By Shea Serrano
So, I rode in a car with a baby for about five hours today, and here’s what happened.
12:50 p.m.: Today, here in about 10 minutes, Wife, Boy A, Boy B, Boy C and I will attempt to travel in a car from Houston to my parents’ house in San Antonio. Boy A and Boy B have made this trip plenty of times — they are road trip champions. For Boy C, however, this’ll be his first time. He’s only six weeks old and reacts to being in a car seat for longer than two minutes the way people reacted to being tied down to those torture chairs in Hostel. Boy A and Boy B, meanwhile, react to Boy C crying the way vampires react to sunlight. Hopefully, the playlist that’s been assembled specifically for this trip (including Feist, Aretha, Nate Dogg) will keep everyone’s mouth shutthefuckclosed for the majority of the ride though. (Note: I doubt it.)
12:56: Oh, BTW, Wife is driving this time. Generally, I’m the one that does that, but she’s still in hyperprotective mode with Boy C, so in any instances when his life might maybe could possibly almost sort of kinda be at risk, she assumes control. She’s good like that. Hand to God, I once saw her reach NFL Receiver Speed when she thought one of the boys was about to backed over by a car pulling out of a garage. It was amazing. I swear to all that she ran herself right out of her shoes. THOSE SHOES JUST CAME FLYING OFF. It was amazing. So anyway, that’s why I’m taking notes instead of driving.
1:08: FUUUUUUUUUU. So the plan was to feed Boy C minutes before we left, to tuck him into his car seat while he was in his food-induced coma. And it seemed like it might’ve even worked, except I bumped against the car seat after he’d been placed inside and it jossled him awake so now he’s already losing his shit. An inauspicious beginning. I’m saying, have you ever tried to coax a cranky baby back to sleep while he’s in a car seat? It’s like trying to start a fire with sticks, except instead of sticks you have an old Nintendo cartridge and a wet washcloth. So now we have to go back inside.
3:45: Okay, attempt number two. FTW.
3:55: …aaaaaaand traffic. Cool, cool. There appears to be a proper car crash some 300 yards ahead. There’s no easier way to tell how much of a dick you really are than your immediate response in this situation. There could very likely be someone lying dead on the concrete and I’m in the car like, “comeonComeonCOMEON. Just roll his carcass out of the way and let’s get us moving. There’s tamales at my mama’s house, bro.”
3:57: “Daddy, are we close to Grandma’s house yet?” –Boy B
Think: Yeah, bitch. We’re almost there, because this car goes 4,000 miles per hour.
Say: Not yet, son.
4:20: I try not to lie to my wife very often. I mean, there are instances that arise during a relationship that nearly always necessitate* it, but mostly it’s just easier to be honest. I find it hard to be honest about Feist, however.
Feist used to be (but also still is) a member of a frustrating baroque rock band called Broken Social Scene, which, far as I could tell, spent (and spends) more time trying to be clever than good. But Feist alone is a goddamn hurricane of excellence. Her 2011 album, Metals, was superb. But I pretend not to like her because liking her makes me feel feminine. Currently, she is flexing all of her metallic charm on a track called “A Commotion,” and I’m doing my absolute best to pretend like I’m not affected. Not easy.
*Example: If a woman asks a man, “When’s the last time you masturbated,” you can be reasonably certain that whatever comes out of his mouth is an untruth. Matter of fact, chances are he’s right that very second planning his next sneak-masturbation session. Men are like goddamn masturbation cat burglars.
4:34: Boy A and Boy B brought two toys with them: plush Sonic dolls that they received from one set of their grandparents a few hours ago. Thus far, one of the dolls has already had its leg pulled off, the other one nearly lost entirely due to an oversight on my part (I forgot to lock the power windows, which Boy B capitalized on almost immediately). I imagine by the end of the trip they’ll both just be holding a handful of stuffing.
4:47: “Daddy, can we play buttchest?” –Boy A. Yeesh.
Explanation: Buttchest is a game the boys invented. It’s pretty simple. If you can manage to put your butt on your opponent’s chest through any means at all (sheer force, trickery, etc), you win. There’s also Buttarm, Buttknees, and of course the American classic Buttbutt.
4:55: Our first stop of the trip. Boy C’s done better than I’d anticipated he’d do, but I suspect things are about to turn. He woke up about two minutes ago, realized he wasn’t anywhere near his mother’s breasts (currently, the ONLY place that seems to make him not hate the world), then exploded into anger. Tornadoes are not as furious. Boy B tried to console him, leaning over the car seat and whispering things to him and trying to get him suck on his pacifier. Boy A placed his hands over his ears and started crying. They look the same, but they’re stitched from different material.
