Yesterday, as I was doing my new job as an unpaid medical Uber driver for Linda, her mom, and my mom, I noticed a car pull up next to me in the parking lot of yet another vaccination site with a young boy in the back seat. His grandmother asked him if he'd like to come up front with her and he excitedly scampered up lickety-split.
For some unknown reason it got me thinking back to when I was a kid and we went on our yearly family vacation to see my dad's family in Wilkes-Barre, PA. You read that right, our yearly family vacation was a two day car ride, with no air conditioning, to that vacation mecca of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Luzerne County. Ahh, good times.
My earliest memory was riding in the back seat with my sister for two hot boring days and her drawing an invisible line between us that I was not allowed to cross. This of course led to the 4,583 screeches from her of, "Mom, he's on my side", as my mom threw her left arm over the seat flailing to smack me while telling me to stop bothering my sister.
The good news was that we were very small and the car was very large and we had plenty of room to spread out, even when taking a nap, so it wasn't too bad. Since we only went to Wilkes-Barre for vacations, we didn't know there were better vacations out there, and by and large we were OK with that. It was always nice to see Dad's family.
Eventually, no matter how many times Nancy and I begged, we eventually had a brother join our growing brood and vacations really started to get exciting. We were of course still going out East, because that was what we did, but now there was a fight for space in the back seat. Luckily my dad saw the light and bought a bright shiny used station wagon.
My brother, the smallest of us three, had the entire back seat to himself, while my sister and I got to share the back of the wagon with all the suitcases, coolers, and bags of food. As you would imagine it was fun for about three minutes and then we realized we had one square foot each, and were mainly facing backwards, which made one of us sick every 10 minutes.
A couple of years we had additional people with us, like our grandmother, or an uncle, or aunt, from Chicago, which added to the closed in feeling. Please remember we still had no air conditioning and the trips were always in late July or early August. Did I mention that my parents also smoked at that time so we had the windows open, bringing in more hot air, as hot ashes were blowing around inside the car from the cigarettes. It was like an AMA what not to do trip.
Eventually my dad started working for Tappan appliances and got a new company car about every two or three years. This meant that we finally secured air conditioning around the same time that the US completed interstate 80 and eliminated one day from our trip. We could now make it from Chicago in one long day. The bad news was that we were all getting bigger and space became a real commodity.
Two of us would sleep butt to butt on the back seat while the odd person out had their choice of, sitting between mom and dad in the front seat, where you were likely to be covered in ash or bored to tears, or sleeping on the floor of the back seat. Unless you were my suck-up little brother, you picked the floor. Let me tell you about comfort on the floor, with a hump in the middle, and a bouncy road. It's no wonder my back is a problem still.
The family vacations eventually came to an end as we started to go away to college, just as the cars started to get very comfortable. The excitement in the eyes of that little boy I saw yesterday getting to sit in the front seat, was a reminder of how excited we were every year to go on our vacation, until reality set in 45 minutes into it and you realized you had hours and hours of the same ahead of you.
I call window.
"Mom, why does he always get the window?"