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The Mouth in the Middle

The Mouth in the Middle

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Updated:  July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

Please feel free to share stories of your family road trips!

January 30, 2014

Quiet…for Cash

Two times a year, our family would make the trip from, Pittsburgh to North Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina, for vacation. My mother, father, and three girls loaded into the Cadillac El Dorado, that my older sister, Amy, and I named ‘The Sherman Tank.’  I pretty sure, between the vats of aerosol hairspray and the amount of gas that car used, we are responsible for global warming (Sorry Al Gore).  We’ll never be able to undo our carbon footprint, even if we promised to walk everywhere, for the rest of our lives.

Four females and my poor father, stuffed in that car, for the 12 hour journey, to the beach, it really does sound like a dream, doesn’t it? Amy, came up with the rule, we had to sit in our ‘birth order,’ in the back seat, which meant, I sat on ‘the hump’ for 12 hours.  I was small, but, you can only keep your feet on the ‘hump’ for so long, and then, you need to stretch your legs.  Amy, and my younger sister, Laura, did not like sharing their backseat floor real estate. Kicking and fighting would ensure if my feet slide down the hump to either side. My parents were amazing, in that they could ignore World War III erupting in the back seat and carry on a conversation in the front seat.  It was an enviable skill set.

My dad hated making rest stops on these long trips.  Partly, because four females, didn’t take five minutes, it was always more like thirty. That was precious time, my father, was not willing to waste. Secretly, I think he tried to beat all of his previous ‘drive times’ down to the beach.  I remember once, making the trip, in nine hours. You would have thought, that man, had just won Le Mans.

I am so glad the story about the diaper wearing astronaut* who drove across country, to kill her lover’s new girlfriend, didn’t come out until much later in life.   Or else, my dad would have had all of us outfitted for diapers, just to shave a few minutes off of his total ‘drive time.’

In his defense, being trapped in the car with four females must have been torture.  He did tell one of his friends that menopause and puberty should not be in the same house at the same time, if that gives any indication.  All that incessant chattering, from the back seat, fights about almost touching each other, not sharing the Sony Walkman (later Discman), eventually took a toll.  Nothing exposes someone’s age as a walk through childhood technology, I started off with 33’s,(those are records).

One trip, when we reached Pedro’s South of the Border, my mom was having trouble with the map, our fighting had reached an apex, and he snapped. He shouted ‘Quiet Contest!’  Seriously, this man should have been canonized as a saint, at least ten trips prior to this one.

What? Every family didn’t do ‘Quiet Contests’…for cash? My dad stated, ‘the one of you who can be quiet the longest will win a quarter.’

Before either of my sister’s could agree, I shouted, “A quarter isn’t worth our time, but if all three of us are quiet the rest of the way (which was about three hours, or at least it felt like three hours in, kid time), it’s worth $5 bucks apiece to us.”

He agreed without hesitation and, if I remember correctly,  Amy, even allowed the seat order on the way home to be altered. My younger sister, Laura,  was stuck enduring ‘the hump’ in the back seat on the way home.  So began my career, of lifelong successful negotiations, as The Mouth in the Middle.   I could only be in sales, my personality was designed for it, and there would be no fighting it later in life. And my father, to this day, says it was the best money he’s ever spent.


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