Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dad Never Bluffs

Dads don't bluff.

My brothers and I learned this valuable lesson as we were trekking down Interstate 95 on Christmas night, 1979.

Most Decembers of my childhood, we would visit my mom's parents in Orlando over Christmas vacation, leaving on the night of Christmas and returning after New Year's. In the winter of '79, we had been on the road for about five hours when the aforementioned lesson took place.

You see, that year my brothers and I received, courtesy of the "Make Parents Want to Stab Themselves With a Dull Pencil" division of the Milton Bradley Company, a game called "Simon". The object of "Simon" was to repeat, in exact sequence, the beeps, boops, and buzzes (accompanied by multicolored lights) emitted by the jelly donut-shaped game console. We'd been at it since about 5:30 that morning, and when my dad, in a move he would come to regret, said we could bring one toy with us on the trip to Florida, well, Simon was the obvious choice. In the back of the Chevy Nomad we sat, pressing buttons and racking up new high scores into the night.

We beeped our way down the Jersey Turnpike.

We booped through Delaware.

We buzzed past Baltimore.

We even blipped and bleeped across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

In retrospect, and now being a father myself, I have to be honest and say my dad lasted a lot longer than I would have. But even so, somewhere in Virginia we hit DEFCON 1 on the Dad-o-Meter.

"If I hear one more (expletive) beep, I'm throwing that thing to the side of the highway!"

This would be as good a time as any to tell you a little bit about my youngest brother Bobby.

Bobby is five years younger than I am, which made him nine years old that particular Christmas. He is blessed with the gift of humor, the sincere desire to be all things to all people, and a good-natured personality that makes him almost impossible not to like and even harder to get angry at. At age nine he was not, unfortunately, endowed with much of an ability to think things through to their inevitable conclusion. So when Dad made the threat, let's just say that one of us was not on the same page.

"Come on, one more game, it's my turn anyway," Bobby whispered.

"You heard Dad, we have to stop," replied 11-year old Eric. He's the family equivalent of Switzerland.

"Just once. He won't really throw it away," Bobby insisted.

"He might not throw it away, but we'll get in trouble," I added. Keeping it real.

"I think he'll throw it away AND we'll get in trouble," said Eric, keeping it realer.

"Here, let me have it," Bobby said, and grabbed Simon from the van's table. Eric and I just looked at each other. Let the games begin.

BOOP.

Somewhere in Detroit, at Chevrolet's manufacturing plant, there is a man who was responsible for installing the braking system on the 1978 Chevy Nomad. Based on the immediacy with which my father was able to bring the vehicle to a screeching halt on the shoulder of I-95, I am certain that this gentleman at Chevy took his job very seriously, and undoubtedly earned Employee of the Year honors.

The sliding door opened. An outstretched arm and an open hand reached into the back of the van. Without a word, Bobby placed Simon in the hand. The arm withdrew. The door slammed shut.

When we next saw our father, he was standing in front of the van, illuminated only by the headlights. It was almost ethereal. Then, in one fluid, Jenner-esque motion, Dad wound up and discus-flung Simon into the night, abandoned, to beep its final boop in the woods outside Norfolk.

We drove the next 25 miles or so in dead silence, which was only to be broken by two words Eric muttered under his breath."Told ya."

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43 comments:

Kathy said...

Work of art, man. Work of art.

moooooog35 said...

I guess that explains the moose they found with the uncanny ability to follow complex patterns.

Your father changed evolution. We're all doomed.

Nice job.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

You forgot about Merlin.

Now they're both available as "classic toys" in miniature versions.

I pulled the batteries out of Merlin on a car trip last Summer. I couldn't take it anymore.

Gaston Studio said...

Love this! That's exactly what my dad would have done!

Samsmama said...

Just seeing the picture of Simon and I can hear the sounds...sounds that annoyed my young self even while playing it. Your dad lasted a helluva lot longer than I would have! Hell, I got antsy just reading this.

Pollyanna said...

1. I loved, LOVED Simon when I was growing up.

2. I hate, HATE having to follow thru on a threat made to my kids. Especially, when it involved throwing money away.

That "Told You" is classic. Too funny!!!!

Quirkyloon said...

Ah, the good ole days when parents actually followed through on a consequence.

Classic!

Sandee said...

I see your dad and mine were much alike. Bwahahahahahaha. My sister was Eric and I guess you know who was Bobby. That would be me.

Have a terrific day. :)

CatLadyLarew said...

I wonder how many other Simons made their final resting place along I-95 that year?

otin said...

The thing that I love about your posts is the way that they bring me back to the exact same situations! I bet your dad would also hit the roof if you leaned up and talked in his ear! It used to drive my Dad nuts! LOL!

Can't wait for your Yanks Post!

Ann's Rants said...

Great post. Great. BOOP and Switzerland were my favorite, but you painted the picture of your Dad slamming on the break so hard I LOL'd at that too.

Now EVERY damned toy is Simon on Steroids.

Curses.

Don said...

