That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

The suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

Posted by kozemp on August 23, 2009

My car rocks.

And I don’t mean in that awesome, Slayer concert, “South Philly rocks WOOOOOO!” way. I mean in the unfortunate, “why is my car moving in ways I don’t tell it to?” way.

I first noticed this when my father was changing his shoes at the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport yesterday. He was unloading his bags and suddenly the car was pole-axing up and down like it was on a schizophrenic hydraulic lift.

When this first started I couldn’t see what was going on (what with the trunk lid obscuring my rear windshield), so I leaned out my window to ascertain why my father was jumping up and down on my car like a trampoline.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I shouted.

“I’m changing my shoes!” he shouted back. We were coming from a funeral and he was changing from his dress shoes into more comfortable traveling shoes. He was sitting on the back bumper doing so. This caused the car to gyrate up and down quickly enough to make a lesser-constitutioned person seasick.

Made as I am of sturdier stuff all I did was sit in my car and say to myself, “that ain’t good.”

The next occurrence of the non-musical rocking came this afternoon at the supermarket. While loading my groceries into the trunk I nudged the car with my thigh. The car proceeded to lurch forward a solid 6 or 8 inches, and come back hard enough to hit me in the leg and make me stumble backwards.

Standing there, holding plastic bags full of cereal in my hands, I looked down at my car and said, “oh, this is gonna get worse before it gets better.”

I briefly worried that I was standing in a Pathmark parking lot talking to no one but, frankly, that would probably be cheaper to fix than my car.

As you have realized by now, I drove my father to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport yesterday. The best part about me driving my father to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport is that me driving him to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport was the LEAST ridiculous part of the entire endeavor.

Here is how something like this happens:

One of my father’s friends… let’s call him, say, “George”… has two bizarre passions: meticulously and intricately (some would say obsessively) planned vacations, and a burning desire to see the northern lights. On at least four occasions in the last fifteen years or so these two passions have collided, resulting in long road trips with his friends (my father and their mutual friend, let’s call him, say, “Rob”) up to the northernmost frontier of civilization to take in various cultural sights and witness the miracle that is the Aurora Borealis.

Note that the term “road trip” is used in a quite literal sense here. They DRIVE to these places. The first excursion was a massive, 27-day, 10-city extravaganza of visiting baseball stadia and sleeping outside in an effort to see the northern lights and a moose. It is my understanding that they saw an actual moose on their second adventure, a trip up to a place in Quebec called Chibougamou, which is quite literally the last town in Canada before one enters the frozen wasteland. No, seriously, look on a map. The road north stops in this place. There is nothing after it. This is where they saw a moose.

It is important to note at this point that on none of these trips have they actually seen the northern lights.

So earlier this summer my father got word that there was a new trip afoot – George was driving to Newfoundland to see the Maritimes (and, presumably, the aurora), and he wanted expected Rob and my father to join him.

Now my father has long since learned that joining in on the driving parts of these trips is Russian Roulette played with a Buick, so he has since the first such vacation gone with the policy of flying out to meet George and Rob in whatever bizarre locale they end up in. Since presumably none of you have ever been in a car with Rob believe me when I tell you this is one of the smartest policies ever devised. So my father set out to fly himself to Newfoundland from Philadelphia for less than a small fortune.

This is, as you might guess, more difficult than it might seem.

Eventually he found an airfare to St. John’s that didn’t run into four figures: flying out of Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport, with a change in Newark. This, by some quirk of airline scheduling, was fantastically cheaper than just flying out of Newark direct.

A second thing that it is important to note: at this point, my father thinks that Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport (located here) and Lehigh Valley International Airport (located here) are the same place.

A third thing it is important to note: my father is a geography teacher.

So he books this flight from Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport to Newfoundland without realizing that a) Scranton and Allentown are not, in fact, the same place, and b) he has agreed to drive back with George, so he can’t leave his car at the airport. This is where I come in. Several weeks ago he asked me to drive him to the Scranton airport and I – admittedly fuzzy on how far away it was – rather stupidly agreed.

