Drive-through chaos

When I was childless, I dreaded getting stuck behind a minivan in a fast food drive-through. It took fast right out of the equation. It still does. Now I am the slug driving the minivan. I still hate the combination of minivans and drive-throughs.

It’s better to be stuck behind the minivan than stuck in it. You stew quietly in your own impatience and breath oaths at the roadblock ahead of you. Inside the minivan, it’s nobody’s fault but yours and your fertile loins’ that you can’t make any progress. Thanks to your fertile loins, there is no quiet surrounding your impatience.

None of my boys can tolerate a fast-food burger the way it comes. It must be altered to suit their whims. Just ketchup; just ketchup and mustard; just ketchup, but add bacon. And those little, minced onions you don’t even notice? My kids notice them. Every kid notices every minute onion fiber.

Then, factor in chicken strips.

Kids like chicken strips almost as much as they like burgers, sometimes more – sometimes exactly equally as much. Chicken strips are a logistical nightmare. You can never get them in the quantity you need, especially when dividing them up among children who need a taste of chicken to wash down their burgers. Chicken strips are a wedge to intra-minivan cohesion whose only rival for spreading chaos is fries.

When they said French Fries could contribute to a heart attack, I thought they meant after you ate them.

I understand not liking a pickle on your burger, and I would be fine with all the special orders if those in the back would condescend to voicing their desires before we are stopped at the speaker. Nobody can focus on what they’d like to eat while the wheels are turning. Only when the little voice from behind the pin-holed metal asks for our order, does the chorus of answers spew forth. It’s an episode of Family Feud, except with more feud.

After the order is finally given, our strife-inspired pokiness continues. At the pickup window there is more gnashing of teeth. Enter the fries tumult:

Child 1: You didn’t get me any fries!

Dad: You didn’t order fries.

Child 1: Yeah! Because you didn’t ask me if I wanted fries!

Dad: You heard other people ordering fries. Why didn’t you say something then?

Child 1: Because you never asked me if I wanted fries.

Child 2: I didn’t get fries either!

Dad: You said you didn’t want fries.

Child 2: But now I do!

Mom: Order them fries before we drive away.

Dad: No! This isn’t the ordering window. Besides, they need to learn to order what they want.

Mom: [Getting that Carol Burnett twitch in her eye] Just order them fries so I don’t have to hear the whining all night!

“Order. Them. Fries.” (Image: CBS Television)

Dad: [Taking deep breaths and wondering how many families are wrecked by French Fries.] Excuse me. Could we get two more orders of fries?

Child 3: There’s a piece of onion on my burger. Can you get me a new one?

 

I’m sorry, young, single people waiting behind the minivan. Enjoy your quiet fuming while you can.

 

 

For whom the summer vacations

They should stop calling this thing between school years summer vacation. They should call it “Summer intense non-school-related activity period” or something like that.

I swear, when I was a kid, my mom fed me breakfast and sent me into the woods for the day, armed with only my imagination and a hand-me-down BB gun. Some days I even had a few BBs for it. I spent half my time searching for Iroquois artifacts and the other half playing in the creek. I never found any tomahawk heads, but I got good and wet. I’d wander home when I needed the comfort of a peanut butter sandwich.

We don’t have time to play in the woods now. We had baseball games all day Saturday, and every night this week. Before that, Big Brother went to the TV studio to tape two episodes of a local PBS show where kids do science experiments. On top of that, he’s been to basketball camp every morning this week.

Basketball season is only 3 months away.

Things will calm down a bit when baseball ends in July. Then we only have Kids’ College and some other sporadic activities.

It’s a little stressful, getting everybody where they need to be, especially during a period called vacation. It’s no vacation for parents, but I sort of love it anyway. I love that my boys have so many opportunities to experience different things and practice the things they enjoy. I love watching them play sports, and even coaching them when I can. I’ll rest later, and maybe dream of stomping in the creek.

Big Man doesn’t have as many activities as his older brothers, so he’s spending his summer bantering with his babysitters. Our latest babysitter is around my age. They got on the subject of daddies yesterday.

BIG MAN: “Why don’t you live with your daddy?”

BABYSITTER: “Because he’s really very old.”

BIG MAN: “Well, my daddy is really very old, too. And I still live with him . . .”

I guess summer vacation is the time when Big Man takes a break from shutting down his parents’ flawed logic and starts shutting down babysitters.

For all the racing around I do, getting kids to their numerous vacation activities, I think I look pretty good.

 

 

The fraud in the frozen foods aisle

One Saturday I got a sudden and mysterious knot on my knee. It was swollen, but X-rays showed no damage, and the doctor concluded it would probably heal itself. As a precaution, she advised me to pick up some extra-strength pain reliever.

