Saturday, August 02, 2008

National Lampoon's Vacation: The Next Generation

Well, this isn't really as chaotic as the Chevy Chase farce (three farces, actually, two of which were totally unnecessary), but it is the first time our family has been able to take a meaningful vacation in quite some time -- in fact, since our youngest was born. This year, we opted for a trip back to our old haunts on Alabama's Gulf Coast for some fun on the white sandy beaches and visiting with old friends.

Day one was supposed to be a nice drive to lower Tennessee for a night's stay at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, and it appeared like we would meet that goal. However, while checking tire pressure and filling the gas tank along the way I noticed cracks in two of the tires. That one little observation resulted in a two-hour stop at one of the Shenandoah Valley's "folksier" tire and automotive places, although I was extremely grateful that they squeezed into what was already a busy Saturday for them. What was funny was when I approached the desk clerk at the local visitor's center to inquire about a tire dealer in the area; when she said that the tires might be really expensive and I asked how much, she said, "Oh, they might be as much as $80!" I had to laugh to myself before saying, "Ma'am, I live near Washington, D.C. -- that's NOT too much for a tire."

Our short stay in what was apaprently a town founded in 1796, there was certainly cause for a bit of reflection on my part, particularly after talking to one interesting gentleman and overhearing another while sitting in the mechanic's shop. As often as I think about my desire to ensure the financial well-being of the family and planning ahead to make sure they're taken care of, there are still times where I wonder if I'm doing enough (knowing that the answer is always 'no'). I was reminded, though, how blessed we are to be in the position we're in right now when I overheard one gentleman who came in for an auto inspection; when advised that his car failed as the result of a bad tire he had to choose between forking over what was to him a lot of money (which he didn't have) or taking the failed inspection and trying again in 15 days. He opted for taking the failure notice and trying to scrounge up the money for a new tire and walked out, obviously disappointed and embarassed. In retrospect, maybe I should have anonymously stepped in and paid the $45 for the model tire he needed; regardless, I was reminded how financially fortunate we are.

The other gentleman with whom we actually interacted became a bit annoying after a while because he just kept talking and talking and TALKING. It was obvious he was very poor, and the way he told us about bouncing around from one friend's house to another for visits I'm wondering if perhaps his living arrangements were tenuous. In chatting with him, it also became obvious that we had been much more blessed academically as well, and in some ways I felt bad for him (although A. wasn't totally convinced that he wasn't just being a joker). He started talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at one point and mentioned that he had almost bought an Afghan at a yard sale; he said he walked up, saw a sign that read "Afghans - $10," and asked the person running the sale for his Afghan. When he was handed a blanket instead, he started protesting that he didn't want a blanket -- he wanted his Afghan. The salesperson asked, "Well what do you think an afghan is?" and he replied, "I wanted someone to help me around the house and do my laundry."

After our Shenandoah excursion, the rest of the day was uneventful and brought us to Knoxville, Tennessee for some much-needed rest. Next stop, the heart of Dixie - Selma, Alabama!


rdl said...

Sounds like you're already having fun on your road trip!! Enjoy!

Kristen said...

Oh my gosh, I sure hope that guy was joking!

I hope you have a wonderful vacation! I'm always impressed by parents who dare to take long car trips with little ones. :-)