Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life with Thelma and Louise

I won't be especially popular in my house by the dawn's early light, if either my daughter or my wife come across this -- not because I intend to write anything hurtful about either of them (they are 66% of my favorite people on the whole of the earth) -- but because they've heard all of this before and don't appreciate my playing to the cheap seats.

Sigrid, born and raised in (West) Germany, in Land Hesse, grew up, as many of her countrymen did, with a mass transit infrastructure the envy of most of the world. We are close in age, though she is younger--I mention this, because growing up in Central New Jersey is/was an entirely different experience than it was for her. When I met her thirty plus years ago she couldn't, and still doesn't, understand my fascination and devotion to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen, the patron saint of the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the NJ Turnpike.

Her life was bounded and measured by trains, trams, trolleys, buses and subways. Hemi-powered drones screaming down the boulevard prompts a 'wie, bitte?' response, at best, and, I won't tell the story now but eventually, I cannot think of Bruce Springsteen performing in Germany without thinking about a show in the Frankfurt Festhalle, my wife, and the kooky dancer who experienced the power and glory of Thunder Road. But that's for another time.

Sigrid doesn't drive. She is the navigator and the keeper of the compass and maintains both a remarkable sense of direction, as well as composure and a sense of humor, both with me (I often tell people had I been Columbus, there would be 300 million people living on top of one another in the Azores; I'd have never found the Americas in a million years) and with Michelle, our daughter-who-goes-to-college, who inherited both my five speed Mitsubishi Mirage as well as, unfortunately, my sense of direction.

The Mirage gets spectacular gas mileage, an important point for me, whose credit cards pay for all the gas and not so much for Michelle, who does me a favor when she occasionally remembers to check the oil when she gets gasoline. Michelle is home from college for the summer and is her mother's wheelman, or wheel person I suppose, is more accurate. Think: Driving Miss Daisy, but Jessica Tandy has John Banner's approximation of a German accent. You're welcome.

I'll come home and the house will be empty. We have long since stopped leaving notes on the board on the refrigerator intended and designed for such notes, because both of my women have long realized the man in the house's ability to NEVER look at the board, much less read anything written on the board, is the stuff from which legends are made. As the shadows lengthen in the late afternoon, having checked all the calenders in the house for appointment notations (none of my appointments ever make the calendars, which, considering I buy them, seems unfair, but only to me), I eventually attempt to ring Sigrid's cell phone.

My daughter, a full-fledged member of the Digerati, has her cell phone always on and accessible, as does her older brother. Neither of them get that from their parents, most especially their mother. I don't call Michelle as she's driving except or unless Sigrid has her phone's ringer turned off, or the phone itself is off, or more usually, the phone is so buried in her purse that by the time she finds it, it's gone over to voicemail. She always thinks this is hysterical no matter how often it happens (and often is the frequency with which it happens), me not so much.

Eventually I get her on the phone--and the Mirage is so small I can hear Michelle in the background with commentary and footnotes as Sigrid offers a narrative and status report on where the Vagabond Voyagers are at that moment and the estimated time of return. So far, a presentation of passports hasn't been necessary in their travels and travails, but there's a weekend coming up and I fully expect eventually to hear one or the other tell me, "Well, we're not in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from here." Just stay out of Arkansas, ladies; you know where I mean.
-bill kenny

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