Ah, the family road trip. That great American tradition that has launched a million therapy sessions.
Three or four kids crammed in the backseat of the family wagon as dad seethes in the driver’s seat and says words you didn’t even think he knew while mom periodically turns around and whacks the kids with a fly swatter to get them to stop fighting.
The American Dream, indeed.
Now, for the first 15 years of my life, I never really got to experience this. It was just my mom and me for all those years, meaning any road trip was a much more PG-version of Thelma and Louise rather than the Griswold’s taking on the open road (although technically my mom could have been blowing away potential rapists with a shotgun while I was in the bathroom, I suppose).
Then my mom married Albert, meaning I was now reassigned to the backseat. BUT, I had the entire backseat all to myself and a 90’s portable CD player approximately the size and weight of a phone book playing Veruca Salt on an endless loop, so no big whoop.
Then they had my brother Brandon (no need to call CPS, he has a different last name than me). But he was an adorable kid and had yet to figure out that his earthly purpose on this planet was to annoy the ever-living crap out of me, so sharing the backseat was no big deal at the time.
But THEN my dumbass had to fall in love and get married, throwing off the ENTIRE family road trip dynamic and making the backseat much more crowded.
So, technically, my first authentic family road trip wasn’t until a few weeks ago when all five of us went to Panama and we set out on the totally reasonable mission to see the entire country in four days.
DISCLAIMER: Now, what you’re about to read below is…well, in short, it makes me look like a horrible, horrible person. Specifically, a horrible sister to my 14-year-old brother. So I’d just like to add here that I love my brother Brandon very much and he is one of my best friends in the entire world. He truly is an amazing kid and there isn’t a thing about him that I’d change. Also, all his bruises should be healed, so he’s, like, totally recovered by now.
Now, like any good, old-fashioned, emotionally scarring family road trip, ours began by waking up at some ungodly hour because we had to be ON THE ROAD by 6 a.m. per my stepdad (“Oh, take your time, kids. We can leave whenever for our road trip.” –said no dad, ever). Meaning there was only time for about 1.5 sips of coffee and absolutely no time for me to sneak outside ninja-style and suck down a cigarette.
So, as you can imagine, I was in a SUPER fun mood.
But it didn’t really start to go downhill until we stopped for a quick bite to eat at a Panamanian fast food joint where we ordered a bunch of chicken and empanadas. Now, despite growing up in a country where food is not only plentiful but actually over-produced, my brother treats food like he is some third-world refugee. He steals it, hoards it, and is constantly paranoid about who is getting the last piece despite the fact his own plate is overflowing.
So, when he kept reaching for a second empanada despite the fact he was currently eating a chicken leg, our parents kept telling him to finish his chicken first. After which, he would take a tiny bite of chicken and then once again reach for the empanada. After which, he’d get yelled at again.
This went on for about 10 minutes before my coffee-and-cigarette deprived self decided to chime in:
After ChickenGate, we all piled back into the car and as you can imagine, I handled the rest of the trip as the mature and elegant woman who you have all come to know:
Some good did actually come out of this experience, however.
1. My husband has yet to serve me with divorce papers.
2. Despite the 17-year difference in our age, I can rest easy knowing that my brother still got to experience a typical childhood and the lovingly abusive relationship all siblings have.
You’re welcome, Turd-face.