Sunday, May 14, 2006


I don’t know how many of you had to travel a lot when you were a child, but I endured a 200+ mile trip almost every other weekend. My parents were raised along the state line between northern Alabama and middle-Tennessee. They were from large families who remained very close, even after my grandparents passed way. The brothers and sisters lived near their parents, and therefore, to my parents, it was still “home”. This was the driving reason that on every other Friday I heard “hurry up and get in the car, we’re goin’ home!” I learned to hate that phrase as I grew older and wanted to stay and play with my friends. “This is my home,” I would think, “not grandma’s!”

Dad was always a “hurry up and get there, so we can hurry up and get back” kind of guy. As soon as the Saturday morning sun shone through the windows at Ma’s, he was hollering for everyone to load up so we could get on down to grandmother Williams’ house. The peaceful Sunday mornings were broken by impatiently barked commands to load up so we could get “home” before sun down. “Got’ta get up early Monday for work, ya know!”

Home!Go down home”. “Go back home”. You roll this confusion in with the fact that I attended 9 different schools my first 12 years of school, and you can begin to understand why I have some trouble understanding where home is today!

But the trip down and back was the “real trip” (to use a more modern vernacular) of the whole ordeal! There was no time to have supper before we left. “Got’ta get on the road!”

Once in the car, it was non-stop as far as my dad was concerned. Since he was beyond such things, no one should impede progress by getting hungry or having to go to the bathroom. Most of the time Mom convinced him to stop at a drive-in for a hamburger, which couldn’t be eaten slowly and comfortably even in the car. It was “hold your drink and don’t spill it”, and “eat your burger and fries with the other hand.” The drink was always ordered in the bottle, because it would come in handy later!

About an hour after having swallowed my burger and washing it down with my soft-drink, my body was through with it and wanted it out. What did you do when you were on the “non-stop to Alabama”? You put it back in the bottle! That’s the “trip"!

I was lucky. I was a boy, and (at the time) equipped with a convenient and compatible “docking system” that NASA should have considered in its design for the Space Shuttle. The problem was making the docking maneuver while standing astride the hump in the rear floor-board of the ‘55 Star Chief at 65 MPH, while the tires squealed (this was the pre-radial days) around the meandering curves of old Highway 70! Any grunts or groans due to “docking” problems seemed to make Dad drive more erratically. I bet, if I could have held myself stationary long enough to have seen into the rear-view mirror, I could have seen a sinister smile on his face.

Once docked, I had to hang on by spreading my legs as wide apart as possible to each side, and by leaning forward, throwing my upper body weight across the back of the front seat. The reward, from the docking and download, was the near ecstasy release from the pain of having put the ordeal off far too long. I had to decide just when it was worth the experience and humiliation. BUT, it wasn’t over yet!

Once my eyes would open again from the shear pleasure of a deflated bladder, and I began to feel the warmth convex through the glass bottle, I began to think about how long I had to sit and hold the bottle before I could get rid of it! It could be miles before Dad would stop and let me empty the bottle, or until Mom or I pestered him enough to let me just fling it out the window. (You realize, of course, this traumatic process, acted out all over America, was the driving force behind the rise of the aluminum can industry. No one wanted to pick up bottles along the highways anymore, especially Mountain Dew, Mello Yellow, and Sun Drop bottles!)

So, as you can see, it was a big decision for a young boy to make. Should I pee in the bottle and then sit here with it until the trip was over, or hold on with everything I had? Kind of gives new meaning and urgency to the well known question, “Are we there yet?” doesn’t it.

My brother was 10 years younger and missed out on much of this, though I do remember by the time I could hold out long enough, he was at the right age for Dad to keep a bottle handy in the car. I can still hear the sound of bottle glass clinking against the springs beneath the front seat. The sound was probably comforting to him, but only helped remind us that our bladders were slowly filling up!

But little brother was spared most of the trauma. Aluminum got real big during his day, and everyone knows pull-tab and pop-top cans aren’t very conducive to “docking”. A fellow could get seriously hurt that way!

1 comment:

BarryInMissouri said...

I remember that so well. Many bottles were filled and out the window they would sometimes go unless my mother decided to hold on to it until we stopped. Thanks for the memories.