Originally published in the Staten Island Advance 6/2006
Yes, vacations sure sound great. In theory. Bucking the trend we decided on a wonderful trip south, but this year we would be bypassing to the happiest Multimedia Corporation on earth. Since we wanted to avoid the whole shoe search and maintain our ability to carrying nail clippers on our person, we decided to drive. This was not a rash decision. Though the rash would develop later.
As we pulled away, my wife decided to ask, "You checked the car, right?" And I had. Not me, personally, since I don't know a crankcase from a bookcase. So I had our mechanic look at it. He gave us a clean bill of health. Now, if I hadn’t had the car checked, I don’t know what I would do about it as we pulled out of the driveway.
"The car's fine," I reply.
"He checked the belts?"
"The wipers, the air conditioning, the brakes?"
"I'm not sure about the brakes."
"What if the brakes fail?"
"We'll get to Florida faster."
And so with a mighty "hooray" from the kids, we headed to Florida.
"I can't wait to get to Florida," my oldest said. "I love Space Mountain."
"We're not going to Space Mountain," I corrected.
"Where are we going?" the children asked.
"Miami? Where's Miami? Is that in Adventureland?"
"It's the city. South of Orlando," in my best OnStar voice.
"There are cities south of Orlando?"
"There's half the state below Orlando."
"Who knew?" stated my oldest.
I always thought they should have. I blame the schools. It sure makes you wonder what they're doing with all that lottery money. Anyway, after a few choruses of "Are we there yet?" I challenged the offspring to count license plates. Immediately they began spotting license plates from New York, New York and New York. I then suggested they wait for us to leave New York first.
We began trying to decide what to do once we got to Miami. The family seemed apprehensive. I attempted to ally their fears by explaining that they have beaches, and beautiful hotels, and a sizzling nightlife. There's jai lai, dog tracks, and the Everglades are near by.
"Can we have dinner with the characters?"
"Well, there are a lot of characters in South Beach." My wife seemed okay with that, until she realized Florida's South Beach is very different than the South Beach of our youth. The South Beach on Staten Island was a rundown amusement park and a guy selling ices out of the trunk of his car. The major attraction was a long pile of kindling wood referred to as “the boardwalk.”
I tried to get the kids to resume their license plate count but was rebuffed. For starters, they insisted that I speed up to catch cars with plates that looked different. And they were always annoyed to find out they were Canadian plates. Finally my oldest announced, "This license plate thing stinks. Everyone has stupid license plate holders that cover the state with the saying 'My other car is a Mercedes' or 'I'd rather be fishing.'
"And I saw six different color plates and designs and they were all Virginia! What's up with that? Can't they make up their minds?"
"Then try counting the Waffle Houses. There’s one!" Now Waffle Houses are interesting. There aren’t any in the metropolitan area, but they are a common sight as you drive south. And the unique feature about Waffle Houses is that their sign is larger than that actual restaurant. You can see the Waffle House signs from space, but the building itself is about the size of a big, comfy sofa.
Once again the family doubted the wisdom of our vacation location and frankly, now I was irked. There are plenty of nice places in Florida that don't end in the word "world." I mean, really, SeaWorld, Orchid World, Bargain World, talk about riding someone's coattails!
"Look, dad, Coattail World! Can we go?"
Soon after the kids began a lively debate over the topic of who was looking at whom:
"Mom! Stacy's looking at me."
"Kids, don't make me turn this car around. We'll go right home."
"Sure, dad. We've driven one thousand miles, like you're going to turn back now."
I hate when they call my bluff.
"Are we there yet?" asked the youngest.
It was here I decided to point out to my daughter that we were, in fact, still in the car and still moving, leading to the inevitable conclusion that, since we and the automobile were still in motion, we had not achieved our destination. So she decided she had to go to the bathroom instead.
"I'm getting hungry. Can we stop soon?"
"Sure. Do you want to stop at the burger place that serves chicken, or the chicken place that has burgers?
Back on the highway for a number of miles, I attempted to glare at my brood via the rear view mirror. “Kids, please stop signaling the truckers to blow their horns."
"We didn't, dad. It's the truck behind us. You're in his way."
"I'm doing the speed limit."
"Honey, we'll never get anywhere if you're only going to do the speed limit."
And, of course, it was only a matter of time before we finally reached Miami and here we are. And all for free. We just have to look at a presentation for a timeshare community.
Now who's in FantasyLand?