Now I know why tigers eat their young.” – Al Czervik, “Caddyshack”

The older I get, the more impressed I am that my parents didn’t decided to abandon or sell my brother and me somewhere along the vast expanse of Interstate 20. We were one of those “Griswoldian” type families that loaded up the family wagon at least once a year to visit family ~ Tupelo, Mobile, Charleston, Augusta ~ 10-12 hours of family time in the same vehicle, interrupted only by the license plate game or another Stuckey’s billboard. (Editor’s Note –  If “pecan log” rings no bell in your memory, that last reference really fell flat.)

My wife & I have continued this rather insane tradition with our own children. So, fresh off a 20-hour roundtrip to New Mexico, I decided to share with you some of our simple rules that could save the lives of your offspring.

  1. The window rule ~ it’s an easy concept…long car rides, especially in the altitude of New Mexico and Arizona, will result in non-industrial gas emissions. The best way to excuse yourself is to roll (“…in the name of all that is holy…”)…down…(“…we really need to get that kid to a doctor…”)…your window. The driver will pardon all offenses if window action is taken immediately, but you will not turn my car into a Dutch Oven. (*It should be noted that the driver is granted immunity from this rule.)
  2. The Voting Booth is Closed ~ You know what kids love to argue about? Everything. You know what gives them a great opportunity to argue even more? Ask them where they would like to eat. Close the polls, pick a spot, alternate choices, whatever – voting is for amateurs and democracies, your car should be a dictatorship. Which leads to another topic…
  3. Avoid the drive-thru ~ It defies every one of my natural instincts, but I had to learn to avoid the quick-fix of the drive-through window. It’s worth the extra 20 minutes to avoid the disaster that will surely follow. This is not a roadie with your college roommates, these are family members, and they WILL destroy your car. I’m still finding hot sauce packets from Thanksgiving 2009. And, unless you want to backtrack 10 miles to pick up the missing beef taco, the drive-thru is your enemy. The additional bonus of this policy is….
  4. If you stop, you drop ~ Gas stops, snack stops, food stops = coordinated bathroom visits. This is non-optional. I’m sorry you “don’t have to go” – you and your bladder get back in there and flush the system (no pun intended.)
  5. Co-pilot Domain ~ If you want an engaged navigator (and a happy marriage), radio control must reside in the realm of the co-pilot, even if that right is blatantly abused (i.e., country music, Katy Perry). Bad music won’t kill you, but the woman to your right just might if you insist on talk radio.

One final note – never, never, nevernevernever EVER relinquish the steering wheel. Driving the family may be stressful, but the “Mommy seat” involves way too much compassion for the average man ~ Kleenex wiping, spill maintenance, snack distribution, bouncer, peacemaker, Sheriff, therapist….not me, man, not me.