I knew the roads were unpaved once you got in there. I had seen the photos from previous summers’ paintball scenario games: Brent and our two boys in the D-Day Adventure Park staging area, on the truck en route to the playing field, or hiking along a road toward the action. Just dirt tracks, some of them. This time Eric and his buddy would be driving up to Wyandotte, Oklahoma on their own, a day later than his dad and brother. I thought about Eric’s ground-hugging little sedan with its small trunk, and that stack of paintball gear they would need to take along. And here was my Honda CR-V standing proud and rugged in the garage, almost a foot of clearance under the chassis. It doesn’t know the meaning of the term “high-center.” Besides, its roomy cargo area, high enough to load and unload without fear of back strain, practically begged to be filled with guns, CO2 cylinders, boots and camo. Eric doesn’t much like driving it, but maybe he would be in Practical Mode today.
“Would you like to take my car to Oklahoma D-Day and leave yours here at home?” I ventured. It didn’t seem like any big deal at the time. I would be going to Houston and back while they were away, but surely I would be fine driving Greg’s Civic.
“Yeah, thanks. That would be great,” Eric replied, and that is how I came to get in touch with my inner teenager.
It all happened last summer, in 2009. The last of my warriors drove away for their annual D-Day reenactment game, leaving me all alone on the driveway. I waited until they were out of sight before I started doing the victory dance. Oops – I mean, I would be lonely, but would manage to get along somehow.
Greg’s Civic is one good-looking car. Dark blue, shiny, sporty – it’s cool, it runs perfectly, and he really likes it. I liked it too, until I was stuck driving 485 miles in it. All in one day.
At first it seemed like a fairly normal car, once I got used to the feeling that I was sitting inside a giant M&M and could barely peek out above the candy coating. Mighty low to the ground, a Civic. The hood seemed to stretch out several yards in front of me, and I was sure the doors on both sides were hanging over the edges of my lane. The next day I made it out to the grocery store, and later the hobby shop, getting back home safely each time. By Saturday morning, I felt like a pro and was ready to drive the Youthmobile to my sister-in-law’s home near Houston.
But first, a quick stop in College Station to pick up my then-future daughter-in-law. My legs felt a bit stiff when I got out of the car there, but a short walk around worked out most of the kinks. After collecting Heather, I continued south. My Capri pants that had looked so cute that morning seemed to be getting tighter all the time, but our pleasant chatter helped keep my mind off it as we drove to Jennifer’s.
I have never been so glad to see someone’s house in my life. Stupid sports car. I crept up to the front door as if I were at least 80. We had a lovely time together, all the family girls, fixing little favors for Heather and Eric’s wedding. I stalled as long as possible, but eventually we had to get back into that blue contraption and head north again. By the time we made Hempstead, the formerly-cute Capri pants had formed a tourniquet around each thigh and my tailbone was going numb.
College Station at last. Even though it was a bit early, I positively insisted on taking Heather out to dinner. Our meal took a while to arrive, but not long enough. The Civic lurked in the parking lot the whole time, a sinister gleam in its headlights.
All too soon I had bid Heather a fond farewell, and was back in the Civic’s diabolical clutches. Highway 6 seemed to get longer and longer, the Dallas Metroplex receding into the distance with every endless mile. I made one unnecessary stop for gas, and another very necessary stop for coffee. Even so, my legs kept getting stiffer and my spine took on a bucket-seat curve that could not possibly be healthy. But, finally—home! I didn’t so much get out of that iron maiden that calls itself a car; it was more like taking it off.
Normally when Brent calls from Oklahoma D-Day I ask how the games are going, whether they took any painful hits, did they have enough paint, where did they have dinner, and so forth. But not this time. All I could say between my clenched teeth was:
“I. Want. My. Car. Back.”
Thanks for reading!