Shown Above: The traveling trio: Me, my sister, and the genius. CAUTION: Children in picture appear younger than they are in the story.
It started when I was six. By “it” I mean one of two things: my love of travel adventures or actually traveling. Up until my sixth year, I had only traveled around the great state of Minnesota, and most of that travel was in a strangely shaped pentagon that covered the area from where I lived in Lindstrom, Minnesota to St. Cloud, up to Brainerd over to Grand Rapids and east to Duluth and home. But the week I was to turn six years old—the adventures began and I have been collecting them ever since. I should probably state that I most certainly do not attempt to FIND these funny little anecdotes—really, they have all just happened.
And to think that it all started in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital. Though my heart may wander, I am a true American girl.
I trip to Washington D.C. is particularly memorable for me; however, it is down in the Hoolihan annals as the paragon of horror travel tales.
It was memorable for me, heading into it, because it was the first time I would every fly on a commercial jet plane! We had been treated to rides aboard my great-uncle’s sea-plane at times in our travels throughout Minnesota, but that was like riding in a really loud car. With wings. That had holes that were patched with duct tape.
THIS was a plane where you got to earn your wings and get served peanuts in a bag and even…a MEAL! Airplane food has come full-circle for me. It began as a novelty, progressed to the level of cafeteria food gone bad, and since it has become practically extinct—I find it to be quite novel once again.
My parents were traveling with three children between the ages of three and eight. One of the most annoying parts of having five people in your family—besides always being squished in the back seat of a car—is when it comes time to sit two-by-two, there is always the odd man out. When you are dealing with three children, the answer to who will sit alone is found somewhere in a delicate balance between fears: are you more afraid of your oldest child sitting by a creeper, or of the embarrassment that could be caused by two of your children being seated next to one another and the chaos that could ensue. In order to ensure that the Hoolihan family vacation/Dad’s business trip went as efficiently as possible, all children were required to wear backpacks with their entertainment items. I had a new set of Crayola markers in mine; I was ready to conquer this flight. The backpacks were to ensure that our hands were free to pull our own mini-suitcases. If we wanted it on the trip – we carried it. I still live by this rule.
All travel proceeded efficiently and cleanly and we all arrived at the hotel pool. Let’s face it – that is what we were most excited about. Some big tall pointy thing? Whatever… You want us to hang out in a cemetery? You might have to bury me there from holding my breath the whole time.
Honestly, besides these stories, the things I remember are Roy Roger’s restaurants. I fell in love with them. I also fell in love with their iced tea. Looking back on it, it was probably sweet tea. What six year old wouldn’t love a caffeinated beverage with a butt load of sugar? I have recently explained to my parents that my caffeine addiction stems from this point of time, and they truly are to blame. In addition to Roy Roger’s, we saw some lady at the Vietnam War Memorial whose finger nails were so long they curled around in circles – JUST LIKE IN OUR GUINESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS!
Also, did I mention it was August?
August in Washington D.C. is the equivalent of sitting in a sauna. So the pool – that was where it was at.
As the …outgoing…person that I am, I immediately made friends with the other children. As is usually the case when I make good friends, my friendship began to form within an equally stubborn, bossy and outgoing young gal. She was fun and she knew French!
Why did she know French?
Why, because she was daughter of the French ambassador, duh.
And so it came to pass that on my sixth birthday in Washington D.C., I celebrated not by watching the Fall Guy reruns on cable that had inspired my new career choice (What six year old girl doesn’t go through that “stunt performer” phase?), rather with my friend the Amabassador’s daughter at the pool. I might be making up the fact that there was ice cream, but there WAS a present. A Barbie doll: Which was perfect for showing people my future career’s stunts.
I also remember amidst the festivities, her father coming back to the hotel and angry words being spoken in French. She was removed from the pool area by her au pair never to be seen by me again. I would think of her sometimes in the future. She was always partying with Paris Hilton.
I dodged a bullet on that one!
How could anything in Washington D.C. compare to my brush with like…royalty?
I am not saying my mom literally set me up with the next story, but it sure blew my famous friends out of the rest of my family’s memory.
While my father was attending one of his work meetings, my mother decided to brave a trip away from the pool with the three of us alone. So she packed up the rental car and headed for the mall. No, not the National Mall of historic importance. The shopping mall in Virginia.
ALL RULES FOR TRAVELING APPLIED ON TRIPS TO THE MALL.
If you wanted to carry something, you had to carry it. Wanted your backpack? You wore it all day. There was one, teensy, weensy exception. The diaper bag. My sister still required it and that fateful diaper bag was the tipping point to travel doom.
Arriving at the mall, my mother was quite proud of herself. She had navigated there herself. She had three relatively happy children who were excited for an adventure. It was with these thoughts that her mind was filled as she grabbed the diaper bag, not her purse, as she locked the car.
In my mind, I remember going shopping. I picked out this super cool organizing tool for office supplies. All six year old wannabe stunt performers need those, just so you know for future reference. It was time to check out, because Claire was starting to smell, and mom realized she didn’t have her purse.
I had to put my fabulous find back.
In a panic, which just came across as a really crabby mom, we marched back to the car. I picture us crabbing about the heat the moment we touched the asphalt.
There, in the car far across the parking lot from the air conditioned loveliness of the mall was the locked rental car…and my mom’s purse. With the keys hanging from the front pocket.
My mom tried all the doors. They were indubitably locked.
The security guard in the parking lot came by, and tried to help, to no avail.
He called the cops to come and lend a hand—nothing would get those doors open.
So, we marched back across the heated desert of the parking lot (I swear I remember seeing heat waves rise off of it) towards the air conditioning.
Hooray, I had thought. Now we could shop again! And eat. I was hungry…
But we marched by the shop and the restaurant with food towards the pay phone bank in the mall. She used the quarter the men outside had given her to call the locksmith.
We journeyed once more across the desert.
The locksmith came.
He couldn’t get the car opened. New fangled “electric locks” in the car…his equipment didn’t work with that.
So we once again headed towards the oasis. I knew we would eat now. I was STARVING. I had, according to my mother, made this abundantly clear to her. To the locksmith. To the security guard. To the police officer.
Once again we by passed the good stuff in the mall for the super boring hallway with phones. My mother had been given yet another quarter to call the rental agency. So she called. She was transferred from person to person, and the Angel of Mercy (as I like to refer to her) who had been making a phone call nearby continued to feed quarters into my mother’s machine.
I continued to make sure that everyone knew that I was hungry.
After several heated conversations with the rental car company, it was determined that we would have to return to the airport to get a spare key for the vehicle.
In this moment of despair for my mother, the Angel of Mercy presented her with fifty dollars and her business card so she could pay her back. My mother grabbed a subway map and handed it to my ridiculously intelligent eight year old brother, and told him to figure out the best way to take the Metro to the airport. Then, thanks to my persistence, we stopped and got lunch.
It was amazing.
Then we got to do on the Metro adventure. It was not amazing. Actually, it was really hot and smelly. We got the key from the rental desk and got to visit the airport again…and returned to the mall in far better spirits than we had left.
Which lasted until we got to the car.
The key did. Not. Work.
So we marched back towards the mall that seemed to be mocking us at this point. You thought I would be fun but NOOOOO…we called the rental car agency and my mother told them that she had already paid for her stupidity and they needed to bring her a key.
Or BAMF…my mom is totally a BAMF.
So we waited. Again.
They came and it OPENED!!!!!
We made the final march back to the evil mall and celebrated with purchasing awesome office supply organizational tools and ice cream.
And then we left as fast as we could, because there was a hotel pool waiting.