Ah, vacation. A whispered promise of relaxation, harmony and free-spirited good times. Of course, when you add kids into the equation, expect to also add in the screaming element of surprise. Tantrums from travel-weary children (and parents), map (and stupid-ass broken GPS) related frustration and frequent stops at icky public bathrooms are the norm. Fortunately, we’ve travelled with children before and have learned a few tips for our own self-preservation. We have learned to keep the stretches of driving short, the snacks plentiful and the backseat entertainment flowing like wine. Also, we don’t leave home without our portable fold-up Dora potty seat. That thing is pure genius.
Living in flat prairie land like we do, the first few hours of any road trip are positively coma-inducing. We live relatively close to the mountains, though, so once we get past the first couple of mind-numbing hours, the views are spectacular. If you’ve never driven through the Roger’s Pass in British Columbia, I strongly suggest that you make a point of doing so in your RV-driving retirement years. You won’t regret it. It’s the kind of view that will make you believe in God, if you don’t already. My son is goggle-eyed over mountains so large that they’re capped with snow even in the summer.
Last night, we made a rookie mistake. We drove until 6pm before stopping to eat supper. Anyone who has ever had to deal with exhausted, hungry kids will appreciate the special kind of hell we were forced to endure that night. Multiple admonishments (“sit up!” “shh!” “don’t kick your brother/sister!” “leave the salt/pepper/ketchup/cream/sugar alone!”) were followed with multiple threats (“do you want to go sit in the car? Is that what you want?” “I’m going to count to three and then you’re not having any supper!”) before our meals mercifully arrived. Ordinarily, we are then blessed with several consecutive minutes of happy, well-behaved children. In this case, though, my son took one bite of his supper, declared “Eww!! This is just horrible!” and promptly melted down into a spastic puddle on the floor. My husband was forced to take him outside to the parking lot until he calmed down. After about 15 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to cajole The Boy into eating his dinner, my husband gave up and promised him a Baby Cheese from A&W if he would sit quietly at the table while the rest of us finished up. Instead, my son’s cries became increasingly louder because “OHHHH, my tummy hurts so much I need to eat RIGHT NOW!!” While simultaneously flaming a deep, embarrassed red and managing to keep my head held high, I coralled both my hysterical son and my surprisingly calm daughter out of the restaurant and into the car so my husband could finish his now-cold dinner. He wolfed the rest of his food down, paid his bill and bolted like a bat out of hell.
We drove to A&W and waited for about a gagillion hours for our one tiny cheeseburger, which my son promptly dropped on the floor of the car. More wailing. (Mostly from me.) I’ll admit that I dropped the “s” word in front of my kids two or three times in the span of about 1.5 seconds. I wrestled myself from my seatbelt, threw my purse at my husband and crazily flung myself out of the vehicle. I opened my son’s door, promptly causing half of the burger to then fall on the ground outside. As my son’s wails rose to a deafening (and heartbreaking) pitch, I cried, “three second rule!” snatched the bun off the ground, gave it a quick dust and slapped the burger back together. A little gravel never hurt anyone, right? Just a little roughage…
It wasn’t until we pulled into the parking lot at our hotel that we realized The Boy’s beloved Spidey was missing. Fuck! Fuckity fuckity fuck.
I got the kids into their pajamas and we settled into a near-catatonic state in front of Tom & Jerry. Hubby drove back to the restaurant to retrieve Spidey. He returned some 20 minutes later, empty-handed.
“Gone. They said some kid took him.”
(Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck!)
From the bed, the small, sad voice of my son piped up, “He’s gone? Spidey’s gone?”
I swear that I’ve never before wanted to kick a kid’s ass but at that moment I was ready to beat on some kleptomaniacal behind.
“Apparently, the kid lives in town somewhere. I gave them our hotel number and home address. They’ll call us if they track him down.”
Reconciling ourselves to the loss of a beloved family member, we piled into bed in an exhausted heap. Just as we were falling asleep, the phone rang. All four of us bolted upright and hubby dove for the phone.
“Hello? Oh, sure. Thank you! I’ll be right there.” Then, “They found Spidey! I’ll be back soon.”
Not five minutes later, The Boy was clutching his beloved Spider-Man to him like a life preserver and I was busy praising the kindness of strangers. Somehow, a couple of the restaurant staff had managed to track down the last name and phone number of the family who had taken off with Spidey, retrieved him and driven to our hotel to hand-deliver him back to us. Either it was a slow night for business or some very kind, selfless people are employed there. I prefer to think of it as the latter. After a long, hard day, I had been pushed to my very limit and was ready to write people off as a selfish, morally corrupt bunch of bastards. Thankfully, all it takes is one kind act to instantly restore your faith in humanity. What’s that line from Streetcar? “I’ve always depended upon the kindness of strangers.” Well, I doubted that we’d ever see Spidey again, doubted that anyone would want to take the time to get him back for the family who caused such a total scene in their establishment, but I was wrong. I happily stand corrected. Though I won’t ever come to depend upon it, my heart is warmed by the kindness of strangers. So, to the wonderful staff at the Legendz Diner in Golden, British Columbia, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have made one little boy very, very happy.
(I’m thinking that drilling a hole into Spider-Man and hanging him from a string around the boy’s neck might be my next project. He’s far too valuable a commodity to just leave lying around on random restaurant tables.)