It was supposed to be the perfect antidote for a months-long crescendo of frazzled-parent burnout. It was supposed to be a long, relaxing road trip, alone with my husband, Mark. It was not supposed to be the Olympic trials for bladder control.
I had anticipated this get-away excursion with all the desperation of a working mother on the brink. The morning of our departure, I brewed a pot of coffee and mentally rehearsed our trip. The children were safe at my sister's. There would be no negotiations with our three-year-old son over what constituted "finishing" a bologna sandwich; no arguments with our nine-year-old daughter over whether bangs as big as tidal waves were appropriate coiffure for third-grade girls.
Today, I would be an adult. I poured another cup of coffee, and my fantasy unfolded like a Lexus commercial. I was cruising along a tree-shrouded two-lane in New England with the man of my dreams, savoring leather upholstery, intimate conversation and a deliciously grown-up recording by the London Symphony Orchestra. All our mundane problems were swept away by the bubbles of our sparkling mineral water and waves of surround-sound Mozart.
Never mind that we were really just an average husband and wife, deserting our comfortable bed before dawn to slip into K-mart sweats and strike off across eastern Wyoming in a used mini-van. I had already booked passage on the fantasy.
As we loaded the van, I took a deep breath and commented on the fresh, cold tingle of the pre-dawn air. Mark hummed a tune and happily commented that we could get 25 miles to the gallon if we'd set the cruise on 65 and keep the van moving.
I should have seen disaster coming.
The first 30 minutes of the trip we almost managed to remember what adults talk about. Then my early-morning coffee caught up with me. "Let's stop here," I said, pointing to a small, roadside gas station.
"Already?" Mark checked his watch and raised one eyebrow, but patiently pulled over.
"I won't be long," I promised. I ran in for a quick rest stop and bought a fresh cup of coffee for each of us. We headed back onto the open road—for all of 30 more minutes.
"But we just stopped," Mark protested, as he parked the van at a truck plaza. I could see the record-keeping whiz I married, mentally calculating our loss in gas mileage.
Two more truck plazas and one convenience store later, my nervous bladder was proving a serious antidote to fantasy. The intimate conversation I'd imagined devolved into frustrated silence after a heated exchange about "you women and your weak bladders!" and "you men and your stupid gas mileage!" I searched for a classical station on the radio; I found nothing but country and western.
When nature called again, I couldn't bear to tell Mark. Requesting yet another pit stop on this fascinating tour of Wyoming's restrooms might well result in my hitchhiking the remaining miles to Cheyenne.
I decided I could wait. After all, Mark had been drinking his share of coffee. Surely he'd have to stop soon. I vowed to outlast him.
One by one, the miles slipped past my window. One by one, opportunities for relief slipped past with them. There was a rest stop coming up on the right, and it looked almost sanitary. Surely Mark would pull in. There was a gas station with a sign that said "Restrooms Inside"—surely Mark would stop.
But he just kept driving. I crossed my legs and stole a glance in his direction. Was the man superhuman? Would he never require the use of a bathroom? For a moment, I thought I detected a slightly deeper-than-usual furrow of concentration on his brow, but I couldn't be sure. Was he trying to outlast me? I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
Ten minutes later, I caught myself eyeing an isolated grove of trees with unnatural longing. I knew I couldn't hold out much longer. "Why don't we stop at the next convenience store?"
I suggested lightly, trying a new strategy. "I want to buy a bottle of mineral water."
Mark shot me a quick look. Was that suspicion or anticipation I saw in his eyes? I couldn't think about it now. Once we stopped, I would give him the slip and sneak into the bathroom. He'd never have to know.
We parked the van, and I struggled to walk normally toward the front door. Once inside, I ducked behind the potato chip aisle and sprinted the last 50 feet to the restroom. When I emerged, I noticed the door marked "MEN" swinging shut behind my husband. He quickly looked both ways, then ambled toward the drink coolers.
No sparkling mineral water in sight, we paid for our snacks and got back in the van. "So how long did you have to go to the bathroom before we finally stopped," I asked, as we pulled back onto the highway.
The growing mischief in Mark's smile told me all I needed to know. "I didn't really have to go," he said. "I was just being efficient—as long as we were stopped anyway."
Something in my upbringing kept my hands from closing around his throat. I weighed my options, then calmly rolled up the largest map in the glove compartment and began whapping the man of my dreams with it. One arm up to fend off my attack, Mark reminded me that the driving patterns inspired by such antics are frowned upon by those who patrol our nation's interstate highways.
I ceased and desisted, but only after a few more well-aimed shots. By that time we were both laughing so hard any further attempt at retribution was futile. After we regained our composure, we finally succeeded in having that grown-up talk I had longed for—over sunflower seeds and Cokes, while the country-and-western classic "The Streets of Laredo" played softly in the background.
I realized then, as we cruised through the east-Wyoming countryside, that I liked our style, even if it meant we'd be the last couple chosen for a Lexus ad. And a few miles down the road, when we passed another truck plaza, it was Mark who suggested we pull in for a pit stop.
Renae Bottom and her husband live in western Nebraska, where you can put serious mileage on your car just taking the kids to McDonald's.
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or email@example.com.