My relationship philosophy has always been that you should marry someone with whom you could win “The Amazing Race.” I feel like the way a couple manages a situation requiring teamwork is a definite indication of their compatibility. Those who sweat together, stay together. I knew that the man I married would be a complement to my Type A personality, we would balance each other and be the best teammates in the world.
Then I married David.
Good lord, that boy and I are TERRIBLE at working together. Don’t ever ask us to assemble something, tell a story together, paint a house, move furniture …
And sweet baby Jesus, don’t ask us to drive 11 hours to Buffalo for Christmas.
Ever since D-Day (Driving Day), I have been mulling just how to tell you this story, which paints the perfect picture of any collaboration we attempt. It’s not unusual, it’s not hilarious – it’s just the epitomy of us “working together.”
I finally settled on writing this as though it’s a script. There are zero exaggerations. Capital letters, exclamation marks and soft expletives are used with frequency to depict severity of situation.
A warm-ish December evening in Charlotte. Sun is setting.
DAVID, KATE, BABY and DOG ride in rental car due North.
DAVID is driving. DOG is drooling out the window.
DAVID: OK, 11 hours to go!
(Montage of DAVID driving, laughing at Howard Stern show. Show images of sleeping BABY, drooling DOG and drooling AND sleeping KATE.)
(TITLE SCREEN: 90 minutes later …)
(Car comes to screeching halt in front of a gas station. DAVID opens the driver’s door, ushering in an icy blast of winter air and the loud hums and horns of highway traffic)
KATE (jumping awake): What the … ?
DAVID: Getting gas.
(BABY begins stirring)
KATE (thinks to herself as she peers around her seat at fidgeting BABY): Please stay sleeping. Please stay sleeping. Please stay sleeping.
DAVID (again opening door, flooding the car with harsh elements of Virginia gas station): I can’t figure out how to open the gas tank.
(KATE and DAVID now fumble around the console, searching desperately for a button, lever, manual on how to open the freakin gas tank)
KATE (in a harsh whisper): Serioulsy? You seriously cannot figure this out?
DAVID (in a harsh whisper): It’s not opening! What do you want me to do?
KATE (in a harsher whisper): It can’t be that hard. It’s a gas tank!
DAVID (in the HARSHEST whisper): Don’t you think that if I knew how to open the gas tank that I would have opened it by now??
(more minutes of some very harsh whispering, peppered with insults and name-calling by both parties as neither can figure out how to open the gas tank. DAVID shuts door to search for an answer around the outside of the car)
KATE (in her own thoughts): It would NEVER take me this long to open a gas tank. This is a brand new car! You probably just push it open.
DAVID (opening door): It opened. You just had to push it open.
(DAVID closes door)
(BABY now begins crying, as the bright gas station lights, highway noise and booming-voice DAVID had permeated his slumber)
(Kate begins fumbling with the magical portable DVD player that had worked wonders on the baby for the first 30 minutes of the ride but is now proving to only freak out the baby even more)
(DAVID opens the car door AGAIN!!!)
DAVID: You want anything from inside?
KATE (turning her head EXTRA slowly to face DAVID, hissing in yet another harsh whisper): Whaaaaat?!? NO I don’t want anything from inside! Shut the door!
(DAVID walks – as … slowly … as … possible … – into the gas station)
(KATE tries soothing a hysterical baby by singing, “shushing,” foot massages, puppy kisses, stuffed animals, water, food. Baby responds by throwing anything handed to him with the art of a ninja at mommy’s head)
(KATE peers into the gas station)
KATE (in her own thoughts): WHAT the CRAP is he DOING??? IS HE SERIOUSLY LOOKING FOR A &%##*&%% SNACK????
