Seth and I are seated across from one another at the kitchen table. He is wearing football padding and eye black and I’m dressed entirely in green camouflage salvaged from the pile of old paintball stuff in the garage.
Between us is a map, several grease pencils in varying colors and a few electronic devices whose bright screens blink as we huddle over our task. The musky scent of stress floats above us as we lean close to draw the first quavery line in red, and another in green. Suddenly Seth leaps to his feet and shakes his fist at the ceiling, “THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!” he sobs, burying his face in his hands. We will soon “Tebow” together by the cats dishes.
What are we doing, you ask. We are simply planning a trip through Manhattan to a distant land called Staten Island for a ten o’clock appointment tomorrow morning.
And, yes, all of you who have ever driven into the city for a specific time with no room for error, comprehend the enormity of the task, the obstacles we face and the patience and self-forgiveness (as in “WHY did we use the West Side Highway!!?? We should have taken the tunnel! How could we have been so stupid???”) we must exhibit when it all, inevitably, goes horribly wrong.
The devices are GPS apps that forecast traffic flow, the pencils mark prospective routes which we must be flexible enough to abandon and that little heap of Hershey Kisses is for when things get really rough.
|They're not kidding.|
This is how most New York drivers operate and, even though we haven’t lived in the city for nearly two decades, once a New York driver, always a New York driver. You plan, plot, curse, rant, weep and try to outfox every other driver on the road every time you turn the key in the ignition.
We are, actually, attending a funeral and do not wish -- yet again -- to be the people who open the remarkably noisy door of the church once the service is in full swing and in prayerful silence. So, based on realistic conjuring and consultations with everyone we know (including young children), we have decided to leave four hours in advance in order to reach a destination of just 70 miles away.
|We left at sunrise. The Taj Mahal has nothing to do with anything.|
All of this is why I love Iowa.
|See how nice they are....|
We visited there last summer and were amazed to learn that places actually exist where you calculate how long a trip will take based on something as novel as the number of miles between you and your destination.
How far away is the Dairy Queen? Three miles, you say? Well, then---see you in three minutes! Can you imagine?
In fact, to anyone from the tri-state area who has experienced apoplexy while inching along the highway for no apparent reason and allotted ample drive time in any other part of the known universe, but will still miss the ceremony and, likely, the part of the reception where the bridal party enters wearing sunglasses, pumping their fists to the strains of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang---today’s post is for you.
While Iowa lacks certain things (namely the transvestite on the corner who looks just like Drew Carey--oh, wait, that actually is Drew Carey…and people bellowing “Fuhgeddaboutit!!!” directly into each other’s faces as they wait for the nice man to spear their hot dog out of water that hasn’t been changed in forty years), it’s easy and relaxing on the roads. Not to mention, when you arrive at your destination -- without having burst a blood vessel in your eye from screaming -- there is a guaranteed parking spot with no broken glass to pop a tire or some fresh, warm spit to track in to your carpet, waiting for you.
The contingency plan, in case the miraculous occurs and you arrive at your destination several hours early, is that you scout out a good diner and drink enough coffee to eliminate the need to blink for a month. You are also obligated to talk about it -- “Can you believe it! We got there in 40 minutes! We didn’t know what to do with ourselves!!!” -- at every family event for the next fifty years. I’ll let you know what happens.*
|You knew I'd get a cat photo in here somehow.|