I’ve said a lot of crazy things to my fiance while drunk but “Let’s drive to Cleveland” is probably the worst. It’s not so much the city; Cleveland’s cool. It’s my hometown and one of the nicest places in the United States. Maybe not the entire United States, but at least among cities on Forbes’ Most Dangerous Cities list. Still, it’s a 2,400 mile drive from our home in San Diego. Doable? Of course. Sensible considering we’ve accidentally had three children in the past three years? Not so much.
The goal for the first day of our trip was to make it to Phoenix. My fiance, Amber, and I wanted to enjoy a one-night stay in a four-star resort for around 65 bucks. This is typically the going rate in Phoenix during the summer because it’s Phoenix in the summer. We also figured the kids could easily handle the five-hour drive: an hour or so of napping, maybe two hours of hypnosis via electronic devices, a bit of crying alleviated by threats and sugar bribes, and we’d be there in no time. Yeah, right.
Less than two hours into the trip the uprising began. All three boys were crying and yelling--relentlessly. We can usually calm them with a toy or a titty, but they weren’t interested in the former and Mom couldn’t flip the latter over the headrest and into the second and third row child seats. Our only option, as voiced by our almost three-year-old, the group’s default leader due to age and linguistic ability, was to respond to his shouts of “I wanna get out!” and pull over.
After a short stop to stretch and eat at a fly-ridden In-N-Out, we got back on the road. Our two oldest boys, seemingly satisfied by our peace offering, a rare delicacy called “french fries,” expressed nonverbal agreement to cooperate for the last three hours of the drive. And I know they tried. They’re nice boys, and I’m not just saying that because of the tax credits they provide. Though I suppose all parents think their children are sweet, even as they grow older and get “involved with the wrong crowd,” or, more specifically, become the wrong crowd. Just 15 minutes later the the contract was broken.
We were five people in a 6 x 15 Mazda minivan filled with luggage and hysteria. The boys’ manic screaming drove me crazy. Tension grabbed the back of my neck and traveled down my spine. I felt helpless. I looked at Amber and said, “Think we should just turn around?” Neither of us had the courage to answer. There was nothing I could do or say to calm the situation. We just needed to get there, but there was three hours away. And that became my focus: “Just get to Phoenix...just get Phoenix.” I was in a zone...until a cop’s flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror.