All the Darke County school-aged children have had a couple of weeks off for Christmas break. They’ve had days’ and days’ worth of sugar plumb visions dancing in their heads, Lord knows how much actual sugar coursing through their veins, their synapses firing Gatling-gun style in response to eight-hour sessions with their new (or old) gaming systems. And their vacation-induced sleep patterns?! Oh, my.
Our own holiday was a little different this year. We spent it in Arizona, as I informed you two weeks ago, among the cactus and the palm trees in the cool, dry Sonoran desert. Oh, yes, it was heaven while it lasted: gluttonous buffet breakfasts for the missus and I; late night swim and hot-tub runs with the children, followed by (mostly) unsupervised time with the PS Vita or watching “Chopped” on the Food Network. We let them stay up late since there was no reason to awaken early on any of our vacation mornings. It was a little slice of heaven for all concerned.
Ah, but the Day of Reckoning finally arrived—our red eye flight, departing on Monday afternoon (Arizona time) and arriving in Indianapolis around midnight (Ohio time). I was worried how this might go down. After all, we had been out west a little over a week and had finally adjusted to the Mountain time zone. Now we were having to reverse course, and were going to LOSE two hours in the process. This could get ugly.
We packed our bags and grabbed some lunch, took a quick drive around the University of Arizona campus, and returned our rental car. Then on to the airport where we made quick work of the security line and waited for the plane. We boarded and settled in for a quick flight to Las Vegas, where we’d catch our connection to Indianapolis. So far, so good.
In Las Vegas we had an hour and a half (or so said our itinerary) to eat something and venture to the next gate. We disembarked from our first plane, scanned the jumbo screen for departure information, and ambled in the direction of our designated gate. The walk was a quick one, and the amigos quickly found suitable accommodations: Daniel in a seat with one of his Batman graphic novels, Abby lounging in another section of the gate (I suspect so that she didn’t have to be seen with her out of touch, outdated, clueless, middle-aged old man) with “my” Ipod touch, and Luke at a charging station with his tableau of Rubik’s cubes to one side of him and his hand-held device front-and center. His ear phones with attached microphone were affixed oh-so-perfectly on his head and he chatted away with some dude on another continent as they jointly played heaven-knows-what. He looked like a very undersized business traveler suffering from a serious case of arrested development. I hurriedly fetched a bag of Teddy grahams, trail mix, and a bottled water and distributed this pathetic evening meal to my bizarre trio. They gobbled away contentedly, scarcely acknowledging my existence.
I glanced over to the desk at our gate and groaned. A delay. Initially, it was registered as a mere 20 minutes, but it grew. And grew. And grew. Some two or three hours later our crew, now growing weary, boarded the jet and hunkered down for a lengthy cross-country flight, none of them sleeping a wink, of course. By the time we landed, retrieved our luggage, and found our car in economy parking, it was somewhere in the vicinity of 3 a.m. The amigos and Mrs. Swensen lumbered in the van and immediately fainted. Yours truly turned on the ignition and tried his level best to keep his eyes wide open while applying the right amount of pressure on the gas pedal.
I got to Richmond before I felt the gentle pull of slumber beckon me, so I shook my head like a dog trying to dry himself, and blew short bursts of air through my teeth in an effort to summon a greater level of consciousness. It worked for a few miles. I was on the stretch between New Paris and New Madison when I nearly drifted asleep again. Thanks to the sight of a hapless (and large) raccoon ambling slowly across the highway, I jolted awake—this time for good—as poor Rocky marched to a spot on the road which I could not possibly avoid. I whacked him solidly at 60 mph and he careened off my front bumper, blood and fur and spittle spinning through the early morning misty air, straight into raccoon Valhalla.
I was quite alert after that impromptu meeting, thankyouverymuch, and pulled into the driveway 20 minutes later. Krista and I shoveled the kids into the house and threw them in their beds, dragged the suitcases and trip detritus into a downstairs hallway to be dealt with later, and collapsed in two separate heaps ourselves. Ten hours later the cat sat on my face, stared in my eyes, and meowed.
And though I don’t speak cat (Abby and Luke claim to), even I know what Graystripe was saying: “Welcome home, master. It’s time for detox.”
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.