The fun in that summer of ’89 began before we even got to the Shack. When I say “fun”, what I really mean is “torturous journey”. At the start of our trip, after I completed a fifteen hour driving shift, (Hey, I was young.) my mom took over. My mom was born and raised in New York City. She has a very distinct accent and it is heightened by the fact that she cannot hear at all out of one ear, due to a fever she had as a young girl. Also, having grown up in NYC, she doesn’t have a lot of driving experience. I must admit that even phonetically spelling the words as they sound when my mom speaks does not convey the true texture. You’ll have to use a little imagination and it helps if you’ve ever seen, “My Cousin Vinny”.
So, after taking over behind the wheel for me and about 15 minutes of driving she made the following comment in her thick, loud, Bronx accent :
“Ooh, da road and da sky look the same, I can’t tell da difference between dem. It awl looks gray deh. My eyes ah getting’ tie-ud”
“OK, mom, pull over. I’ll drive.”, I replied.
After relinquishing the wheel, she immediately went to sleep in the passenger’s seat. She awoke only after I had been stopped by the Oklahoma State Police Officer who was now asking me questions and looking into the car at my mother, who said from her fully reclined seat,
“Ooh, officah, I told him not to drive too fast. I only closed my eyes for a minute.”
A $98 dollar speeding ticket later, we were on our way, and mom was asleep again within minutes.
After that, the trip was somewhat uneventful. I had the opportunity to sleep while my cousin Anne Marie drove for awhile and we were making pretty good time (At least until we got into Missouri). After a rest stop and driver change, I was behind the wheel again. While driving through a severe thunderstorm that evening on I-44, the Sunbird went through a most unfortunate chain of events. First, the radio began to fade in and out. “OK, no big deal”, I thought, figuring that the station we were listening to was being interfered with by the storm. Shortly after that, however, the headlights began to flicker. Not good. 2 a.m., desolate stretch of highway in a Missouri thunderstorm. Not a good time for the headlights to go. Unfortunately, I had no final say in the matter, and the lights and the radio and the dashboard lights all went out.
“Ooh, it must have been da storm. It knocked out da lights. Pull over deyah and we’ll have to wait for da sun to come up.”, my mom said, awakening in the passenger seat.
“Huh? Are you out of your mind?”, I replied. It’s 2 a.m. in the middle of nowhere. We have no lights. 18 wheelers are barreling past us in a thunderstorm at about 85 mph and I don’t know if they can even see us!”
We had no choice, however. My mother was not going to take a chance on finding a motel that we would have to pay for. We slept in the car on the side of the road. I swear to this day that someone came and knocked on the window in the middle of the night. My mother didn’t hear it because she is completely deaf in one ear, and she sleeps on her good one. I just pretended I was asleep. As soon as the sun came up, we were gone. Five miles up the road we found a service station that replaced our wiring harness for $100 and we were back on the road. For the moment.
We made a stopover in Avon Lakes, Ohio to visit with my sister and brother-in-law. But before we arrived, the Sunbird was getting cranky from being ridden so hard and it was beginning to overheat. We were only about 30 miles from Avon Lakes, so there was no chance we were going to stop. So, the quick fix was to turn on the heater in the car to vent some of the hot air away from the engine. Ah! hot and muggy on the outside, even hotter and muggier on the inside! It was a great time. It was worth it when we got to Avon Lakes, though. We slept in beds and had an excellent time at Cedar Point Amusement Park. We rode all the roller coasters in the park except for the Magnum because it was either under construction or repair. All I know is that I had a lot less stress and fear while riding those coasters than I had when my mom was driving.
When we left Ohio, I drove for another 12 hours before my mother took a driving shift going through the mountains somewhere in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember exactly where. All I remember before I fell asleep is reminding my mother to take exit number 19. When I awoke, I watched as we passed exit number 26. “OK”, I thought to myself, “we‘re almost to our exit.” Imagine my surprise when we reached the next exit sign and it was number 27!
“Mom, what’s going on? Why didn’t you take exit 19?”
“Ooh, theyah was all dese big trucks, and I couldn’t get over theyah to the exit. Dey were passing me on da right theyah.”
“So you just kept driving? Where are we?”
”I don’t know. Someweyah in da mountains. I can’t see with all dis rain. My eyes ah goin’ crazy here. I can’t see anything.”
Can’t see anything? While driving? That can’t be good.
“Pull over, mom. I’ll take it from here.”
After another 10 hours of driving, we finally arrived in Rhode Island. The very next day we began to prepare the Shack for the Memorial Day opening. It wasn’t easy. My mom can be a tough boss.
Be sure to check back here for Part 3 – The Preparation to find out what it’s really like working for my mom.