5:15: Moving again. Boy C is awake, but he isn’t crying, which is no less miraculous than Jesus walking on water. Praise be to Damien Rice, the snake charmer currently bleeding out of the speakers.
5:20: Feist, “Comfort Me.” Things are moving in the right dire–
5:20:15: Never mind. Boy C is losing his mind again. Awesome. Perhaps if I turn the radio up, that’ll help?
5:20:18: NOPENOPENOPE. Didn’t work. Made things worse. Stopping again.
5:27: While Wife nuzzles with Boy C, I run interference on Boy A and Boy B by taking them to get snacks in a corner store. I can’t be certain, but I suspect we’re in the same place that Texas Chainsaw Massacre happened.
5:27:20: Oh good. You know what’s cool about small towns in Texas? All of the racism. The cashier at the store seemed offended that we were in there. She was extra curt and rude to us, but not to the white people in front of and behind us.
5:38: Okay, here we go on. Moving. Everyone seems okay. Wife is dialed in. She’s driving like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder.
5:45: Oh Christ. The sun, it’s gone. I didn’t even realize. It’s like it just fell out of the sky. It’s immediately black outside. I can hear the demons scratching at the car windows. God save us.
5:47: “Daddy, I smell poop.” –Boy B. Awesome.
I’d like to say that it’s definitely Boy C’s, but there’s a 20 percent chance it’s not. The other day the boys and I were playing catch. After a few minutes, I noticed that each time I’d toss the ball to Boy B, he’d catch it, furl his eyebrows, stick his hand down the back of his pants, calibrate the results, then remove his hand and toss the ball back. I asked, “What are you doing with your hand there, boy?” He responded, “Checking to see if there’s poop in my pants.” I asked, “Don’t you mean ‘underwear’?” He responded, “No, my pants.” I asked, “You’re not wearing underwear?” He responded, “Nope.” I asked, “Why not?” He responded, “Because I already pooped in them.”
I couldn’t get one daughter, God? ONE?
6:00: Aretha Franklin has been on the speakers for the last 20 or so minutes, but her gigantic voice is a bit too cumbersome for the ride. All of the pieces in the car are too delicate. She’s overpowering everybody, and it’s frustrating. First non-soundtracked part of the trip. Silence.
6:30: Second meltdown. Boy C’s cries are rattling the body of the car off its frame. Stopping again. I’m going to take this time to try and pray an asteroid into crashing into Earth.
6:57: FUUUUUUUUUUUUU. Stopping again. I should’ve just walked to San Antonio.
7:15: Okay, fuck the bullshit. Time for the ace: the brilliant “Nate In ’08” mix that DJ Steve1der made four years ago. If you’ve not heard it, download it IMMEDIATELY. It is absolutely perfect. It’s of course all of Nate Dogg’s best choruses and verses, but it’s also clips of songs that Nate sampled. No hyperbole: the whole thing is transcendent. If Nate can’t get this ship right, we might as well just drive the car right the fuck into oncoming traffic.
7:39: Is this working??? Because I think it is. Holy Christ. Nate Dogg’s pristine g-funk has soothed Rosemary’s Baby.
7:50: DUDES, STILL NOTHING. WHAT’S HAPPENING?
7:58: He… is… still… not… crying. (!!!)
8:05: “Check to see if he’s okay. Like, make sure he’s still breathing.” –Wife, talking about an unfathomably complacent Boy C. FUCK YOU, BABY EINSTEIN VIDEOS. 2-1-3 will regulate all over yo’ bitch ass.
8:08: You know what would be the best? If when this bundled up archdaemon finally explodes menace all over the innards of this Ford Expedition and we pull off the road into a parking lot, we look up and realize that we’ve parked in the lot of the Eastside Motel. If that happens, I’ll never ever again doubt the existence of God.
8:13: Annnnnd there it is. Nate did a superheroic job, but he could only battle the evil for so long. We are currently experiencing a complete, total meltdown. Cherynobl was less catastrophic. We’re stopping again, 30 miles short of our destination.
8:44: It’s stone silent in here. It’s beyond unsettling. Nobody wants to move, for fear of waking the beast. Every time I look in the backseat, Boy A and Boy B and me just trade glances back and forth with one another. There are no smiles. There are no giggles. There are no anythings. We are at Boy C’s mercy. He is the tiniest tyrant.
8:53: Are we…
8:53:15: …is it…
8:53:25: …can it be…
8:53:35: YES. WE’RE HERE. THANK THE LORD. GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF THIS CAR, STAT.
FINAL TALLY: 0 dead bodies. Success.