Tripping over Trips
Throughout most of my late teenage years, I’ve been content living in Wilmington, North Carolina. While most teenagers were dreaming of leaving home for college, perhaps even moving to a new state, I was dreading the thought of it. Maybe they have had awesome experiences on trips, and that’s great for them, but I have had terrible ones. I don’t like traveling, I don’t like being in new environments, heck I don’t even like leaving my own home. I think I may be traumatized. A series of "if it can go wrong-it will go wrong road trips" along with my dysfunctional family has made me a hermit crab.
One of the earliest road trips I remember was visiting my family in Washington D.C. I was only eight years old. Me, my brother, and sister were crammed in the backseat of my parents’ compact Nissan Versa. I was the smallest child at the time, and so I was the sacrificial lamb: the one who had to sit in the middle seat. Sitting in the middle would have not been so bad if my father was a decent driver, but he was not. I was constantly being thrown into the elbows of my brother and sister, going from left to right back to left and back to right, as my dad swerved through lanes like a mad man. I’m surprised I didn’t have whiplash because my neck felt like it was on a swivel. As one can imagine, me and my siblings were annoyed at my father. But us being so young, there was no room for “back talk” and disrespect towards our parents. So naturally, tempers flared between my brother and sister. Quite literally, I was in the middle of it. They yelled at each other on and off over trivial matters that made me want to sigh and shake my head. As I blocked out their boisterous quarrel, I stared into the cars of parents who could drive in a straight line, fathers and mothers who could resist the urge to make five lane changes in less than a minute. And I saw the families in those cars and they weren’t arguing; they were happy. And I thought to myself “I wish I could be in their car right now because I’m on the verge of throwing up.” I didn’t throw up, but I was sore all over.
The next horror trip I went on took place a few years later. It must not have been that remarkable because the only part I remember was the still blackness of the night, as we drove down I-40. My brother and sister were asleep, and I felt a peculiar passion for still being awake. Perhaps it was because I was at peace for a moment. A peace that I hoped could last forever, with the two asleep or awake. My paradise quickly faded as I had to endure three hours of uncertainty. My father, who’s a cheapskate, didn’t want to spend another night in a hotel. So he decided to drive back home early in the morning, in a drowsy state. The A.C. was on max, the radio was booming, and my dad was literally yelling at himself as he tried to keep his eyes open every ten seconds. Now I definitely couldn’t sleep at all, and I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to take the wheel, despite the fact that I was only eleven years old. Eventually, he pulled over to a rest stop and took a twenty-minute nap, where I sat awake with my mother who also felt uneasy. We were the only ones in the pitch-black rest lot, and I was paranoid that Michael Myers was going to appear out of the woods and slash me and my family. This paranoia lasted all twenty minutes, but I was content. I looked to my left and saw my sister, whose mouth was open but only emitting snores, and I looked to my right, and my brother was doing the same. But all I heard was the sound of birds chirping, waterfalls splashing, and trees blowing in the wind. Michael Myers would have been proud of them; maybe that’s why he spared us.
At this point in my life, I never wanted to even hear the words road trip come from my parents’ mouths. But this next trip was different. It wasn’t a road trip, it was an air trip! Again, we were visiting my family in Washington D.C. The flight to D.C was fine. Our planes came on time, and we arrived on time. But flying back felt like Mission Impossible. Our tickets were no good; my father used standby tickets. And so, for the duration of eight hours, me and my family had to sit together, waiting for a plane, just like the good old times being crammed into our Nissan Versa. My brother and sister had already been arguing before we arrived at the airport, this time yelling F-bombs and B words and any curse words they could think of at each other. I could no longer observe others to take my mind off of reality, and so I cried. I didn’t want to cry, but my tear ducts didn’t care about what I wanted. And so I thought that maybe, just maybe my emotional outburst would spark a positive change between the two of them. Like trying to jump-start a car with a bad battery, the spark died immediately. I was not surprised, nor did I want to care, so I kept to myself and watched the unbroken action at the airport (also because I had a crappy android phone with crappy battery life). I watched people get on and off their flights and yell at the airport workers when their flights were delayed, as my father did. I also saw a Cookout restaurant that was swarmed with lines of people who were waiting to receive a big juicy burger. My stomach was growling, so my sister and I bought some warm chili cheese french fries and shared them. She had some not-so-nice things to say about my brother, and I just listened to her ramble. Later on, me and my brother had a cordial conversation about our chaotic day. He talked down on my sister, and I simply agreed with him. I began observing again, and I saw families boarding their planes. I so desperately wanted to be their son’s, even though the flight crew would question the white parents for having a black teenage child.
My family’s latest road trip blunder was different. It was just me and my parents this time. We were going to visit Greensboro, North Carolina, to see my brother perform at his concert. My mother, before we started driving, hinted that she didn’t trust our car on a road trip. I already knew that with our bad luck on trips, something was going to go wrong. About three hours later, our car began to slow down, and the computer read DRIVING POWER REDUCED. We went from 75 mph to 60. And then eventually, wouldn’t you know it, the car stalled out. My mother was just shaking her head while sighing, and I literally wanted to cry. I didn’t want to miss my brother’s concert, but I also didn’t want to be stranded hours away from home. My dad pulled up to a gas station on a hill as the sun was setting. He hustled inside a convenience store, his pockets shuffling with wads of George Washington’s. As I waited with no hope, I saw other people pumping gas into their cars, not smiling, nor frowning. They were simply living, and I once again wanted to be in their shoes, so that I could drive far, far away from our chaos. Before I could steal any of their shoes, my father put some oil into our car and it started back up. I was still upset, but I accepted the chaos.
Even if all of our trips went the complete opposite and were amazing, I would still probably feel the same way about traveling. I don’t know if God made me a hodophobe before I was born, or if I’ve been truly traumatized due to my sibling’s bickering and our bad luck on trips. Or maybe, it’s not my siblings or God who is at fault, but just me being too comfortable within my home. Perhaps I’m trying to make excuses for myself, but I think I’m justified either way, because I’ve accepted who I am: a homebody person. So I don’t get jealous of families or individuals who can enjoy traveling anymore, at least I try not to. Maybe one day I’ll be able to travel the world in peace like them. But for now, my home is my world, and the only part of the world I want to travel to is my mailbox.