New rules of the road: The calm after the Storm
WHEN I learned that my old car, Silver Shadow, was in need of a new engine, I did what was best for everyone. I traded her in.
Even as I handed over the keys last week, I knew we'd all played a role in Silver Shadow's early demise. My kids subjected her to sticky candy and incessant bickering. LaVeta overused the passenger-side mirror for makeup application. And me? I drove Silver Shadow too hard, took her reliability for granted and treated her with the cavalier smugness of a boss who knows his employee has no place to go.
But life goes on, and replacing old friends is part of the natural order of things. With that thought in mind, I'm embracing my new car: a charcoal-gray Camry. We chose a name befitting her dark and mysterious nature: Quiet Storm. In the interest of treating her right, I'm putting new travel rules in effect - specifically where my kids are concerned. Hopefully, these guidelines will allow Quiet Storm to avoid Silver Shadow's fate. At the very least, they'll help me to maintain my sanity.
Rule No. 1 - Pillow fees. A few months back, LaVeta bought one travel pillow for each of our kids. The pillows have become a major point of contention. They've bickered over them. They've used them as weapons in particularly vicious pillow fights. And even when the pillows were used for sleeping, the drool factor has been pretty disgusting. Therefore, I'm limiting pillow use to one per passenger. Extras are available - for a $5-per luxury fee. Don't worry, kids. Your ice-cream truck money should cover it.
Rule No. 2 - Seat upgrades. Since I do not drive while implementing what is commonly known as the Gangsta Lean - putting my seat back so far that I'm virtually lying down - I know there's enough room in the backseat for a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. Therefore, moving my seat up will constitute a change in riding accommodations, propelling backseat passengers from coach to first class. That change will cost $10 per passenger, per occurrence. There is, of course, a silver lining. First-class passengers will receive moist towelettes and instructions on how to act snooty.
Rule No. 3 - Snack fees. Passengers will be permitted one trial-size bag of peanuts or pretzels. Potato chips or other fried snacks, such as french fries, are not permitted - they taste too good and are far too greasy to risk grinding into my rich fabric interior. Passengers also will be permitted to drink 4 ounces of water, but only with a straw, and only from a preapproved, spill-proof container. Additional snacks will not be allowed, as I have spent too many years wiping Now & Laters, jelly beans, ketchup, soda, Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Rolls from my carpets. Violation of this rule will result in a fine of $10 per person, per occurrence, and a one-week ban from further travel in Quiet Storm. I fully expect Little Solomon to break this rule in his relentless pursuit of greasy vending-machine snacks. I hope he's got his walking shoes ready.
Rule No. 4 - Bag fees. With fuel costs being what they are, I will be implementing bag fees. This was a hard decision, but Eve's bookbag often weighs as much as a small child. Since I have to drive her to school every day (unless, of course, she decides to sneak a french fry into the car, in which case she'll be walking), I am regrettably going to have to charge her $5 for any extra bag she brings along. And no, her pocketbook will not be counted as a carry-on.
Rule No. 5 - Entertainment fees. When Eve was little, India.Arie's song "Video" was all the rage. Eve constantly requested that we play the song, and it wreaked havoc with our well-being. I often found myself waking up in the middle of the night mumbling song lyrics while reaching into the darkness for a radio dial. No more. Passengers who desire to hear something other than NPR, sports radio or old-school hip-hop will be subject to a $5 entertainment fee.
Other rules will be instituted when appropriate, up to and including a "quiet car" rule for the backseat, a preride security check to screen for sticky candy and, if necessary, a partition to protect the driver from backseat terrorism.
Welcome to the family, Quiet Storm. We're going to do everything we can to keep you from going the way of your predecessor. While we're at it, we might just make a few bucks.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. More at Solomonjones.com.