Today started off like many of the other days of our vacation: we woke up late, we watched a bastardized version of The Ugly Duckling (the duck wasn't ostracized for appearance but was rather unable to swim to the duck mixer in the lake; once he'd learned everybody welcomed him), and then we went to breakfast. We ordered, sat down, and waited for them to bring us our food.
As we waited, a woman came into the restaurant with her son, about a year younger than my son. He had a Ben 10 Omnimatrix watch, so the boy was very interested in him. I found the mother much more noteworthy.
For breakfast she'd decided to dress in a T-Shirt and flip-flops. Not an overly large T-Shirt, either; a gray tank-top t-shirt/dress that reached just below her hips.
Because this is New Mexico, the A/C was going strong. Because she had no bra, her high-beams were clearly visible to passing traffic. Because I am a male, I noticed immediately.
She chose a table behind and beside us, meaning that she was to Wifey's back. The boy and I, though, were facing her and had a front seat for the show.
During breakfast, her son decided he did not want to go to Carlsbad Caverns. This caused no small amount of consternation to her, so they argued. Eventually he ended up with his head in her lap wallering around as she comforted him. Inside my head, I received the following signal:
"CODE BLUE ALERT! Snatch view available at 11:00! DO NOT OBVIOUSLY LOOK! This is a critical situation that could lead to bodily harm from several quarters. That is all!"
Yes, apparently she'd not put on underwear, either, and between her son's rolling around and her somewhat indelicate sitting position her nether regions were well-exposed to the general public, including me. Usually to get a show like this from a stranger there's a cover charge, and it’s not in a family environment.
About that time, the well-behaved teenagers from the water park entered to have their breakfast, and chose to sit down at a table between us and Ms. Stone, thus blocking my view. Judging from the amount of whispering and nudging, they got a similar show to me, which prompted them to all get up and leave with their hands in their pockets before their pancakes even came.
As we left, the boy decided to stop and engage her son in conversation.
"Where did you get that cool Ben 10 watch?" he asked the boy.
"My daddy ordered it off the Internet." the child said.
"Can we please order one off the Internet?" the boy asked me.
"We'll see," I said. I was still trying to figure out how to surreptitiously slip a dollar into her tank-top for the show.
"You look very young," said the boy to the woman. "Are you a grown-up?"
"Of course I'm a grown up," she said. "But thank you."
"Why do you think she doesn't look like a grown-up?" asked Wifey.
"Because instead of fur on her vagina like you, she doesn't have any fur, like my sister."
I spit coffee all over the woman, the boy, and Wifey, thus distracting them from what could have potentially been an awkward situation.
After we'd loaded up the van and had a brief conversation about what are and aren't appropriate conversations in breakfast restaurants in high-decibel voices, we were ready to get underway. We swung by the ice machine on the way out of town, hoping to fill our cooler, but it’d been auctioned off the previous day.
It was time to leave town, and head for our next stop: beautiful San Antonio.
This was the one stop that the entire family dreaded. I was taking them there to see the Alamo, the closest thing to Thermopylae that you’re going to get in North America. It is also the origin of our home state’s motto (Tennessee: the volunteer state) and thus plays an important part in our heritage.
Nobody in the family wanted to hear any of that. Wifey was not at all interested, and the only way I’d gotten the children to agree to come was to offer to buy them coonskin hats and rifles.
“What if you can’t buy those at the Alamo?” Wifey asked me.
“Then this is not the America that I knew, and I no longer want to be part of this country,” I said. “Davey Crockett didn’t die here for nothing, you know.”
So we had an eight-hour drive to San Antonio planned, followed by an evening on the Riverwalk, then a morning at the Alamo and a drive to Little Rock the next day. As I said, we were off.
We drove for hours and hours, eventually reaching a little town in Texas right on I-10 (I never did see its name). It was one of these dusty towns where they have a handful of restaurants and cheap hotels and not much more. This one, though, had a difference: it had a combination KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.
I had to stop, just for the novelty of the whole thing. Plus, Wifey wanted Taco Bell, and I was eager to please her after forcing her to wash her hair a second time that morning to get coffee stains out of it.
