8 August 2013

Car Dates

We've been back in Kinshasa for three days and you know what Elias misses about the United States?

Soda machines with touch screens.

Seriously, folks, did these things materialize in just the last ten months?  I'm personally glad he's back in the land of glass bottles with top removal that requires manual labor.  It's good for character.

You know what I miss?

Car dates. 

If you have kiddos (and probably even if you don't) you know that being locked in a car for hours with the people you love the most can be incredibly awful or super fabulous.

When fabulous, the experience is akin to an NPR "Driveway Moment."  You know:
“What is a Driveway Moment? You’re driving home, listening to a story on NPR. Suddenly, you find yourself in your driveway. Rather than turn the radio off, you stay in your car to hear the piece to the end.”
Sometimes, the special combination of close quarters and moving objects leads to enlightened discussion, quiet moments, forced meditation, or...a car date.  (Jerry Seinfeld obviously understands this concept.)

No, I don't mean like that.

A good car date doesn't just happen.  It is pretty much totally dependent on this backseat scene:

Once you realize that your kiddos have gone from barely-harness-able, car-allergic creatures to quiet sleep angels, the car date can begin.  

Suddenly, conversation need not be restricted with code words and knowing eye gestures (which don't even really work if the driver is responsible).  You're on your way to where ever you're headed, so nobody is waiting on you to do something else.  There is a fixed amount of time where you cannot be doing anything but talking about...whatever.  (Bonus points if one or both partners gets carsick and can't read while in motion.  The probability of quality car dates grows exponentially for these couples.)  

Johan and I have had some awesome fights in the car.  And I really do mean "awesome" in a non-facetious way.  Because in a car, being trapped within ten inches of each other, resolution is preferable to stoney silence.  

We've also done things like read Les Miserables aloud in the car as giddy, lovesick, 19 year-olds.  Planned grand moving schemes in the car.  Decided on baby names in the car.  And labored in the car.  (This was less of a date and more of Johan psychically willing me to not have a baby on Afton Mountain while kindly obeying my orders to not speak.  I - or LouLou - waited until about 20 minutes after hospital arrival, so we didn't get to add giving-birth-in-the-car to our repertoire.  But there was some good background music for ambience.)

Soon after the most memorable car date.

Car dates aren't so easy in Kinshasa.  Driving in Kinshasa requires one adult to use all their brainpower and adrenaline to drive while the other focuses on repressing strangled shrieks at all of the near misses along the way to somewhere as simple as the grocery store.  Or at least that's the way it is in our car.  (I'm not revealing who drives and who shrieks - it's far too stereotypical for my tastes.)

While I really love not owning a car, walking to work and school, and considering driving a treat rather than a necessity, there aren't a lot of roads around here where the white noise of the miles lulls the children to sleep and the parents into meaningful conversation.  

And I miss that. 


  1. Touch screens on soda machines? That's news to us!

  2. My husband and I look forward to road trips because we often get some of our best conversations happening there. We got engaged on a long road trip. And my friend DID give birth in her car :)

  3. Agreed, a car date is in a class by its self. But a close second is the car nap (the passenger, not the driver). You start one place, drift off into the bliss of sleep, and wake up in a whole new world.

    1. It's like being beamed to another place. Slowly beamed.

  4. I thought the same thing about the soda machines when I was in the States a few weeks ago! My South African husband thought it was the coolest thing that you could mix the sodas. Me: not so much.

  5. I haven't left the U.S. in two years and I've never seen touch screen soda machines! Maybe this is because I don't drink soda?


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