There’s a Madman on the Loose

Most families have a special tradition they repeat every vacation. Normal families do things like take family photos, send postcards, or buy cheesy souvenirs. Our family buys t-shirts. Not just any t-shirts. Since we pretty much only vacation in Florida, thanks to Mom’s obsession with the beaches, we have all amassed a collection of Florida restaurant t-shirts. Right now, in my t-shirt drawer, I have at least half a dozen, and combined, we own enough to open a t-shirt shop of our own. We skip past the sea shells, the framed pictures, the cheap figurines, and the ornaments, and head straight to Hog’s Breath, Fudpuckers, Harry T’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, and all the other famous Florida restaurants. Thursday’s mission was t-shirt purchases. We hit Hog’s Breath first. This was a first for us; all our Hog’s Breath t-shirts are from Key West–I didn’t even know they had a Hog’s Breath in Destin. Once we’d all settled on our colors (we only go for the classic design, but everybody gets a different color), we headed to the dive shop to rent SCUBA tanks. Dad and I were going to take Tyler diving Friday morning. After tanks, we took off back down the main drag to the outlet mall to buy sunglasses. The blinding Florida sun was starting to get to Tara and me. It seems like such an easy process: five adults, one baby loaded into an SUV, driving down the road to the mall. But, with Dad driving and Mom in the same vehicle, well, it can only spell disaster.

First of all, I can only describe Dad’s driving technique as insane. It’s as if there’s a checkered flag and a finish line at our destination, and the winner gets the prize. Unfortunately, all the other drivers out there haven’t yet gotten the memo, and this infuriates Dad to no end. He whips in and out of traffic like a crazed bicycle messenger in New York, and we all just close our eyes and hope for the best. Well, all of us except Mom. She points out yellow lights, other cars, police cars, and shouts out various things like, “Carlon, you’re following too close!” or “Carlon, slow down!” The rest of us not only know better, but we’d never get away with criticizing Dad’s driving (we learned a long time ago never to bring up that subject). But, Mom, well, she just can’t help it. Meanwhile, the combination of Mom’s criticisms and other drivers incompetencies drives Dad to a breaking point. Tara and I are considering slipping both of them a steady diet of Xanax for the next road trip.

After the sunglasses purchases, we had to head back the way we’d come. We wanted to eat at Harry T’s, and it was at the other end of the strip. So, it was another twenty minutes of insanity to find our destination. It’s enough to make you wish you’d just stayed in for dinner. But, the food was excellent, and the harbor view was relaxing. And, I added another t-shirt to my already vast collection. We’d get the last ones at Fudpucker’s tomorrow night.

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