Last Friday I drove down to Philadelphia for a Challenged Athletes Foundation Mobility Clinic with my oldest son, Max. Here is our travelogue.
Friday, 8 AM
Drop my car off at the auto shop to get new tires. (The original ones had worn down to the point where they looked like black glass: smooth. Leave car in front of the unoccupied repair bay, give keys to mechanic. Walk half a mile to Starbucks to work. Look forward to getting the car back by noon so that I can get home, pack, and leave early for Philly with Max. (He attended a school trip Monday-Thursday and isn’t in school today, so I’m free to break out of Long Island early to beat Friday afternoon traffic.)
Friday, 11:30 AM
Haven’t heard from mechanic, so call to confirm that the super-complex task of taking off 4 tires and putting 4 new ones on has been completed. Learn, to my dismay, that my car has just been pulled into the garage. “We were backed up this morning,” is the explanation. Watch my chances of getting out by 2 pm diminish to about 5%.
Friday, 2 PM
Still haven’t heard from mechanic, so decide that inserting myself directly in front of him may expedite things. Arrive at garage to see my car sitting outside with 4 new tires. Stick my head in the shop and the mechanic informs me that he completed the job “two minutes ago.” I say “great” while thinking, “No [expletive deleted] way.”Give him Visa rather than fight about the relative merits of different credit card companies from the perspective of a small business owner. Fume.
Friday, 2:15 PM
Drive car to car wash for its quarterly cleaning. I do not clean my car more frequently because (1) it’s simply bound to get dirty again (exterior, because of rain/mud; interior because of 3 kids who believe that my car is actually a dumpster), and (2) it’s not the kind of car that, when clean, people look at it and say, “Oh, now that’s a gorgeous piece of machinery.”
Friday, 2:25 PM
Get back in car and assess interior. Decide that it’s now fit for someone to actually sit in the back seat without a hazmat suit. Drive home while advising Max by phone to get all of his stuff together because “We need to roll.” Mentally make note to self that “We need to roll” is a phrase that Max will probably use to make fun of me for the next 10 years, as he has just turned 14, and I have therefore officially become The Idiot Father Who Says Stupid Things Because When You Turn 14 Your Father Becomes Your Idiot Father.
Friday: 2:40 PM
Rush upstairs and start gathering clothes for Saturday. Grab running prosthesis. Remind myself to bring the cash sitting on my dresser downstairs so that I can pay tolls between here and Philly. Get rolling suitcase and go downstairs. Throw my stuff and Max’s stuff in. Ask Max if he’s got his toothbrush and other essentials. Get affirmative response. Put everything in car and prepare to leave. Climb into car. Climb out of car. Run back into house and upstairs to get cash that’s still sitting on the dresser.
Kiss wife and remaining kids goodbye. Note that wife is planting flowers and, unable to locate a trowel, spade, shovel, or any other instrument that remotely resembles a gardening tool, is using a kitchen spoon to dig holes in the soil. Advise her to get a trowel and am told in response that the spoon is working fine. I shrug and leave with Max. It is now 3:15 PM.
Friday: 3 PM
Reconfirm with Max that he packed toothbrush and other essentials. He responds, “I thought you grabbed them,” and goes back to listening to his music on headphones. Congratulate myself on bringing extra toothbrush for my 14 year-old son.
Friday, 3:57 PM
Drive past the exit for JFK Airport on the Belt Parkway. Belt is clear and we’re cruising. Should be in Philly in time to grab dinner with friends who have made it there already for tomorrow’s Mobility Clinic. Only 29 miles from New Jersey.
Friday, 4:02 PM
Traffic is stopped. Stopped. I hate the Belt.
Friday, 5:02 PM
I have not yet reached the Verrazano Bridge, much less New Jersey. I text my friends to advise them that we will not be making dinner. Curse the Belt.
Friday, 6:02 PM
Cross the Goethals Bridge into NJ. Get onto New Jersey Turnpike. Max notes that he’s hungry and I resign myself to the fact that instead of eating at a decent sit-down restaurant in Philly, we will be pulling over at a rest stop to gobble down fast food.
Friday, 6:15 PM
Pull into the Thomas Edison Rest Area on the New Jersey Turnpike. Do the math in my head and figure out that it has taken me 2 hours and 13 minutes to travel the last 37.5 miles. Note that in the time it has taken me to cover that distance, I’m usually able to get from my house to Philadelphia. Stomp into rest area with Max in tow.
Friday, 6:20 PM
Stand in line for Burger King. Max wants Chicken Tenders. This seems like a fairly basic Burger King staple. However, no Chicken Tenders are in evidence at this particular Burger King. At 6:20 PM. (A time generally associated with, oh, I don’t know, dinner?)
Friday, 6:30 PM
Watch the Chicken Tenders get pulled out of the deep fry machine.
Friday, 6:35 PM
Watch the Chicken Tenders get put into a box. Marvel at Max’s patience. He really likes Chicken Tenders.
Friday, 6:40 PM
Sit down to watch Max eat Chicken Tenders.
Friday, 6:55 PM
Leave rest stop. Get back onto Turnpike and praise the smoothly flowing traffic.
Friday, 7:06 PM
Throw on brakes as traffic slows to a standstill. Waze iPhone navigation app advises me that there’s an accident ahead. Contemplate throwing phone out window in disgust, but refrain since loss of my phone will mean listening to Max’s music the rest of the trip. Decide that risk of Chris Brown and Flo Rida outweighs benefit of making myself feel better by tossing my phone to burn off anger.