(DAVID now inside the gas station, moving up and down the aisles with the casualness of a middle-aged man shuffling to his Sunday paper in his robe and slippers)
DAVID (in his own thoughts): Hmmm … Doritos … wait, wait … Fritos. Man … Doritos … look … good. Ooh, maybe I should get a drink? … What to drink, what to drink. … Oh man, they have RC here? I remember RC … what else is there … Gatorade? … hmmmm …
(back in the car, KATE continues to anger BABY further by trying to soothe him …)
KATE (in her own thoughts): I TOLD him we needed to stop for food and gas before the baby fell asleep. I KNEW this would happen. When we get to Buffalo I’m booking a flight back home just to spite him. I will NOT spend the holidays with a man who is being SO SELFISH.
(DAVID STILL in the gas station)
DAVID (in his own thoughts): … Gatorade … or water … or Coke. … Gatorade … water … or Coke. What goes with … Doritos … Coke? Eh … we’ll do Coke and water … or Coke and Gatorade? … hmmm
KATE (in her own thoughts): I SWEAR TO ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD, IF HE DOESN’T GET HIS BUTT BACK IN THIS CAR AND ON THE ROAD, I AM GOING TO LEAVE HIM HERE IN PODUNK VIRGINIA. AND I DON’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM. HE CAN SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH HILL PEOPLE AND WOLVES AND SASQUATCH AND I WILL SPEND IT WITH THIS BABY WHO WILL MOST DEFINITELY NEVER FREAKING STOP FREAKING CRYING!!!!!!!
(BABY is now pulling his own hair out, clearly symbolic of KATE’s own desires. DOG is now circling frantically in her captain’s chair, whining at BABY whose hair is already a little thin up top and he really can’t afford to pull any of it out)
KATE (peers into the future in her own thoughts): So this is how it ends. Dog and I go insane from baby screaming. David spends years before deciding on Gatroade only to find out there’s an ICEE machine near the checkout and starts the whole process over. Baby screams himself mute and is never able to tell anyone how his dear, sweet mother tried everything to save him.
(DAVID finally gets back into the car, which is now filled with blood, sweat and tears) (Again, I’m not exaggerating anything. There was literally blood, sweat and tears in that damn car by the time David made it back) (Full disclosure – blood was from a hangnail I nervously picked at while I willed the baby to just SHUT UP)
KATE (staring straight ahead, stoically): JUST. DRIVE.
DAVID (incredulously): What?
(Cue montage of BABY screaming, DOG pacing, and DAVID and KATE harsh-whispering at each other for the next hour, debating whether or not KATE had ever mentioned getting gas/food before BABY fell asleep as well as the fact that yes, ALL cars made after a certain year have gas tanks that YOU JUST PUSH OPEN. Also touched on: DAVID repeatedly driving on the shoulder on those loud bumpy things, KATE making the situation worse by whispering harsher and harsher, and both peoples’ inability to harsh-whisper in an actual whisper and instead soft-shouting the situation into a full-on loud-shout-whisper argument)
With a few subtle changes, this is the transcript for every car ride, every project and every undertaking we have ever attempted.
Does that mean we’re not a good couple? That we’re not compatible? Is this an indication that in five years we’ll be on a therapist’s couch, using vindictive terms like “HIS unwillingness to communicate” and “HER ever-growing facial hair” ?
Eh … maybe. But I’ll tell you this: We recover pretty quickly. And then we crack up at the dumb things we said (“Did I really call you a buttmunch??? I haven’t said that since fifth-grade Mark made fun of my ever-growing facial hair!”).
My relationship philosophy has changed.
I needed to marry someone who could challenge me, knock me down a peg when I get out of control and still find it hysterical that we couldn’t figure out how to open a gas tank.
I needed to marry a man who could harsh-whisper with the best of them. One who could drive a car with a screaming baby, pacing dog and frantic wife and still have the peace of mind to tell his parents in a calm voice that we were on our way and doing fine.
Sometimes it’s not about working together, it’s about SURVIVING it together.
Ladies and gents, we survived the drive back to Charlotte with minimal harsh whispers and way more laughing. See? Progress.