Jim and I made hundreds of car trips during our 62 years of marriage. We usually had four kids and at least one dog with us. His two least favorite four-letter words were “rest stop.”
This man’s mantra was that when the car’s tank was empty, we could stop and empty ours.
When we finally convinced him to stop, we all raced to the rest room and he would buy himself a huge soft drink, leisurely gas up, pay the bill and casually – never hurriedly – stroll over to the Men’s room while finishing his latest libation.
It seems to me that for most of my marriage I road in cars with my legs crossed. I sipped ice cubes; Jim constantly drank coffee. And not once did that man ever stop at a restroom. Well, that’s not quite true but it sure seemed like that to me at the time.
My most devilish pleasure in road trips came during our Golden Wedding year when my husband’s bladder capacity finally matched mine. It was quite a downgrade for him, but for me it was about time for reciprocity.
We usually had four kids and at least one dog in the car during those early road trips. When one of the kids would request a potty break, not only was Jim maddening, he was devious. He’d say cajolingly, “Now there’s a really good restaurant right up the road. I just saw a sign.” If he did happen to see one of those stops ahead he’d divert our attention to the other side of the road and/or speed up a bit.
“Wait daddy,” one of the kids would yell. “You just passed it!” My hero would reply “Oh, well what do you know! Let’s all try to do better and watch more carefully.” I’d catch the little smirk on his face as he drove rapidly on.
He’d pull the same trick with lunch. Since we always brought along snacks, he figured he could keep stretching the stop time during midday hours. When the “What about lunch” questions kept coming, he’d toss back a variety of answers, like: “In just a little while,” or, “I think there’s a really good restaurant in the next town or ‘*@#!*@#!’ eat another pretzel!”
One memorable day, about 4 pm, he finally pulled into a filling station with an adjacent restaurant. “You hustle the kids inside for a quick bite while I gas up.” When he came into the dining room our eldest son blurted, “Guess what? Mom ordered us all steaks!”
“You didn’t!” My husband was aghast.” Sure did,” I said sweetly “Sit down honey. It doesn’t take long for medium rare.”
Things got different a bit later in life when there was just the two of us travelling. Although he still loaded up on coffee and often I took a soft drink on the road, mostly I stuck with those ice cubes. Driving along he’d say charmingly, patting my knee “Honey, there’s a rest stop about a mile up the road. Why don’t we just pull in? I’ll bet you’re ready or a break.”
I won’t say that he screeched into the parking slot at those times, but if I was not quick out of the car door, he would have already snapped the lock and be dashing up the walkway. I’d chuckle to myself as I’d begin my own senior sprint to the door marked “Women” chatting silently with God. “Thanks” I’d tell Him.
“This was definitely worth waiting for.”
Barbara Hill is a local historian and former reporter for the Summerville Journal Scene.