I love driving. I don’t really even mind city traffic that much. Getting in the car and going somewhere is cathartic and therapeutic for me. I think I inherited this trait from my father, who drove constantly when we were kids.
Sometimes, he’d take us on ‘country drives’, searching out new routes to nowhere in particular, on back roads, occasionally stumbling on some roadside fruit stand or interesting village. We’d come home with bushels of apples or pears that we ate until our stomachs hurt. they were like treasure hunt adventures, but with no map and no idea what the treasure would be. These drives were part of our family life.
When my kids were young, and easy to trick, I’d take them on the same ‘country drives’. The trips usually had to have a prize or a reward for the kids – a stop at the ice cream stand, or maybe a chip truck ‘poutine’ lunch. Not sure why I insisted on these – gas is expensive, the drive was probably really boring for everyone but me, and my daughter is notoriously bad with motion sickness and we frequently had to pull over so she could purge the ice cream or poutine. I liked them because it was the only time you could legally tie your kids down.
On one of these country trips – I think my kids were barely school-aged – we were traveling along a country road through some beautiful farmland. We had caught up to a large tractor which was moving far too slow for my liking. The funny thing about country drives, is that no matter how relaxing and leisurely they are, you still get frustrated with drivers who are too slow for your pace. George Carlin had it dead right when he said “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
As I not so patiently followed this tractor, I saw a straight part of the road ahead, so I prepared for the pass: back off slightly so you get a run at it, move to the most left-side of your lane, signal, check your mirrors, then get ready to hit the accelerator. Just as I was pulling out, and was beside the massive rear tire of the tractor, the driver, who clearly had no idea anyone was around him, decided to make a left turn. Too late to abort the mission, I steered (and possibly closed my eyes, saying a prayer), as far to the left ditch as I could without rolling the car. While this was all happening, unconsciously, I yelled out ‘JACK ASS!’. This has to be a DNA level instinct that all fathers have, by the way – expletives are automatic in pain and panic situations. You can’t control it any more than you can control the sun rising.
By some miracle, we jumped the ditch and made it around the tractor, swerving down the dirt road like Bo and Luke Duke running from Boss Hogg.
Once the dust literally settled, and the car straightened out, we all began to breathe again. I glanced over to my wife who was giving me a look that said everything: What just happened, Thank God we’re still alive, and I can’t believe you swore in front of the kids. It’s incredible how women can cover so much with one look. I peaked through the rear-view mirror to check on the kids, who were vaguely aware that anything had happened. My daughter (the car-sick one) caught my eye and said, “Dad?”.
“Yes, honey?” I asked, trying not to let my frazzled nerves come through in my voice;
“How did you know that guy’s name was Jack?”
Perfect. Out of everything that just happened, she picked up on the only mistake I made (besides the entire idea of a country drive). With no where else to go, I replied, ‘They’re ALL named Jack‘, refusing to look at my wife, who, I was sure had a completely new look on her face. I was just thankful that the kid didn’t fill the backseat and her brother will leftover poutine!
To this day, any time someone does something questionable, we refer to them as ‘Jack’.
My deepest apologies to all the real Jacks out there who are, I’m sure, completely awesome, wonderful people.
I still love country drives, but I take a lot more of them without the kids..and yes, my daughter still gets car sick.