Life is Heald: I think I now understand why the bus driver was always grumpy

Ours is a very tight family. Three weeks ago, the wife, our three teenage boys and myself excitedly packed our stuff in our minivan and drove 700 miles to the mountains for vacation.

We're back now. Sardines are pretty tight, too. And the way they're packed in a can is pretty much the way we were packed in our van. And the smell, well, you get the picture. Basically, it comes down to this. Put a luggage rack and four steel-belts on a can of sardines and you've got a scale model of the Healds tooling up Interstate 75. A 4-D model at that, where scratch-and-sniff was never intended to go.

We've been traveling with our three boys since we used to strap them into their carseats like a police lineup for the Gerbers heist. I miss those days. Here's some lowlights from our trip to illustrate why.

I actually miss hearing, "Are we there yet?" Mainly, because I miss hearing anything from the boys. Whenever we road-trip, the boys are plugged in and tuned out before we even hit the interstate, their Apple technology earmuffs reducing them to body-snatched remnants that provide nothing more than the right to drive in the commuter lane.

Let's face it, communicating with teenagers is already an exercise in verbal hieroglyphics, and with their fancy headphones, you're resigned to saying everything twice. Your first query is just an invitation to Travis Bickle to draw his weapon, your child inevitably responding, "You talkin' to me?"

The audio barricades pinching their noggins make me long for the days when we would argue over the choice in music, mine drawing remarks like "those caves made for good acoustics, eh, Dad?" or "do you have anything by someone whose fan mail is not addressed to a cemetery?" Their music is rarely played because I require it to be by someone who has performed in public without grabbing their crotch like it was a lifeline from the Coast Guard or whose shorts can't be removed by gravity.

Why is it that every time we stop to go to the bathroom at a convenience store, it's gross? We stopped at one this past trip that made me want to run to the firehouse and have them turn the hoses on me. I walked in (waddled actually, I really had to go) and the proprietors of Indian descent gave me the onceover. I am not profiling here, they had their picture on the wall and the name underneath it was one of those hard-to-pronounce jobs full of great Scrabble letters. They also had that laser dot on their foreheads.

I walked in, and as much as I'd love to give you the details, my editor says you'll have to use your imagination on the bathroom. (I would've used Clorox, but whatever.) And then I walked out. No way this germ warfare test tube they called a men's room was going to lay its dirty eyes on any part of my epidermis foreign to the ways of sunscreen. I now know why a bear goes in the woods.

After doing my part to lower the fire risk in the woods out back, I decided to take a break from driving and climbed into the back seat. Or should I say, the garbage bin? The boys had apparently gone green and decided that all trash deserved a second chance. Just then, one of those big Waste Management trucks with the two skewers on the front pulled in. I was scared to death they were gonna stab the minivan and dump every last one of the Healds in with yesterday's garbage. It would be a like a Brady Bunch/mob-hit movie where they find our bodies weeks later out at the landfill.

As we got back underway, I relaxed and fell asleep in my seat. When I awoke, we were barely moving. It was one endless construction zone with, if I counted right, no construction workers.The GPS said we were in Dooley County, Georgia, home to Officer Darby Colvin and the $450 speeding ticket framed on my wall forever reminding me that "Deliverance" was real.

Just before leaving Dooley County, and with traffic starting to move, we came upon a smoldering fire just off the interstate. A candidate at the Officer Darby Colvin-Bad Opie Speed Trap training academy had escaped and started a bonfire comprised of Bob's Barricades and 200 pounds of Officer Darby Colvin's personal stash of Red Man chewing tobacco. The fire was only contained after Officer Darby Colvin's wife arrived with Officer Darby Colvin's giant spit cup, filled with water, not spit, and doused the flames. Officer Darby Colvin of Dooley County, Georgia, was said to be incensed (pun intended), but calmed himself by issuing tickets to drivers for not going the minimum speed limit.

Late that night, we arrived at a friend's house where we were staying the first night. We unpacked and I told the wife I was going to see if there was something to eat. I looked everywhere and only found one thing. A can of sardines. Life can be so cruel.

- - -

When Kevin asked if anyone noticed he was gone for two weeks, we told him dozens of people called in. So, if he asks, you're a dozen. Kevin can be reached in his minivan at LIFEisHEALD.blogspot.com or LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.

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