trying to find the button that makes the rear door go up,” she responded in a muffled voice.
“It’s already up!”
“Yes, but I had to lift it manually. I want to find out how to do it from HERE.” Bending sideways, she began fumbling around in the glove box. “There HAS to be a way …”
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“Can it wait until later? We’re burning daylight!” I chided.
“It’s going to drive me crazy if I don’t figure it out,” Nancy insisted. She was still searching even after I’d helped Mother lock up the house and get settled in the back seat. Just as I was in the process of stretching in to fasten her seatbelt, however, the slider started closing.
“Hey!” I shouted, scrambling backwards.
“Oops!” Twisted towards us, Nan was pointing the remote control over our heads. “That didn’t work,” she muttered. Frowning with concentration, she tried again. The opposite slider eased shut but then immediately reopened. “What? Something’s wrong here … why won’t that hatch come down?”
Anticipating a longer delay if she returned to the owner’s manual, I made a quick jog around the van, yanked everything shut and then jumped into the passenger side, urging, “C’mon! We have 11 hours of driving ahead! Let’s get going!”
“Fine, then, YOU figure out the functions of this thing,” Nancy insisted, tossing the entire instruction packet into my lap.
Ignoring the main contents, I flipped to the Sirius radio selection card, exclaiming, “Ooooh, check out all these choices!” Briefly, I listed some, adding generously, “Which do you prefer?”
Nancy opted for Classical, and almost immediately I started feeling sleepy. No sooner had I tipped my seat back, however, she insisted, “Aren’t you going to follow the map for us?”
“You’re on 77 South and it’s gonna be that way for several hours,” I yawned. “You’ll be okay.”
“I need some tissues. Where are the tissues?”
“Uh … I don’t know, maybe in the back?” I responded lamely.
“I need a few tissues,” she persisted. “My allergies don’t like this cool weather.”
“Fine. How ’bout I just unbuckle my seatbelt and put my life at risk to climb over everything and fetch one for you?” I grumbled. It took a bit of digging, but I found the box. Nan wasn’t satisfied, though.
“What do you suppose we need to do about getting feet heat?” my sister continued primly after I’d gotten resettled. Studying the dashboard – which looked like something out of a space shuttle – I somehow managed to find the correct control. But then, “How about the defroster?” she pressed. (We wouldn’t need it if you’d quit talking, I thought to myself.) Locating that, also, I turned it on. After about 10 minutes, she requested that it be turned off because her eyes were drying out. But just when I was finally free to doze, it didn’t last long.
“My exit! Is that my exit?” came shrilling through the air. Jerking awake, I found her pointing frantically towards a sign while asking, “Are we going towards Charleston?”
“Yes, dear,” I said with some annoyance, adding “can we stop for gas soon so that I can drive?”
After gaining control of the keys, I, too, accidentally ended up opening both side doors of the van at the same time. As our garbage went flying across the parking lot in the strong, West Virginia winds, my sibling briskly informed me, “You have to aim the remote a certain way.” Then, with one pinkie finger positioned on the map, she kept up a running dialogue as we continued down the road. “Beckley, 23 miles,” she read. “Camp grounds, closed for season. Exit 309, two miles. Food and lodging, next right …”
Wearily, I reached for the radio, turning it up and briefly pausing at each station just long enough to sample what was playing. And then …
“My, you sure are a good button pusher,” Nancy observed a bit too cheerfully.
Slowly, I turned in her direction, but chose to say nothing.