“You shouldn’t leave the beach house on your vacation – I’ll call a service,” I insist.
She whispers back, teeth clenched tightly, “Get me out of here!”
I laugh. Yes, a 3-hour round-trip Friday afternoon drive on a NJ highway can seem preferable to the family-sized drama occurring as one child reaches for the other child’s toy, the toddler pulls at his diaper, the grandmother asks who’s going to make another pot of coffee, and the husband races out to the deck to finish a client conversation.
As we hop into the car with my luggage, escapees from the institution, my son-in-law shouts, “Oh, I think the gas tank is almost empty.”
Thirty minutes later, my cell phone bleeps louder than a sheep caught in barbed wire. A text follows the screeching alarm: Rain Storm Ahead – Flash Flooding.
“How do they know where I am?” I ask as one big rain drop plops on the windshield.
“Who are ‘they’?” daughter asks. Too existential a question for me as simultaneously a deluge begins; her gas gauge pings Empty; the highway traffic slows to a crawl; and my bladder suddenly screams, Hafta pee – now!
Daughter turns the radio volume up and we both begin to sing Lou Christie’s Lightening Strikes, louder and louder as the rain pummels the car, reminding my bladder that it really needs to let loose.
Ping! Ping! The gas gauge hits below empty. The car stops still in the heaviest traffic jam I’ve seen since I tried to cross the George Washington Bridge during commute time.
My eyes blink from the sharp lightning bolt ahead, the following thunder rattles my bladder, and daughter drives with a serene smile on her face.
When the hell did she learn to cope with stress?
“Gas Ahead” sign turns my heart into a butterfly. She twists the wheel as if we’re in a video game and squeezes ahead of dozens of car to get to an empty pump.
Back on the slippery streets, we listen to her phone’s GPS system tell us where to go.
“Take next exit, then right turn, then left after that.”
“NOT THAT LEFT!” I shout.
Daughter doesn’t even flinch a muscle as she follows the soothing voice of the woman in the phone.
“Three miles ahead.”
We hit 132 pot holes.
My bladder feels every single one.
Daughter’s car slides into first base, I mean, the departure entrance. We both jump out of the car, smack into each other as we kiss, “love you, love you,” and I lift my 200-pound suitcase as if it’s light as a feather.
Thirty minutes before take-off.
A miracle occurs. In 4.5 minutes I’m checked in (note: tears help), security takes 4.8 minutes, and I race toward my gate.
But first, I spy the sign for Rest Room.
And I vow to myself as I enter the plane and the door plunks behind me:
DON’T EVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN.