We left Florida at 4 am to avoid the Thanksgiving mobs traveling on Sunday. Wanting to be home, my wife and kids got ready in silence and quietly folded themselves into the seats of the van. They were asleep before I cranked the engine. I got coffee and gas to keep me rolling through the dark as we headed north.
When we hit the Georgia line, I stopped to fill the van’s empty tank and empty my full one. While the gas poured, I stepped inside and had a good, long pee – the kind that makes you smile reflectively and wonder just how much the human bladder can hold. It was excellent.
When I returned, the pump was finished and no one inside was awake so I pulled out and resumed the trip.
A while down the road, one of the kids in the middle row yawned sleepily and asked, “Where’s Jenna?”
Through the rear view mirror I saw to my horror that third row was empty.
My mind jumped to one possibility – she had gotten out to use the restroom while I was enjoying my long pee at some gas station many miles south of us without me knowing. Think of it, she didn’t have her phone to call me – no one knows phone numbers anymore. I pulled over panicked because I have no idea what city I stopped in to get gas or how many miles separate us. How would I find out? Call the credit card company and ask where I charged the gas?
“Where is my child, Visa?”
It is now 7 am and I have to wake my wife up and tell her that I’ve lost one of the girls.
That, my friend, is utter panic.
This is the difference between travelling with young children and travelling now that they’ve become adults. As a child, she would have never wandered into a gas station alone, but now she is an adult and able to do things independently. Yet she’s not quite independent.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending because what actually happened was that she was responsible enough to tell her sister who, when I began to leave the gas station, said, “Dad, stop. We don’t have Jenna.”
Of course, I stopped and there she was standing at the entrance to the gas station with a bewildered look under her long curly hair. She climbed in and went back to sleep. But I was wide awake because for the next four hours I only considered the scenario I laid out earlier. That could have so easily happened. I had, “Oh crap” moments about every 30 minutes and checked the rear view mirror to count heads.
We now have new traveling rules for both driver and passengers.
- Passenger – Always take your phone with you if you get out of the car.
- Passenger – Don’t leave the car without telling the driver – someone else could go back to sleep.
- Driver – don’t pull out without a head count.
Also, and this goes for everyone, don’t get so lost in a good pee that you might lose a child. No pee is worth that.