Ever notice how driving down the freeway tends to have certain qualities that replay themselves over and over, just different characters to fill the roles? I was driving our 15-passenger boat (Ford E350 van) down the freeway the other day, doing a respectable 75 mph, when I came upon a slower moving vehicle in the right lane, the lane in which I happened to be driving in. I did what the good, diligent driver does, glanced in my mirrors and, upon noticing the nearest car behind me in the left lane was many, many car lengths behind, I transferred lanes to the left. As I was passing the slower moving vehicle, I noticed an immediate surge in the speed of the car behind me and soon I could feel the familiar sensation of testosterone breathing down my neck. I kept my passing speed at approximately 78 mph and soon was able to change lanes back to the right. Sure enough, a big-chested male driver surged past me on the left, like I had just inconvenienced him in his afternoon drive. He didn't get far because the vehicles in front of him weren't going any faster than I had been driving. I sometimes get this feeling that whenever anyone sees this bus-like van pull out anywhere near them, they automatically feel that since it's so huge, it's incapable of driving any faster than 55 mph, increases only about 2 mph every minute, and it stops for every railroad crossing. Did I remember to mention that this little mini-bus has a V10 engine in it? It is a mother's version of a Corvette, my dream sports car! For now, I have the best of both worlds. I can have my troops of five as well as any friends, pets or the like we may have travelling with us, and still maintain my dignity of blowing most other cars, trucks or vans out of the water if I decide to put the pedal to the metal!
Speaking of my little cherubs riding behind me...one major disadvantage of having such of a large vehicle is that it is incredibly difficult to hear anything that anyone is trying to say to me from the rear of the vehicle. Yesterday, for example, I had my youngest daughter with me as I was driving out to my sister's for an afternoon of visiting, drinking coffee and eating caramel rolls. All of the other girls are in school so it was just our toddler and me in the van. She recently decided that she wants her car seat in the 3rd bench back (there are 4 benches total). We actually have the first bench out so we can tote strollers, dogs, luggage, and so on in the space between the two front captain seats and the beginning of the kid passenger area. This makes it a little more challenging to hear the kids because the closest they can sit to us is two bench spaces back. This wouldn't be such of a bad setup except that we still can hear all the fighting but can never hear when a kid has something to tell us in a normal voice. Such as yesterday. Our 3-year-old was sitting directly behind me, in a place where I couldn't even read her lips in the rear view mirror if I tried. To add to the difficulty in our communication, she almost constantly has a pacifier in her mouth, which she can talk around amazing well. During our whole drive, I could hear this drone of a voice coming from behind me. Was it my daughter trying to communicate with me or the howl of the wind surging past our fast-moving vehicle, or the hum of the semis that were pretty much beside me the whole way? I never was entirely certain until I could suddenly hear this hideous, "MOM!! MO-O-O-M!!!" coming from that 3rd bench. So I would ask, "What?" only to hear the drone start again. I would occasionally try to urge her to try asking the question or tell me her comment using the same volume she had just screamed "MOM!" with, but she just didn't get it. It was a little easier when she would say, "Wight, Mom? Wight?" and I could just wing it and say, "Yup!" and hope for the best. Pretty soon though she began to add in, "Can I Mom? Can I? MOM, CAN I?" and I would toss an, "Um, sure!" over my shoulder, hoping again that my answer would suffice the question. It obviously wasn't a believable answer because an incredulous, "CAN I?" would follow. Finally we got to our exit and all the noises that accompany higher speed freeway driving stopped and I could hear her clearly. Then I realized what she kept asking over and over (because then the rest of our trip, which was mostly 30-45 mph driving after that and I could hear her clearly asking the same question continually) was, "Can I ride in that truck Mom?" and I would say, "Oh sure!" She would say, "Can I Mom? Can I?" and I would say, "Sure!" She would continue to ask, "Can I?" in a disbelieving tone until I would finally say, "Okay, absolutely not!" which would then be inevitably followed by, "Can I ride in that car then, Mom...Can I, can I?" to which the exact same scenario would follow every time!!! This continued until we got to the edge of the towns we had to pass through and just were entering the country. At the edge of town happened to be an elementary school that has a couple of very attractive playgrounds, which of course did not escape the notice of my observant 3-year-old. At this point, she began the next drill of, "Where is that park now, Mom? Huh, where is that park now? MOM, where is that park???" This continued the last 7 miles or so of our journey to my sister's house, AND, 2 hours later, just as we left from there, began again until we spotted the playground again! Thank goodness she fell asleep right after that so I didn't have to endure the painful drilling of, "Can I ride in that car Mom...Can I, huh, can I?" AGAIN!!!!!