Carry On Down The Road
By Alex KIDMAN
When I was but a wee nipper, we used to make the trek over the plains from New South Wales to South Australia on quite a regular basis -- and it was boring. Dead boring, with hour after hour of driving, hour after hour of relentless bush heat and only the sounds of complaining to break up the tedium. When, as a kid, I started counting the number of roadside markers and re-setting my count after every thousand, I realised I was truly desperate.
As an adult -- and having this week just done the same trek, something I do with my own kids on a fairly regular basis, I've come to a startling realisation.
It's still pretty darned boring, because, outside of developing warp drive, or speeding -- which isn't recommended, because if you did blow a tyre out there in the middle of nowhere, help is a solid distance away, and the flocks of birds that live out there only do so in order to feast on your tasty pink innards -- there's no way to make an eighteen hour drive any shorter.
That's if you're driving, though. From the back seat view, things are much better than they used to be.
Back when I had much shorter stature and much longer hair, the best we could muster was a portable tape deck that chewed through both tapes and D-cell batteries at a fair rate, and, a little later, an Octopus Game & Watch to keep us happy. I could read (and I did), but books only last so long, and one of my siblings was (and I think still is) prone to terrible carsickness if they read at all. Car trips were therefore long and largely tedious, and I suspect that's what informs my attitudes to long road trips to this day. I'm all about being at point A or point B -- the business of getting between the two really doesn't engage me.
I don't drive a fancy car -- back when my current sedan was brand spanking new, most PCs still ran Windows 3.11 if they were lucky -- but my kids still benefit from all sorts of technology in the car to keep them entertained, and packing it all is part of the routine these days. A handful of iPods, iPads, an in-car DVD player, along with an assortment of books, pencils, and a willingness to play twenty questions, because staring at just a screen will send you a little loopy (and may encourage carsickness). Oh, and at least one Nintendo DS with the Game & Watch Classics cartridge, just so that Octopus still gets played from time to time.
It means the kids are happier with what is still a long and boring drive, and so am I -- it's still long, and it's still boring, but that beats boring along with a hefty dose of "are we there yet" and "I'm bored" from the back seat, which would make it both boring and extremely annoying. Quite how my parents managed this feat on a regular basis without going insane eludes me.
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