As we entered, a one-eyed man limped out of the restaurant.
“Don’t go in there!” he seized my shoulders, his single eye pleading. “There is nothing but woe inside!”
“Um, thanks for the advice,” I said. “But we’re really hungry!”
“Fools!” he cackled madly. “Fools!”
I wish I’d listened to the crazy drifter.
Inside, there were thirty tables, almost all empty. Two of them were clean, and by clean I mean “not heaped with food scraps or pools of unidentifiable liquids.” They were also the only ones occupied.
A garbage can had overflowed onto the floor and attracted several flies in the center of the restaurant, but nobody seemed to care. I had a brief discussion with myself about whether or not to call this to Wifey’s attention, and ultimately decided not to.
After all, we had hand sanitizer; we could just spritz that over all the surfaces and the food and we’d be good to go, right?
So we ordered, and I took special pains to ensure that every single item for Wifey, the boy, and the girl came without lettuce. They hate lettuce. I think they believe that an animal must die in order to make a true meal.
I’m largely agreed, but I don’t mind a nice side salad along with my slab of carcass.
Fortunately when it came time to pick the table the boy had to go to the bathroom. So I took him, leaving the choice of which filthy table to clean up to Wifey.
I will not describe the bathroom, other than to say the choice between the corner, the sink, and the toilet had not been uniformly decided by previous visitors, so we didn’t really labor over it, either. We just did our business, didn’t touch anything, and left.
Wifey had just finished hosing down the table with sanitizer and wiping it up when we returned. After dipping into it for ourselves (I put a shot down my pants, just in case), the boy and I took a seat. I began to unwrap the food as Wifey busied herself getting straws, napkins, and sauce packets.
(Brief tangent: what’s with the stupid phrases on taco bell sauce packets? I find them more annoying than cute. They could at least feature fun facts, like “Did you know that 3% of every taco is made from hog anus?” Instead we get “Was it good for you?” and questions from our eight-year-old about what that means.)
Lo and behold, in a restaurant this well-run, Wifey’s food came up no lettuce. The girl’s food came up no lettuce (to be fair, it wasn’t supposed to come with lettuce, so this is only a moral victory). The boy, though, had lettuce.
Now, listen, I might be a pussy with teenagers, but I’m more than happy to take stuff back. But judging from this Taco Bell/KFC, if we made it out alive we were doing well. I had no illusions that this would be satisfactorily remedied. So I began taking the lettuce off of his taco.
Wifey returned with a handful of napkins. “What are you doing?”
She said this in the voice typically reserved for when the children are blatantly violating a rule, like preparing to turn the blender on with fish inside it. I looked up at her, steam pouring forth from her ears, and cringed. “I’m taking the lettuce out of his taco.”
She held out her hand. “Give me the taco.”
“You don’t like lettuce either,” I pointed out.
“They will fix this taco,” she declared. “Or they shall pay.”
I handed her the taco and she stormed back to the counter, lightning flashing as she went. I’ll admit it: I was slightly aroused. I was terrified, too.
“This taco was supposed to be no lettuce,” Wifey said. “It has lettuce on it.”
“You didn’t ask for no lettuce,” said the woman.
“I distinctly asked for no lettuce on the chicken taco. This is the only chicken taco.”
“You didn’t say no lettuce,” the woman said stubbornly. “I made it just like you ordered. You said no lettuce on the beef taco.”
“I said no lettuce on the beef taco, and also no lettuce on the chicken taco.”
“But the other tacos had lettuce,” the woman said. For some reason, simply exchanging the taco was not on the menu.
“That has nothing to do with those tacos,” Wifey said. “This one should have no lettuce.”
“You asked for lettuce,” the woman said.
Wifey began to purple. “Oh, shit,” I said to the children. “Get ready to run.”
“Do you know what the economic principle of opportunity cost is?” Wifey asked the woman.
“No,” the woman said.
“You have to opportunity to exchange this chicken taco for a chicken taco with no lettuce,” Wifey said sweetly. “If not, it will cost you.”
“What’s it gonna cost me?” the woman asked.
“I’m going to tear your ear off and throw it in the deep fryer.”
