Friday, November 23, 2012

Space: The Final Frontier

   Until I became chronically under-employed by struggling alternative education sites, we used to replace our vehicles every three or four years. 

    But this current economic downturn is lasting so long, I’m going to have to get cozy with our 10-year old vehicles – or live in the past.
    I choose the latter.
    I think my favorite car-upgrade was the time we got our first van.  Usually, the trade-in process was a solemn event marked by ritual weeping and speeches.  “Goodbye, Fiat Spider! I’ll always remember my first trimester when I threw up in your console.”
   But the year we got The Van, my family threw up their hands and wept with joy, then marched to the old car to spit on it.
   For nearly half-a-decade, I had tamped all six of us into a five-passenger compact, The Battlestar Asphyxia.  It was a four-year Close Encounter with random odors, tandem seatbelts, and the time I was arrested for driving extra kids to school. (The police thought we were mooning them, but there was just no space to sit.)
   We traded The Asphyxia in for a van and never looked back.  Just hoisted our selves aboard the new, gluttonous freighter, dancing with Wanderlust and listening for an echo from our feet.
   It was overcast the day we launched The Van.  After fastening all six of us into our very own restraints, I set us adrift with the pedal…I in the driver’s seat, Dad in the back, the babe in the front who prepared for her nap.  The boys – cresting moons out one spacious window – gave a luster of mid-day to compacts below.
   Suddenly, we heard the prancing and pawing of rain on the roof.
   My hands blindly traversed Mission Control to find a windshield wiper switch, activating cruise control, the high beams, my left directional, smooth jazz, and finally, popping the hood.
   We pulled over to consult the manual.
   Twenty pages later, the wipers were clearing my view with a soothing rhythm that flowed with smooth jazz and we were on our way.
   What a jolt I got when I checked my side mirror.  Some Bozo was right on my rear fender, gaining with impossible speed.  I tried to shout out the window but I couldn’t roll it down, and I was afraid to beep the horn lest I ignite the airbag.  So I shouted to myself, “What kind of asshole would drive so CLOSE!?”
   Six-year-old Zachary looked behind to determine what kind and replied, “It’s not an asshole, Mommy, it’s the back end of our VAN!”
   The baby chose that moment for a Houdini Car Restraint Escape where she deflates and slips to the floor like a noodle.  But the Van’s Revolutionized Harness System would not permit a safety breach.
   It locked at her chin like a noose.
   I screamed and leaned to where she WOULD be in a Compact, but undershot by half-a-yard, toppling face-first into the abyss between our seats. 
   The Van veered to the right.
   My husband made several feckless attempts to unfasten himself – confused by too many buckles – and accidentally released the six-year-old.
   He might have released a ballistic missile.
   Zach vaulted four rows of seats from rear to front, flipping like a Ninja and whooping a War Cry, ‘til he dropped before his sister, whose bulging face testified to oxygen’s triumph over man.
   By now I’d negotiated the climb from floor mat to my seat where I marshaled The Van into a controlled wheelie. 
   360 degrees later, we were pointed in the right direction, listing in breakdown mud.
   Zachary, with the strength of an addict on crack or raw plutonium, flattened the baby’s face with his fists to squeeze it past the restraint.
   His technique evinced in me odd seizure symptoms where I twitched and gurgled in horror.  But he did it.  The baby wriggled free like released aquatic life, then shot under the dashboard to chew wires.
   By then, the rest of the family chewed through their own restraints to join the tangle up front.
   As we huddled together, breathless from each other’s exhale, it was The Battlestar all over and we finally felt safe.
   Space – and more of it – is not always the final frontier.