Weeks ago, I was heading west with my mom and younger siblings to visit the grandparents. It’s one hell of a day trip, but the previous time I made it there in three hours and hoped that history would repeat on this trip. I’m not breaking the sound barrier, but shaving off forty-five minutes of travel gives me that much more in visiting time.
My mom had called days before to check on some cargo she wanted to bring along. “Do you mind if your brother brings his new gun? I think your granddaddy would enjoy shooting it with him.”
“Sure, as long as he promises not to roll down the windows and wave it at other motorist.”
“I’m sure he’ll be able to refrain from that.”
“It’s fine with me. I mean, it’s not like we are going to be searched by the police or anything.”
That Sunday morning, we set off on a gorgeous sunny day. An hour after I picked mom and the kids up, I had to interrupt her. “This isn’t the way we usually go is it?”
“I think it is.”
I pushed some buttons on my Garmin’s screen. “Darlene, are you up to no good?”
Yes. My Garmin’s name is Darlene and she speaks with a delightful British accent.
“I think this is the way we go.” My mom glanced around looking for familiar landmarks.
“I’m pretty sure she takes us through that tunnel in Norfolk. We don’t ever go over this bridge. I think we are in Hampton. Dammit, Darlene.”
I love the way Darlene has been taking us. She leads us through Ivor, Disputanta, Crewe, Amelia County … the list goes on. There’s old houses, open fields, cows and horses. It’s a beautiful drive and I was highly anticipating how wonderful it would be on this fine spring day. However, Darlene had other plans.
We debated telling her to make a detour to the Virginia Diner because that would get us back on track. My poor judgement won and I decided to let Darlene lead the way. Maybe she was going to show us a better route. More flowers, more cows, more horses!
Never, ever trust Darlene.
Almost two hours on this new route, I pulled into a gas station. I wasn’t happy with the progression of this trip. We seemed to be off schedule with the new path that we were being led down. Mom and I hit the potties, then everyone grabbed a drink and a snack. We were back on the road. Fast forward thirty minutes and this was the dialogue.
“That looks like Richmond.” My mom pointed at the buildings we were approaching.
“WHAT? What the hell have you done, Darlene?”
“It is! There’s MCV.”
My sister started pointing. “It’s Hollywood Cemetery! Can we stop and go to the cemetery?”
“Are you fucking kidding me, Darlene? Richmond! I hate driving through Richmond! Dammit! There’s a toll. E-Z Pass!”
My mom dug her E-Z Pass out of her purse. I quickly slung it on the dashboard. I continued to grumble as my family did drive-by site-seeing. Twenty tolls later (slight exageration) we were finally out of Richmond.
“I can’t believe this. Darlene, we are going to have a talk when we get home.”
“Mel, I have to pee.”
I swung my head around to make eye contact with my sister. “We just stopped at a gas station less than an hour ago.”
“Yeah and I drank all of my drink.”
“Don’t you know the cardinal rule of road trips, always pee when you stop even if you don’t think you have to.”
Of course, this was all happening in the Midlothian, where I have a history of almost dying a few years ago. (Reference Here: Let Me Clear My Throat). For some reason, this special stretch of highway seems to have no businesses with public bathrooms on the westbound side. Miles down the road, I’d managed to cross from the far right lane to the inside left lane and successfully pull into an intersection… which of course did not allow u-turns. Part of me wanted to just do it. Who would see me?
I didn’t. I turned into a parking lot full of offices and apartments, pulled a two-point turn and headed back on the highway and eastward. As I turned into a McDonald’s parking lot my mother recognized our location. “Hey! There’s that Subway where you almost died!”
Ah, Midlothian. All the warm fuzzy memories.
To prove a point to my sister about always urinating when there is opportunity, I followed her to the McDonald’s bathroom. Boy, I would show her!
The bathroom was a two staller. Madison took the regular stall and I headed to the handicapped one. The door was pulled to, but I decided I would give it a tug to check for occupancy. The door swung open.
