Author’s note: This is the first in a short series on an Offutt summer vacation.
Sitting in the waiting room of the small Southeast Missouri Dodge dealership watching the sales staff inflate a big orange gorilla next to the highway on which the tow truck brought me in, I wondered how I got to this point.
It wasn’t the deer I clipped at 2 a.m., although that was part of it, at least as far as my minivan’s radiator was concerned.
I don’t think it was the fact that my wife and I had just canceled collision as part of our insurance coverage because our 10-year-old vehicle with 156,000 miles wasn’t worth it. Although that thought does have some merit.
It was topping off the van before leaving town that put me here.
“I just put $9.99 of gas in the tank,” I told my wife as I slid into the driver’s seat and handed her the receipt.
“So?” Which is her usual response to most everything I say.
“So, it’s a bad omen.”
“Nine dollars and 99 cents is a bad omen?”
“Turn it upside down.”
She frowned. “There’s something seriously wrong with you.”
Turns out she’s right, but not about the $9.99 thing. I was right about that. It messed up our whole day and almost ruined our vacation. She was right about there being something wrong with me, if that something wrong is being right.
Everything had gone smoothly up until that part of our vacation. We left the house early enough to be impressed with ourselves. The children were so well behaved we suspected we may have loaded another couple’s children in the van by mistake. And by the time we reached Willow Springs, Missouri, five and a half hours later, we realized this 14-hour drive to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi would be no problem at all.
“Are you ready for me to drive?” my wife asked after rousing herself from sleep.
Driving is a problem for married couples. When people are dating, who drives is no big deal. Hey, my girlfriend wants to go to some girl event and drive her girl car and listen to girl music? Sure, I’ll ride along. There’s bound to be a bar somewhere.
(Note to people who may be offended by the over the top sexism of this last sentence: It’s true.)
But when you’re married, the husband drives the car just as much as he takes out the garbage, hangs pictures and scrapes dead opossums off the street in front of the house. He’s simply reluctant to hand over the wheel.
“Drive?” I said. “No. I still have a couple of good hours in me.”
I am much man, I started to say, but the words never made it from my mouth.
“Deer,” my wife shouted and suddenly a beautiful, graceful animal that tastes great on a grill poked its head up just in time for me to run it the hell over.
Damn it. Right deer, wrong grill. I pulled the minivan to the side of the road not so much as I wanted to as I had to.
I knew $9.99 was a bad omen.
More family fun next week.
– Find out about everything Jason at jasonoffutt.com.