Funny story. My dad was the same way. He was from an Iowa farm family and put himself through college. Needless to say he didn't put up with much crap. Very "earth" fellow, and he didn't give a damn about toys.

lime said...

those simons are right aerodynamic..i can just see it sailing waaaay out there.

Me-Me King said...

I never had a Simon, but my children had the Fisher-Price train which was powered by a musical disc. (Nails on a chalkboard I tell ya.) One unfortunate night the train made its way over the floor furnace. No one bothered to bring this too my attention until I smelled the melting plastic. I came in from the kitchen to find my kids standing dumb-founded as they watched the train drip through the grate. Yes, there is a God!

unfinishedrambler said...

I knew this wasn't going to end well for Simon. :)

Immediate add to reader and blog roll and Stumbled, if it hasn't been already.

Beth said...

I had a Simon, too!

Now that you mention it, I can't remember what happened to that Simon. I think I'll call my mom.

Jules said...

Husband and I are in tears laughing and now feel empowered the next time we travel across the Midwest with four kids and "Operation"

surveygirl46 said...

When my sis and I were small (5 to about 9) we'd travel from CA to IL to see my mom's mom (our grandma of course). In order to keep us shut up and refraining from making innocent yet insulting gestures at passing cars, my mom would buy us the amount of toys for the amount of days on the road; 1 book day 1, 1 color form 2 day; et et ...by the time we ended up at grandma's we had about 5 or 6 different toys we'd been allowed on the road - a piece...One summer my Uncle "accidentlally" threw our toys away..after reading your post, i am shattered as i now know it was PLANNED lol

Peter Varvel said...

Headphones were available in '79. Whether or not they were able to be used with your car radio, I don't remember, illegal as they have been (is).

Shanni ♥ said...

HAHA! Hilarious!! Things like this may not be funny at the time but they sure make for some HILARIOUS stories!! I hope one day my son will be able to find the humor in our household haha

Shadow Rider said...

Family road trips are a lesson in endurance. We made trips across country with 3 kids and a dog in a Galaxy 500. To this day I don't know how my parents refrained from strangling us.

In VA said...

I'm a bit older. We didn't have those annoying battery operated toys, but we had our voices. There were five of us. We'd sing in rounds. That's where one starts the song, then we'd each join in at the end of the first line in succession.
Well, so many times singing "Row, row, row your boat" or "99 bottles of Beer on the wall" probably had the same affect on my dad as Simon did on yours. Only thing was, dad really couldn't throw any of us out. But we were quite, for a while, until the pushing and punching began ..........

Jenn Thorson said...

Nicely done-- as always.

I recall testing the nerves of the elder set with the Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

Who knew the digestive system of a hippo involved unending clatter?

It's the sort of thing they don't tell you on National Geographic specials.

jdemott said...

Great story-telling style. I relate both as a once-upon-a-time child of an often disgruntled father and as an occasionally impatient dad of four noisy kids.

JenJen said...

New here. Love the post.

Waltsense.com said...

that is awesome. I have a similar story but its with the first Nintendo handheld game...Gameboy - that's it. But he didn't toss the thing - it was to expensive for him to do that. Your dad is awesome.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

I've been there, both as a father and as a kid. You know what would be fun? You and your brothers should mount an expedition to find Simon. I'm sure it doesn't work, but plastic lasts forever and it'd be funny to put in a display with a little plaque honoring your father.

Very nice post, DK.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

I'm obviously laughing wayyyy to hard to comment....

Penny said...

I well remember our family road trips. I don't know how our parents made it. One year, we drove all the way from New York to Washington state with a silver line of duct tape dividing the back seat of the car into two equal halves. My sister and I were under STRICT ORDERS not to touch the others' side of the car...

Mr. Condescending said...

I got a hackey sack ball chucked at me by my mom for playing that thing.
I loved moog and quirky's comments the best!

nipsy said...

Mine was a talking doll...Grandma let me pull her chain one too many times and finally she went right in the trash can at a rest stop..

On the return road trip I peeked in the trash can just to see if she was still there..sad I know..

By the way, I loved my Simon!!

The Offended Blogger said...

Oh, poor Simon!

He was my best friend when I was 10, and then Bobby moved in next door and I forgot he existed. Simon ended up being used in some cruel experiment by my wannabe mad scientist brother and never made it out alive. :(

BTW, I am the first to Stumble you here.

*smiles*

Mulled Vine said...

You might say he *beep*ing told you ya. :)

LegalMist recommended your site. Glad I came! I like the way you write. Favourite line "family equivalent of Switzerland"!

Anonymous said...

In other news, a young elk, who seems to have suffered mild head trauma, was taken to the Norfolk Veterinary Hospital. Despite the best efforts of the staff, the inevitable bloops and beeps of their equipment continues to send the elk into a state of panic, and further tests showed that it fears a red, red, blue, yellow sequence of colors.

jdemott said...

I just read this one again. It was one of the first posts of yours I read, if not THE first. Enjoyed it again. This is classic. Very well written.

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Todd said...

Simon says, "Aww Daaaaaaang!!"

Were you guys upset? Tears? Great visual.

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