There sat an elderly lady on the toilet.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry!” I shut the door back, horrified that I had walked in on this woman. The lock must have been faulty. Why didn’t I just except the shut door as a sign? The woman exited the bathroom moments later and I apologized again.
“Oh, it’s okay. I should have locked it. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
WHO THE FUCK DOESN’T LOCK A PUBLIC BATHROOM DOOR?
When Madison and I returned to the car, I made an announcement.
“I just want to let everyone know that if Madison had peed back on the other side of Richmond, I would have been spared the experience of walking in on a little old lady sitting on the toilet.”
Back on the road, I began describing how angry I was that my cat wanted me to buy her an expensive dog bed. I was using lots of hand gestures to illustrate how upset I was about her new desire for bedding.
“Oh, jinkies. There’s a cop coming up.” I started looking for a way to get over and let him pass, but he kept following me right over to the shoulder. “Is he pulling me over? What the fuck was I doing?”
“Were you speeding?” My mom glanced back at the cop car tucked in behind us.
“No. Do you think he misinterpreted my angry hand gestures?” I suddenly gasped. “The gun. Dammit, the gun is in the back.”
I don’t know the rules of concealed weapons or if I should immediately admit there is a firearm in my vehicle. Do you volunteer that information or do you wait until they ask to search your car?
“Here he comes. No one say anything about the gun yet!” I rolled down my window. “Hello, Trooper!”
“I have to tell you before we get started that this stop is being audio and video recorded.”
“Are we on COPS?” I glanced back looking for a cameraman.
“No, ma’am. You are not on COPS. Can I have your license, please?”
“Sure. Right here in my bag.” I dug around and pulled it out, smiling as I passed it to the officer. I wanted this to go as pleasant and quickly as possible. We were now way off schedule.
“Is this your current address?”
“This is the address where you receive mail?’
“For your safety, I’m asking you to stay in the car until I run your information.”
As soon as he walked away, I glanced to my mother. “What the hell was I doing?”
My brother unbuckled his seat belt and began digging through the contents in the back of my Blazer. “Don’t do that!”
“I want my laptop.”
“Not now. I don’t want any attention drawn to that gun. Just sit down. Shit. Here he comes.”
“Here’s your license. The reason I pulled you over is because your registration is expired.”
“Expired registration. Since January. It is currently April.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“You should have received your renewal information in the mail and you confirmed that this was your correct address.”
He excused himself to go back and write me a ticket. I took that opportunity to text the beau.
Had you noticed my registration was expired?
No, I didn’t or I would have said something.
That’s okay. This state trooper just did.
Ten minutes later, I thanked the trooper for her service and professionalism and then merged into traffic. As soon as I was sure that I was out of his sight, I whipped my head around to face Madison and pointed my finger at her.
“What did I do?”
“If you had just peed back on the other side of Richmond with the rest of us I wouldn’t have just gotten a ticket! Your extra pit stop put us right there right when that state trooper was there!”
“Well, we wouldn’t be here right now if Darlene hadn’t took us the wrong way!”
“Fair enough! Don’t you worry, I’m going to have a long sit down with her when we get home.”
Four and a half hours later, I was finally pulling into my grandparent’s driveway.
I would like to tell you that was it for the excitement. However, on the way home Darlene made up another wacky adventure taking us straight through the ghetto of Petersburg. At one point, we were stuck at a red light beside a man and his dog. The man was rolling a joint. We waved at the dog and unfortunately the driver saw us and thought we were hitting on him. It took several more traffic lights to pull away from him. For an added bonus, when I stopped for gas, when we stopped for a pee break, and when we stopped at a Dairy Queen for a snack… there was a police officer right beside me at every single one of those establishments.
For icing on the cake, that day my credit card information had been skimmed and someone bought a shitload of stuff at Target.
I know this post is hilarious at my expense and I may sound like I’m griping, but road trips with my family are always outrageously funny. I come by it naturally, this way of being stuck in awkward and humiliating experiences. It’s good to fit into a group that takes it with stride.
Except you, Darlene. I’ve about had it with you and your non-sense.
Me and that ‘piss-poor planning’ sister of mine (get it?)