Monday, October 24, 2005

Backseat Flashback

If you are a grown person and can help it, do not take an extended ride in the backseat of a Ford Explorer with another adult, a two-year-old, and a dog. By "extended ride," I mean any time whatsoever. Regardless of who's driving, your mother, brother, father in-law, best friend, just do not do it.

I'm sure the good folks at Ford Motor Company might not appreciate this, but I mention their vehicle only because it happened to be the one involved. I'm sure had it been any other SUV, the experience would have been about the same.

To save some gas money and do our part in conservation, we rode to Tulsa with the in-laws. It's about a four-hour drive.

First, we didn't take my bicycle because it could have scratched the paint if we strapped it to the luggage rack. I had planned to take my first street ride with a guy I had met online. It could have made for a good blog entry, as I met him through my somewhat misplaced tirade about people riding bicycles in inappropriate places. Kind of a "rivalry-turns-to-friendship story" straight out of Hollywood. Or, Tulsa, anyway.

On the other hand, it could have ended up a headline in the Tulsa World. Cycling Tourist Killed by Known Local Maniac. "Why anyone woulda took a ride with that whacko is beyond me. After he got out of prison, he always kind of kept to hisself and tinkered with them bikes." (Don't flame me; it's just a joke about trusting strangers. I have no reason to believe he ever broke the law or is criminally insane. But every person in Tulsa talks exactly like that.)

On the way up, I started out in the front seat, and Ben was difficult until we stopped to get some toys from his bag. (That wasn't so easy on the trip back.) About halfway through I switched with my mother in-law. In the backseat we now had: me at 5'11" (about 2 meters, for those who see things that way), my wife at 5'7" with long legs, Ben in his carseat, and our cocker spaniel at 28 lbs. (12.7 kilos). I added that last detail because the dog had to be in a lap for this trip.

The backseat proved to be okay -- at first. Anybody with moderately long legs will notice within five minutes that the floorboard on an SUV is raised, I guess for more clearance than cars. Funny, because most SUV's see no more offroad action than a compact car. My knees were uphill from my hips, so my feet took all the weight.

That's not so bad until you put a cocker spaniel on your lap.

My left foot (a great movie), already unhappy with the heel spur brought on by planter fascists -- I mean plantar fasciitis, got pissed. I'm just glad my knees aren't arthritic -- yet.

Getting out felt good, and the weekend went well. I saw Serenity for a second time, confirming my belief that it truly is a good movie. If it's still on in theaters in your area, treat yourself to at least a matinee. Then watch the series "Firefly" for more time with these characters and their adventures. It's currently on Sci-Fi channel on Friday nights, and available on DVD. Ben had a blast seeing family. He and his mommy and daddy skipped Oktoberfest to find a Halloween costume. We came up dry, but the nuclear family time was good, much better than nucular family time.

On the return trip, I was in the backseat all the way. My poor wife had no break from the backseat either direction. I took lap-dog duty, because my better half was handling most of the Ben management. My feet did fine, I guess because they hadn't just been on a hard office floor all day.

Ben was quite tired by the time we left and, whereas he normally would fall asleep in his carseat, he wanted to stay awake with his mommy and daddy. Anybody who has been around kids knows that even a mild-mannered child will do things completely out of character when tired. Wait, maybe that's adults. Anyway...

A toy car in each hand, Ben hit various passengers and did his loud grunt-growl. Here's how that sounded:

Ben's car on his mommy's hand: Whap!
Ben's mommy: Ben, no, do not hit. I'm going to take that car away if you hit again.
Ben's car on his daddy's arm: Whap!
Ben's daddy: No, Ben, I'm taking your car away because you are hitting with it.
Ben: Want it a coa! Want it a coa!
Ben's daddy: Whining won't get your car back.
Ben: Want it a coa! (grunt-growl)

Most of the Rice Krispies Ben had in a Solo cup ended up in his carseat, so I at first had a time keeping the dog from turning that direction. The hardback book Read to me, Grandma held Ben's attention for a few minutes, but mostly served as a surface to roll his cars. About two hours into the trip, just as I was about to pull out the secret weapon (my laptop with its DVD player), he fell asleep. To our delight, he stayed that way and the rest of the trip was uneventful.

Let me revise my first sentence. Do not ride in the backseat with a cranky two-year-old, period. Sorry, Ben, but that's essentially where this catharsis has led me.

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