It’s movie night at the Bidrawn house and the place reeks of popcorn and pepperoni pizza. Tonight’s DVD is based on a comic book hero. He fights Nazis or something. Movie night was conceived as a family bonding thing, a time when we all gather in the same place before spiraling off into solitary orbits.
As the bad guy rips off his own face I notice everyone is looking down, fiddling with their mobile devices. A guy just removed his face and nobody was there to see it.
I turn up the volume and everyone looks up, annoyed. Movie night doesn’t seem to be working as intended.
The next morning the boys and I stuff camping gear in the back of our Jetta TDI and head 200 miles northeast, towards Joshua Tree. I have collected all electronic devices and shoved them in the glovebox. For the next three days no one is falling into an electronic coma.
The first 20 miles are spent in rigid silence. I’m getting the “treatment,” but that’s OK. It’s part of the plan.
We drive past a dairy farm where a thick, moist manure aroma wafts into the cabin before I can hit the recirc button. Everyone is screaming, looking for the responsible party. Cameron has stuffed a pair of Gummi Bears up his nose and says it works great. We all do the same. I look in the mirror and the sight causes me to laugh so hard I eject the candy-like sugar-covered bullets. They fly into my coffee (a million-to-one shot) and Café Mocha mists everyone. In seconds, Gummi Bears are shooting through the Jetta like BBs in a tin can.
The mood has lightened. We talk about chocolate-covered grasshoppers, music, belly button lint, what the surface of the sun feels like. We discuss the merits of PC versus console gaming and how much better Justin Beiber would look as an undead berserker. Important stuff, all of it.
I manage to steer the conversation to school and learn which teachers are good and why. Cole’s 8th grade science class is designing and building air-powered rockets. The project culminates with a contest in which the highest flight wins a $50 gift card. It will be difficult keeping my hands off this one.
Conrad talks about a cute girl in his 5th grade class. Apparently she keeps hitting him. I tell him that’s her way of saying “I like you,” that it’s a good thing. He was thoroughly confused by this. Too bad it’ll get worse as he gets older.
We’d been driving for two hours, laughing and talking non-stop. Although I’m close to my kids, there’s something about an extended journey, specifically in an automobile that opens the soul. We are in no hurry to get there and the Jetta feels like it will run forever (450 miles per tank anyway). I want this to last as long as possible.
This kind of experience reminds me why I love cars and how they’ve come to be an integral part of my life. And while this Jetta TDI is not exactly a “dream car,” I find myself becoming attached to this dependable steed.
When we finally get to the campsite, the boys run off with their respective friends; I won’t see much of them for the next few days.
I stand by the Jetta, listening to the tink-tink-tink of its engine. If they made car treats I’d give it one. I pat it a few times instead.
“That’ll do car, that’ll do.”