As the comedian Pat McGroin once said about the crew of the SS Minnow on Gilligan’s Island: “A three hour tour? It’s one and a half hours there and one and a half hours back. I mean, how lost can you get?”
I might have laughed at the time, but now I know how lost you can get. I know.
The other day, we set off on the one and half hour drive to my mother’s house in Blinkton after picking up the kids from school.
My husband, made edgy by the school traffic, suggested I take a different route down the freeway to avoid it. He then promptly fell asleep without really explaining what that route was except to say “Follow the signs to [Blahblah]”.
About twenty minutes of hurtling down the freeway, with not as single sign for [Blahblah] in sight, I woke him up.
“Um, I think I’ve missed the turn off.”
Turns out there was another turn off I should have taken before I started following the signs to [Blahblah]. Of course there was.
We decided to get off the freeway and find a road heading north to get us back on track. It didn’t help that we didn’t have the street directory in the car and that my husband was trying to work off a pocket-sized Roads of Australia map book.
“That’s the road!” my husband suddenly shouted. “Take that one!”
“What? West Road?” I said, somewhat doubtfully, as I turned into it. “Wouldn’t West Road, like, take us west instead of, say, north?”
“I know exactly where we are,” he said, pointing to the map book triumphantly. “This road is taking us exactly where we need to be!”
And he was correct – if, that is, you accept that “exactly where we need to be” happened to be a complete dead-end with nowt but the forbidding gates of a Cement Factory to see.
So we turned around and started heading east along stupid West Road. And eventually, we found a road heading north and were back on track. It was at this point my husband decided to put one of his Dire Straits tapes on the stereo.
“They like their guitar bits,” I commented, my teeth slightly gritted, after the fourth track in a row with an extended guitar solo.
“Okay, okay,” my husband muttered, rummaging around for another cassette. “Ah! Here’s one you’ll like!”
And he launched us straight into the middle of an Eric Clapton guitar solo. Lovely. I didn’t get a chance to comment, however, because it was right then that we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into [Blahblah]. And the kids, like some kind of Greek Chorus in the back of the car, all chose this moment to break their silence by simultaneously shouting:
JUSTICE: “I’m starving!”
PIXIE: “Are we there yet?”
McGEE: “Need to do a weeeeeee!”
“Gee, I’m glad we missed three minutes worth of school traffic at the beginning of the trip so we could sit in peak hour traffic here with the kids at their finest,” I remarked to my husband, who merely grunted. After all, I was the one who had missed the all-important turn off in the first place.
In the end, a quick stop at a supermarket solved some of our troubles – and created some new ones. While I did the mercy dash up and down Aisle 5, my husband stayed in the car with the kids and let Tiddles McGee piss out of the sliding door of the Star Wagon in the crowded carpark. McGee then promptly stood in the puddle of his own creation, soaking his one and only pair of shoes for the weekend. Shortly after that, I returned with only two of the five essential items we had needed and a whole heap of other things we didn’t need, shouting “Don’t ask me what I forgot to get! DO NOT ASK ME!”. But of course my husband had to ask me what I’d forgotten, after which I went a little postal and shouted for a long, long time, pausing only to ask “Why does the car smell like urine?”.
Finally, almost three and a half hours after we’d set off, we arrived in the dark at my mother’s house, all of us cold, hungry and grumpy as fuck and Tiddles McGee screaming “I want to go hoooooommmmmme!”. And I found myself thinking how at least on Gilligan’s Island there were coconuts to make cocktails, bras and radios from and nobody ever had to clean piss out of someone else’s shoes. They didn’t know how good they had it, really.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my mother a happy One Year Anniversary of living in Blinkton. May she have many more happy years in her little home there – and may we never make the mistake of taking West Road on our way to visit her again.