The Griswolds look at colleges

It was the summer before my brother’s senior year of high school. My family rented an RV to spend the next three weeks on the road in search of a college that would be the right fit for Bill, my brother who is 5 years to my senior.

In the few sentences above I have bypassed several enormous problems that would prove to be formidable in the weeks to come.

# Problem 1: My dad was there. My father loves to be the loudest and most obnoxious person wherever we go. I think this is the reason I have no pride. I am literally immune to embarrassment. But it’s not only in public that my dad likes to flaunt his obnoxiousness. For example, when we are in the car and he has to fart, he is always sure to roll up all of the windows and lock them before he passes the gas. He even locks the doors just for safe measure. And we were preparing to embark on a three-week adventure in the car with him. A big car, granted, but still a vehicle with lockable doors and windows.

Problem #2: My mom was there. My mom, bless her soul, likes to complain. She does not do well in the car and she hates camping. She always gets a sore back, which is her problem with both car rides and camping.

Problem #3: Bill was there. Bill was about 18 years old at the time. This is characterised as a time in a young man’s life when he is not sure what to do so he just does whatever is most likely going to piss his parents off the most.

Problem #4: I was there. I looked up to Bill. So I was about 13 years old and if Bill was going to piss the parents off, I was going to piss the parents off. I always wanted to impress Bill and the best way to do that was to go along with whatever he was doing. Even if it was a terrible idea. Sometimes, ESPECIALLY if it was a terrible idea.

We had our bags packed and we were ready to go. The RV was sitting in the driveway and we had a lot of miles to cover before we could call it a day. One problem, though. My mother was still packing. Actually she had finished packing and decided she had not packed correctly so she unpacked and started packing again. She must have been certain she forgot her Pilates tape or something because it wasn’t until the middle of her third attempt to re-pack her bags that Bill and I began to get a bit restless.

Bill was certain that he could raise the antenna on the top of the RV even if I was laying on top of it. Convinced that this was a great idea, I scaled the RV and lay on top of the massive, tree branch like antenna that lay flat across the top of the vehicle. Bill was right, the antenna was able to support my weight and it raised me right up. Somewhat impressed, I climbed back down and into the RV where Bill was already watching TV with the newly acquired reception. It did not take long for us to get tired of that, too. So we went inside the house to see when we might be leaving. We entered the house just in time to see my mom running past us and out the door while yelling, “I’m ready and waiting for you!” This is a tactic that she still uses today. She makes us wait until we cannot wait by the door or in the car any more. So we go and sit down or come inside to see what she’s doing. Every time, as soon as your butt hits the sofa or you enter the threshold of the house, she comes hauling past you screaming, “I’m ready and waiting you for!” Brilliant.

So there we were, standing in the wake of my mom’s brilliance and finally all ready to go. We locked up the house and got into the RV. My dad started the horse up and we all listened to the roar of the engine as it warmed up, getting ready to charge us across Colorado and into Wyoming and Montana. He put it in reverse and we were off. For about three feet.

We heard a screeching on the roof of the RV and Bill and I looked at each other immediately knowing we were in deep shiza. We slinked out of the beast and looked up on the roof where the antenna used to be. It’s tree-like limbs had stretched up and grabbed an actual tree limb. A tree limb that it was still attached to.

“Who put the antenna up?” My dad’s monotonous question was more of a statement than a question. He knew exactly who had done it. What Bill and I heard was, “Whoever put the antenna up better start running.” But there was nowhere to run to. We were stuck in the RV with him for the next three weeks.

Due to the antenna fiasco we had no TV for the remainder of the trip. So my family and I played a lot of card games and Mario Kart. My dad was set on fixing the antenna himself in order to avoid being over-charged by the rental company. A project which my brother and I were happy he  had. It served as a distraction to keep him from driving everyone else crazy the entire time.

Over the next three weeks we did everything from accidentally leaving my mom at a restaurant to spilling the septic tank all over the gas station’s parking lot. My mom had a sore back for all 21 days and she made sure that everyone knew it. My dad would go through fast food drive-thrus and intentionally order the chile or whatever else might give him the worst gas. Bill and I would never get tired of tricking my dad into eating a stale french fry we found on the ground or tricking my mom into thinking that my dad took a wrong turn and we were in Oregon.

For the entirety of the trip, this song was playing in my head.

note: Bill ended up going to college down the road from our house.

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4 thoughts on “The Griswolds look at colleges

  1. Your dad reminds me of my grandfather who would lock the windows down when driving by a paper mill- it mimics the smell of a serious bodily directed explosion….

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