Note to self: look at map before agreeing to drive people places.

Yesterday comes and after the funeral my father and I are hustling ourselves into the car to make the drive up there quickly enough to get him on his flight. I’m not that worried – even with whatever brouhaha one has to go through to fly internationally, I have looked it up and the average check-in waiting time at Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport is three minutes. My father spends the entire trip shouting about how much he loves the British accent on my GPS, and two hours later we follow its last instruction and pull into Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport.

This conversation happens:

My dad: Where do you think I check in?

Me: There’s only two doors.

My dad: Which one do you think is departures?

Me: There’s only two fucking doors!

My dad: BUT WHICH ONE –

Me: FLIP A GODDAMN COIN!

Now normally any car trip of significant length with my father will degenerate into shouting on both sides, but in this instance I think we both were a little shellshocked by the fact that the only terminal at Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport was smaller, and had fewer doors, than our house. As we got closer we saw that the first door you came to said “departures” over it. Another door, perhaps thirty feet away, said “Arrivals.” As near as I could tell from the glass-panel front of the building these doors both opened into the same room, making me wonder why they bothered delineating.

There was a question as to whether his flight would go off or not, so once he had changed his shoes my father asked me to hang around until he was sure it would leave.

Me: Look, even at this place I don’t think I can just sit here while you check in.

My dad: Then go wait in the parking lot.

Me: Screw that, I’m not paying to park while you check in.

My dad: Then just go around the block.

Me: Dad, there isn’t a block to go around. <pointing at a spot about 200 feet from the car> That’s the exit. You can see it from here.

My dad: FIND SOMEPLACE TO WAIT!

Me: FINE!

When I reached said exit, I could go straight to get back onto the highway or make a right into the great Scrantonian unknown. Figuring that I had my British GPS to get me out of any trouble, I made the right….

Into someone’s driveway.

The exit from the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport leads directly onto a residential street, and if (like me) you are completely flabbergasted by this, momentarily lose your mind, and hold your right turn too long, you end up in some poor sod’s front driveway. I can still see the terminal from here. I extricated myself from this unlucky person’s property and drove around this neighborhood until I found a large open space where I could park the car and call my father.

Me: Well? What’s going on?

My dad: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know?

My dad: There isn’t a gate agent.

Me: What do you mean there isn’t a gate agent?

My dad: There’s a desk in this room, but there’s no one sitting at it. There’s no one here.

Me: What do you mean there… you know what, never mind.

My dad: This place is weird. Okay, there’s someone here, I think they might be –

Me: I’m going home.

My dad: Wait, what if my flight gets cancelled –

Me: Just CALL ME! How fucking far away do you think I’m going to get?

I hung up and started poking at my GPS until the “Go Home” button came up.

Before I got back on the Northeast Extension I pulled into a truck stop (an actual truck stop in a de facto city) to get something to drink. I decided a trip this bizarre required a souvenir. Just after the announcement that shower #2 was now open, I came upon the perfect item: a 128-ounce cup. It’s a giant piece of round plastic with a handle and a spill-proof lid. It is more akin to a flower pot than anything you would actually drink out of.

I took the cup and my actual sub-128 ounce drink to the counter, the cup still wrapped in plastic.

“You know you get a free fillup at the soda fountain, right?” the cashier said to me.

I stared at him for a second, then blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“The cup,” he said. “It comes with a complimentary fillup.”

I was buying this thing as a remembrance of a bizarre Saturday afternoon; the thought had honestly not occurred to me that a human would actually fill it with that much liquid and drink all of it, let alone soda, let alone actually drink that much soda. I began to contemplate what would happen if I actually drank 128 ounces of Mountain Dew in one sitting. Every scenario I could come up with ended in my immediate, if pleasurable, death.

“No, I, ah…” I said. “I’m good, thanks.”

JLK

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