“Was that a chicken soft taco or hard taco?”
Wifey returned, and we ate a meal in terrified silence. I did give a quick squirt of sanitizer in the taco, though, just to be sure.
On the way out, we stumbled across another family on the way in.
“Flee!” I wailed at them. “If you value your lives or your sanity, flee now and never return!”
For my consideration I got sprayed with pepper spray, and the little kid bit me in the shin.
We stopped next door to get some gas for the car (having gassed ourselves up quite adequately). As I filled the car, I saw a pickup truck go driving away and lose a dog out the back. It wandered about, dazed but unharmed. Another pickup arrived, and loaded the dog into the cab.
“How strange,” I remarked to Wifey. “It’s like a dog swap.”
Several minutes later, the first truck returned, and the second man quickly retrieved the dog and handed it over. The first man thanked him, got in his truck, and drove away. Inside, the man told the cashier that he didn’t know either the dog or the other guy, but that “I know what it’s like to be alone and afraid, so I figured I ought to help that poor dog. That man would come back eventually.”
It’s good to be back in the south.
We pulled back onto the interstate, past the woman dressed as a green-haired troll doll trying to hitch a ride (good luck with that), and got back underway. Much, much later that afternoon we finally arrived in San Antonio. We’d gone for about four hours without stopping.
And I’d drunk the entire contents of a Mountain Dew big gulp that I’d bought full at the last stop.
I had to pee. I had to pee bad.
We were staying at the Hilton Hotel Palacio del Rio in the center of town. Did you know that there’s a lot of stop lights as you wind your way to the Palacio del Rio downtown?
And I had to pee. I had to pee bad.
When we finally got to the hotel, the GPS told us we were there and refused to help us further. Only, it was on the left, and there was a median. There were no signs for “Hilton Parking.” And the street adjacent was one-way.
And I had to pee. I had to pee bad.
Fortunately, I flipped a U-Turn (possibly legal) and pulled into the tiny slot for checking in in front of the Palacio del Rio. I was blocking traffic, but I jumped out and ran in.
Because I had to pee. I had to pee really bad.
Inside the Palacio del Rio, there is no bathroom on the first floor. I know because I ran up and down the length of it grabbing myself like a four-year old yelling “where’s the bathroom I gotta pee really bad!” and finally a guy took pity on me and told me it was on the second floor.
I don’t know about bathrooms on the second floor, but I did find a plant in a round white pot that looked kind of like a toilet. When I was finished, it sure smelled a lot like a toilet.
Downstairs, I checked in to the Palacio del Rio. We had a nice room, overlooking the Riverwalk, just like I’d reserved, which was mildly surprising to me given that this was the Hilton. Do you want to know the six ways that Holiday Inn is better than Hilton?
1) Holiday Inn is less expensive but the room is pretty much the same.
2) Holiday Inn has in-room wireless for free, and Hilton charges you 9.95 for one day, the bloodsucking bastards. There are cheap 29.95 motels with free wireless; why not you, Hilton? They’re called amenities. You should offer some.
3) Holiday Inn has free coffee all damn day. Hilton has “juice mixers” from 4 to 6 where metrosexual losers sit around and whine about the stock market.
4) You can park next to a Holiday Inn. At the Hilton you can pay $35 for valet parking, or $22 to self-park half a mile away.
5) At Holiday Inn you get the room you reserved, but at Hilton you get offered a king bedroom smoking. Yes, I am still bitter about this.
6) There is no “Rome Holiday” running around making skanky sex tapes and getting DUI arrests and bringing shame to her family and herself. That kind of tawdry pantyless behavior is okay at breakfast, but all the time just becomes tacky.
After dinner at a fine restaurant (McDonald’s, which is what I get for letting the children choose) we went on a boat tour of the Riverwalk. It was really nice, and everyone quite enjoyed it. As we disembarked, the children both wanted a dollar to tip the boatman.
“He was really funny, wasn’t he, daddy?” asked the girl.
“Yes he was, honey.”
“I didn’t get any of his jokes, though. But I laughed anyway.”
Ah, to be a child again.
Tomorrow: Remember the Alamo!