It was hot.
Scorch-off-the-first-three-layers-of-skin kinda hot. When the 90-degree temps feel more like 110, and you don’t breathe the air so much as you drink it.
People stumbling by in muggy stupor, yelling, “It’s hot!” before ducking into the closest air-conditioned retail oasis in order to draw a full breath before passing out and becoming a fleshy, speed bump on the sidewalk.
And don’t be naive, my friend. No one’s gonna stop, lean over and ask if you’re OK. They’ll just step over you and mutter, “Must be from Canada, poor son-of-a-bugger,” and keep on walking.
Welcome to July in the Midwest.
So why on earth was I standing in line for a roller coaster at a packed theme park on the hottest day of the year, the rotten smell of dried puke and melted asphalt assaulting my very being?
The day started out nicely enough. My husband had plans, so I decided to introduce my six-year-old son to the magic of the amusement park.
Up to this point in his sheltered little life, his experience with carnival rides was limited to our local county fair each summer.
You know the ones.
Death traps run by questionable-looking people whose names are probably on a watch list with Homeland Security.
Not that I judge.
Well, OK. I do...moving along....
We grabbed snacks, jumped into the car for the 90-minute ride, Radio Disney blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out” (his selection, not mine), and all was right with the world.
For about five minutes.
Then the words all kids are hard-wired to utter within the first five minutes of any road trip anywhere in the world:
Are we there yet? (or whatever language that translates to around the globe...there are kids in a desert somewhere saying it in Swahili and some beleaguered parent ready to smack them off the camel).
I pointed to the Leaving City Limits sign and snarked, “What do you think?”
Without missing a beat, he replied, “I think this stinks.”
In the age of instant gratification where he can nuke macaroni and cheese in the microwave and have it piping hot in three minutes flat, five minutes was an absolutely, mind-numbing and terrifying form of Guantanamo Bay-like torture.
The next few minutes went like this.
Son: “I’m tired of riding in the car.”
Me: “Play with your video game.”
Two minutes later.
Son: (tossing game onto the seat) “I’m bored.”
Me: “Let’s play the I Spy Game.”
Three minutes later.
Son: “I don’t wanna play that game any more...are we there yet?”
Me: (that thumping noise you hear is the sound of my head hitting the steering wheel...repeatedly) “Do you see any roller coasters yet?”
Son: “No. Just cows. Oh, look! That one’s going to the bathroom! That’s awesome!”
Me: (looking up and thanking the Lord Almighty for throwing a pooping cow my way)
Son: “OK. Now what?”
Me: (looking up and asking the Lord Almighty for a pooping horse, sheep, goat, hillbilly or all of the above; I’m not picky)
Son: “Uh, Mom? Can you hear me?”
Me: (no, mom has left the building...er...the car...and is recalling with great fondness those magical days BEFORE giving birth to the antichrist)
Me: (son-of-a-b####) “WHAT?!”
Son: (realizes he’s activated the launch sequence on my temper and the past threats of military school might finally come to fruition, but that doesn’t stop the little squirt from whining) “When are we gonna get there?”
Me: “If you don’t sit there and be quiet, I’m turning this car around and we’re going home!”
I gripped the steering wheel with bone-tight fingers and asked myself, When did my dad get in the car?
Son: “OK, Mom. I’m sorry.”
Me: (looking up and thanking Dad in heaven for his divine intervention; reminding me that the circle of life is just one big cosmic joke and that one day my son is gonna be having this very same conversation with is own devil spawn)
I smiled gleefully and began humming, “Who Let the Dogs Out.”