I took six books with me for a two-week vacation. Since I also took my four children, we have a clear indication that I understand neither math nor children. This may also explain why I found myself, through a series of events with which I won’t bore you, driving a 14-passenger van into Washington, D.C. with three mothers and eleven children. That’s right, I was acting out my own version of Big Love, which is a lifestyle I simply cannot understand. It takes all my time and energy to disappoint one woman on a regular basis.
There I was nonetheless, dropping off my temporary brood at the National Building Museum to see the really amazing Lego exhibit. Then I set out to find parking. This is because I am an idiot who, in addition to understanding neither math nor vacations, has no spatial reasoning skills whatsoever. So around and around the Building Museum and its adjacent blocks I drove, waiting for the Parking Fairy to wave her magical traffic cone and materialize a spot especially for me, the guy who was sick the day they taught parallel parking in driver’s ed.
Did I mention that the National Building Museum is near Judiciary Square? The place crawling with armed local and federal officers? Let that picture sink in: me, a relatively tanned man with a goatee, irritated look on his face, circling the courthouse again and again in a large unmarked van. An ugly look from a guy with a big sidearm, the third time I circled past him, told me to take my quest elsewhere.
Eventually I tried a parking garage. The thing about parking garages is that they have low ceilings. They warn you about this with hanging bars that have the maximum height painted on them in big black letters. To be even more helpful, they suspend these bars at that very height. This particular garage, however, suspended its not-so-helpful height warning bar at the bottom of its steep, narrow entrance. Once I got the van down there, and heard the ominous thump-thump-thump of that bar tumbling over the top of this too-tall van, there was simply no place to turn around.
I broke into a sweat as I leaned over the steering wheel to scan the ceiling for pinch points, driving 0.0001 miles per hour to the great consternation of the motorcade behind me, praying God would reveal to me a place to turn around the van, wondering just what it would cost when I had to reimburse my friends for having the top of their van cut off with blowtorches and dragged out of there.
I got the van backed up, but the exit bar wouldn’t raise high enough, so I had to lean out the window and give it an extra boost as I inched out. More thump-thump-thumping as I went through. At the top of the narrow exit my sigh of relief was cut short as a woman in a Jaguar turned in, under the impression that she was driving one of those trucks that pulls motor homes, rather than a slender overpriced hunk of underperforming polished metal. No kidding, she had three feet of space to her right, which meant she needed my van to be about one foot narrower.
She gave me a look like she wanted me to suck in my gut and let her through. There was no way I was going back down into that hole again. So I held up one of those six books I never finished and waved it at her. “Lady,” I said, “I can sit here all day.”
She backed out in a huff. Eventually I found an open lot about a hundred miles away, and trudged to the museum, cursing the idiot who said we ought to go there first. But it turned out to be worth it, which is probably true of most of life, even when its details irritate the jujubees out of us.
I’ll probably turn this into a post-hoc travelogue for the next few days. Because it’s cheaper than therapy, which is often what many of us need after a vacation with family.