At least we can laugh about it

“Didn’t you just want to say to that guy, ‘We’re going on a road trip!!!!’?!?!?” my mom asked me, referring to the cashier at Wal-Mart. The idea of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts had clearly gone to her head.

“Not really,” I said and yawned. Departure for South Carolina at 9:30 p.m. had dumped us at a Wal-Mart 40 minutes later.

We loaded the car and set off to hit a nearby Tim Hortons for Iced Cappuccinos. Mom rolled through a stop sign at the edge of Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Both of her hands left the steering wheel as she raised them in excitement on the main road. I noticed a cop sitting in the parking lot to our right.

“Mom…there’s a cop sitting right there.”

“So what? I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Lights turned on. His siren wailed. My mom’s face shone red and blue from the reflection in the rearview mirror.

“OH SHIT!” she said when she realized we were the culprits. She (just barely) pulled into the Tim Hortons parking lot and rolled down her window. “Hello, Officer.”

“Could I see your license and registration?”

I fished the registration out of the glove box, Mom retrieved her license from her wallet.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked. We told him “no.”

“You have a headlight out on your car,” he said.

He let us go, but warned us that we’d better change it before setting out for South Carolina. We had three options: 1.) Give up, go home and start again tomorrow during the day. 2.) Carry on and risk getting pulled over again – or worse – ticketed. 3.) Change the damn headlight.

You have to know that my mom NEVER gives up and NEVER settles. Guess which option we chose?

We drove back to Wal-Mart, purchased an H7 headlight, checked out at the jewelry counter (we didn’t feel like walking all the way down to the other end for registers) and set out to do what we needed. I called my brother to ask if he could help (he lives near the Wal-Mart), but he and his friends were too drunk.

My mom parked her red Suzuki Forenza (named Flo) under a light in the parking lot. I held the flash light while she rooted around under the hood, trying to extract the rotten bulb. When we got the bulb out, we realized we had taken out the high beam instead of the regular headlight. Well, fuck. We didn’t have the tools to get to the headlight. Dad wasn’t even able to change the left one on his own the week before; he’d taken it to a mechanic. But, remember, my mom NEVER gives up.

We piled back in and turned right out of the parking lot.

“Hey, there’s that cop again!” I said.

“Watch, he’ll pull us over… HE IS!!!” my mom exclaimed. Before he could turn his lights on, my mom turned into his parking lot. I rolled down the window and yelled “Hi, again!!!”

“Oh right… you’re the ones heading to South Carolina,” he said. (I think he thought we were lying. Who the fuck leaves for South Carolina at ten o’clock p.m.? We do.)

My mom explained that we were heading to our campsite fifteen minutes away to get the tools we needed.

“We’ll beep and wave when we drive by again!” she said. We drove away laughing our asses off.

At our campsite we broke fingernails trying to get the headlight into its place. Flo’s owner’s manual shows an easy way to extract the whole light unit from the car. We didn’t have the right tools to unscrew the bolt (of course). We worked with a pair of just-boughten pliers and our tiny hands.

Tempers rose. We screamed at each other. We threw around “Fuck!”s and “Goddammit!”s.

I tried to shove the bulb in its place. It got tangled in the wires and what we came to call the “spring thing.” I got frustrated.

Mom tried it. Got frustrated.

I tried it again.

It seemed to be an endless cycle.

Finally, over an hour later, “I THINK I GOT IT!” Mom exclaimed. “Quick! Get the cap on before it falls out of place!”

I screwed it in. We tested it. HALLELUJAH. It worked.

At one o’clock – four-and-a-half hours after our original departure – we set out again.

“This is a typical Steves family trip,” I said, laughing.

It took us over 16 hours to get to Columbia, South Carolina. It should have taken only 12.

It was well worth it.


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