Friday, 9:15 PM
Arrive at Philadelphia Marriott. Note that it has taken 6 hours to drive what should take 2 hours and 30 minutes. Find solace in fact that it’s still early enough to catch the end of both the Red Sox and Celtics gamess against the Philadelphia Phillies and 76’ers, respectively.
Friday, 9:20 PM
Get in room. Red Sox not on TV, but are trailing 2-1 in the 8th. Celtics up by 20 shortly before halftime. Figure the night isn’t a total loss and settle in to watch the Celtics coast to victory.
Friday, 10 PM
Red Sox have lost already. Celtics have committed 17 turnovers and have let the Sixers pull even. Contemplate organizing talking points for Mobility Clinic since I have to speak about something for 10 minutes. Decide to watch the end of the game instead. Assume that a scintillating Celtics win will put me in a creative, positive mood.
Friday, 10:30 PM
Celtics have blown the lead and the game. I would scream into my pillow but fear that I’ll wake up Max, who has crashed and burned. Struggle for 30 minutes to compile a bare bones outline for my Saturday morning speech.
Friday, 11:10 PM
Cry myself to sleep.
Saturday, 5:45 AM
Wake up. Realize I have completely forgotten everything I wrote down on paper last night for today’s speech. Jump into shower and get dressed. Wake up Max. Stumble downstairs to grab breakfast while looking at crumpled piece of paper with speech outline.
Saturday, 6:25 AM
Sit down at the trendy Marriott restaurant. Order breakfast. Note that Max is wearing a Celtics hat, a Red Sox t-shirt, and a Patriots windbreaker. Question whether Max will make it to noon alive in Philadelphia.
Saturday, 7:00 AM
Climb into car with Max and Scout Bassett to head to park for Mobility Clinic set-up. Congratulate myself on cleaning the car yesterday, as Scout would no doubt never speak to me again if she had to sit in the back of what was a landfill only 18 hours earlier. Listen to Max and Scout talk about Dr. Dre Beats headphones and Flo Rida. Feel very old. And tired. And old.
Saturday, 7:15 AM
Arrive at park. Meet several peers from my company who have traveled from New Jersey to volunteer time at the Mobility Clinic. Watch them assemble tables and various other items in the time it takes me to figure out how to open one plastic tube holding a metal stand. Feel incompetent.
Saturday, 7:45 AM
Give Max green light to play on the field with a soccer ball that has materialized from somewhere.
Saturday, 8:45 AM
Get pulled aside by Max who wants me to see tattoo on one clinic participant’s leg. Dotted line around mid-tibia with small scissor icon and the words, “cut here”. Silently question what happens if person already down 1 limb ends up in a hospital sometime in the future with injuries to sound leg and this tattoo. Max takes photo and uploads to Instagram.
Saturday, 9:00 AM
Mobility Clinic kicks off. Huge turnout. Gorgeous day.
Saturday, 11 AM
Scott Chenoweth, husband of Peggy Chenoweth, the Amputee Mommy, asks if I would like him to take video of my upcoming speech. I decline the offer, saying I don’t really want to hear or see myself after the fact.
Saturday, 11:45 AM
Stand in front of 50+ people and realize I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to say. Open mouth. Start talking.
Saturday, 11:52 AM
Close mouth. Note that audience is still awake. Congratulate myself. Max proudly informs me that he has taken video of my talk. Thank him while considering whether I would rather watch the clip or stand in front of the Acela that will be cruising out of the Philly train station any minute now on the tracks 200 yards behind me.
Saturday, 12:15 PM
Say my goodbyes and take Max to lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. Get lost. Arrive at Hard Rock 35 minutes after leaving the Mobility Clinic. It was only 1.9 miles away. Next to the hotel we stayed at the previous night.
Saturday, 1:30 PM
Watch Max, in response to My Chemical Romance video flashing onto TV screen, stand up and raise both arms triumphantly above his head. No one else in the Hard Rock finds this strange.
Saturday, 1:48 PM
Use Hard Rock restroom. Upon entering, note that there is a bizarre tile altar of sorts between the sinks and urinals that serves no apparent purpose. Max proclaims it the coolest thing he has ever seen in a bathroom and proceeds to climb on it. Twice.
Saturday, 1:50 PM
Leave Hard Rock. Max implores me to wait a few minutes just outside the doors to listen to guitarist sitting on sidewalk. Guitarist opens his mouth and starts singing. After hearing second word come out of singer’s mouth, Max looks at me and says, “Um. We can go,” with a tone that implies he is suffering physical pain from (a) having to listen to singer, and (b) having wasted 27 seconds of his life waiting to hear this guy sing. He is right on both counts.
Saturday, 2:00 PM
Get to 3-lane exit of parking garage. Position my car behind vehicle that has clearly been there the longest and that should therefore be the first one to complete paying. Watch driver fail to reach payment machine from car. Watch him open car door halfway and wedge his body halfway through door window while standing on 1 leg. Watch him fail to insert card into machine. Repeatedly. After 3 minutes, change lanes and pay. Leave. Idiot who can’t figure out how to pay is still at the machine, door open.
Saturday, 3:45 PM
Exit Verrazano Bridge and get back on the Belt. Note that traffic is moving and congratulate myself on not getting stuck on the Belt twice in two days.
Saturday, 3:52 PM
Call my wife and inform her that I’m stuck in traffic on the Belt and will be home sometime on Sunday. Max falls asleep in passenger seat, leaving me alone to contemplate the misery that is my driving life for the next few hours.
Saturday, 5:45 PM
Can’t wait for next mobility clinic in New Jersey on June 10th!