For the first time in sixty-nine years of living, I have a passport. And, for the first time in my life, the Commander Supreme and I are going to Europe.
This trip was hatched by my sister-in-law, Abby. The goal is to honor my mother-in-law’s upcoming birthday. Good Lord willing, in February 2023, she’ll turn 95.
It is a good trip—a cruise up the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary ending in Passau, Germany.
The planning started in June, and all of a sudden the trip is here.
Leg one for us started on October 10, 2022 with a drive from Richmond to West Hartford, Connecticut where my mother-in-law resides.
Since 1975, we have driven many times to West Hartford. Monday was the absolute worst drive we’ve ever had.
After stopping for gas on the way out of Richmond, we were on the road heading north after 8:30 a.m.
Just before Ashland, Virginia my brain started playing with me.
When I rearranged the luggage in the back of the car at the service station, my brain kept asking—“did I put all of the luggage back in the car?”
That question prompted me to take the Ashland exit. Being former educators, the Commander Supreme and I jumped out of the car and completed a quick luggage count. Luckily for me, all luggage was present.
If I had left a suitcase on the cold concrete pad at the service station, divorce filing #772 would have started.
Road trips, airplane flights, and all of the logistics creates a tension, a strain that pushes an organizer and its travel companions into an impatient orbit. There is a pursuit of perfection that every detail of the trip will go well. That’s impossible when dealing with interstates, airlines, and human beings.
It is clear to me that people who create the flight paths for airlines have no concept of geography.
For example, my wife, her mother, and I fly south from Hartford to Dulles. My wife’s brother and his spouse fly north from Richmond to Detroit. Our daughter flies north too— Raleigh to Toronto. Surprisingly, Abby and her husband, fly east toward Europe from Los Angeles without a stop. I think on that long nonstop flight, I would need to be sedated.
Airlines don’t think about geography. They think about pennies, and how many people they can uncomfortably cram into seats that are perfectly designed to hold children, but not adults.
Airlines make these ridiculous geographical connections so that no seats are empty. A packed airplane fuselage reminds me of tractor trailers barreling down the interstate with their crammed crated passengers of turkeys, hogs, and cows.
And speaking of interstates, our drive on Monday was constantly delayed by accidents and seemingly small construction projects. Those slow downs revealed how stubborn we are as Americans to try to get ahead by a car length when interstate lanes scrunch down from three to one.
This is even more infuriating because all drivers were warned several miles earlier that the lane scrunch was coming.
In this pause of traffic, I want to jump out of my car, climb on the hood, and in my best outside voice scream, “Hey, can’t you knuckleheads read?”
But in today’s America, if I did this, I’d be cursed, the insolent middle finger would be directed toward me, or quite sadly, I might be shot.
The inability to comply continues.
In the Baltimore tunnel that we took, the signage clearly reminds drivers not to change lanes inside the tunnel. As we worked our way through the tunnel, up ahead of us, we witnessed the same driver at a high rate of speed, dangerously switch lanes twice.
The good news is despite being about two hours late, we made it to West Hartford in one piece.
But that lane changing driver in the tunnel stayed with me.
I want to know why we have become so irresponsibly reckless in our walk through life?
What pushes us to totally disregard simple rules of the road that are designed in the name of safety not only for ourselves, but the people who surround us too.
Our failure to comply with reasonable requests is troubling.
If our response to reasonable requests continues to be grounded in irresponsible recklessness, what kind of future does America have?
Not even a scoop of ginger ice cream from A. C. Petersen Farms on Park Road in West Hartford can sooth the burn of that question.
Author’s note: Graphic design for the highway sign created by Elizabeth Pike.