We all went to the store together on the way home from the doctor. I was feeling pretty good, so I suggested we pick up our groceries while we were there. My wife thought that was a fine idea and immediately steered me toward the bay of motorized carts for disabled shoppers.

I attempted to persuade her this mode of transportation was unnecessary, but you know how a wife always thinks her husband is just trying to be manly in public, because a wife thinks her husband perceives himself always with a large S on his chest and a blue cape on his back? It was like that.

She’s awfully insistent when she is trying to save me from myself. She says stuff like: “Oh, you’re embarrassed to ride that? How will you feel when everybody sees you fall over in the middle of the store?”

She won – not because her position was strong, but because she can tolerate a louder argument in public.

Somehow, my wife failed to take pictures of my embarrassment. She must be slipping.

Walking toward the go-cart I limped more than medically necessary, in case any passersby wondered at my justification for commandeering Granny’s ride.

Once mounted, I experimented with positions to make my leg appear more busted. I even considered riding side-saddle to insinuate an inability to lift my leg over the front of the seat. I discarded this idea from fear my wife would loudly offer to bring me my corset and parasol.

I settled on keeping my leg rigidly straight, inviting onlookers to imagine a poor man who could not bend his knee. I also decided to ride out on my own, putting as much store between myself and my always-conspicuous family.

Riding my lonesome trail, I imaged all eyes on me, casting suspicion on my need for special accommodation. I passed a fellow traveler, a young lady, robust and healthy, in no way manifesting a requirement to ride the aisles, except for the crutch proudly displayed behind her handlebars.

Damn! If I only had a crutch, all these haters would be silenced!

The self-conscious grocery rider learns these carts make the beeping noise of a construction vehicle when backing. In a Saturday superstore, there are an alarming number of obstructions that force reversing.

I had almost become resigned to my trike when I saw him: a man older than me, with one less leg, striding toward me on one crutch. There is no condemnation quite like riding past an upstanding amputee.

My impulse was to get up from my bicycle basketful of groceries, and march out of the store. But this would prove how little I needed my mechanical advantage, so I bowed my head until the man passed.

I found my family; we bought our groceries; then I parked my vehicle and walked out of the store like the fraud I am.

Murdered in cold sap

I droned on and on this summer about how I took out a dead Maple tree from our back yard and replaced it with a younger version. Now that I’ve got you accustomed to my blather about trees, I might as well finish the saga.

I won’t hide the truth: our transplanted Maple sapling suffered from my mistakes.

My mistakes:

  1. Transplanting a Maple sapling in the middle of summer
  2. Transplanting a Maple sapling in the middle of a hot, dry summer
  3. Losing many of the sapling’s best roots to my battle with the chicken wire it had grown up around
  4. Only being partially certain it was actually a Maple sapling, based upon the shape of its leaves and my desire for a Maple sapling

Despite my dedication to giving it regular watering and pep talks, most of its leaves turned brown and dried up. Still, I clutched at straws of hope, in the form of the approximately three leaves that did not turn brown after several weeks.

With September, the rains returned. Our little tree held its few remaining leaves. After a nice, restful winter, maybe it would come back with a fresh start in the spring. Maybe it would be a dry twig by then, but I figured it was worth giving it a chance.

Not everyone agreed with me.

The last time I went to visit it, I found tragedy.  Somebody had stripped the bark all the way around the poor little thing. I may not be smart enough to know for sure if this little trooper were ever truly a Maple tree, but I do know trees can’t live without bark. There will be no fresh start in spring.

These crime scene photos can be difficult to stomach.

I went online to find out who might have done such a thing, because I feel better when I can cast blame elsewhere for my failures. The list of culprits who strip bark includes bears, porcupines, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and deer. Not listed, but also probably capable of quickly striping bark, based on what I surmise from watching TV, would be cartoon Tasmanian Devils and Sharknados.

The most usual suspects seem to be squirrels. This makes sense, as I have never seen squirrels do anything to help anybody but themselves.

Can the CSI techs get a print off these claw marks?

Among the many reasons squirrels strip bark is because it’s fun and apparently squirrels get bored a lot. During the many extended coffee breaks from counting their nuts, they spread gossip and strip bark.

I once saw a hapless squirrel fall out of a tree. I felt bad for him, but now I know it was just the tree dispensing a little Karma.

I have one other thing that might be a Maple sapling growing in my Nursery of Random Flora. At the appropriate time of year I may try that one. Or maybe I’ll plant nothing. Nothing, after all, is easier to mow around than trees, and its leaves rake up in no time at all.