Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Of Maps and Honeymoon Tears
Joyce and I were married on December 20, then drove to New Orleans, a place we'd decided to go because neither of us had ever been there. New marriage. New place. New life. Seemed to make sense.
We left right after the reception and drove to Columbus, Ohio, our first night, in what was then called the Holiday Inn North. And the next night, we were in another Holiday Inn, this one right on the Mississippi River in Memphis. And then--the long day's drive, Memphis to New Orleans, about 400 miles. We got a late start ... you know ... honeymoons? So by the time we neared New Orleans, it was very late. I'd been doing all the driving because I'd not yet taught Joyce how to drive a stick shift, and our 1969 dark green VW Fastback had been performing well (a record it would later sully in spectacular fashion a couple of years later, breaking down--once again near the Mississippi, but this time near Davenport, Iowa--and Joyce and I spent a couple of days at the Tall Corn Motel, not the most romantic of venues, while the local VW mechanic figured out ever more imaginative ways to bankrupt me).
As we approached Lake Pontchartrain, I handed the map to Joyce and said, "Here, you navigate us to our motel."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first time I made my wife cry.
Thereby hangs a tale ...
Because my dad's family lived out in the Northwest and we were living in the Southwest (Oklahoma and Texas--later, Ohio), we took a number of long family car trips out to the Walla Walla Valley--and to the coast. Those were the days when gas stations were called "filling stations" or "service stations"--the days when you could get a Coke and a smile, yes, at the station--but also a new tire, installed, a tune-up, an oil change, etc. And no self-serve whatsoever. Dad would always get out of the car and talk with the attendant. He was good at small talk, my father. Always. One one of the last rides he took--an ambulance from the ER to the nursing home--I was with him in the back, and within minutes he had established that both he and one of the attendants had been in the Air Force. They were BFFs by the time the ambulance arrived.
It was also a time when gas stations gave away road maps--free. So my brothers and I would--at every stop--load up on the relevant maps and follow our journeys across the country. As a result, I became a pretty good little map-reader.
Joyce had a different history. Her father--a wonderful man--had different ideas about the car. He always drove on their trips, always was the only one with the map. As a result, Joyce became a pretty bad little map-reader.
So in December 1969 when I said, "Here, you navigate us to our motel," I had no idea what I was asking. And when I heard/saw the tears, I had no idea what I'd done.
She finally managed: "I can't read this map."
And--not for the last time, not by a long shot--I felt like an idiot in her presence. I mean, what kind of boor makes his wife cry--on her honeymoon!
Anyway, I pulled over, checked out the map, figured out what we needed to do, drove on, apologies tumbling from my lips like books from a shelf in an earthquake.
When we arrived at the little motel-with-character that I'd picked out months before--and had made reservations for, months before--we discovered to our horror that they had given the room to someone else since we had arrived so late. I whined, "But it's our honeymoon!" The night clerk just snorted and went back to reading his porn novel. (Or so I've decided to report.)
We ended up at the Ramada Inn downtown, the motel-with-no-character.
Years have passed.
Joyce is now much better with maps. No surprise. It took just a bit of practice. But, lately, I'm sad to report, she's fallen in love with someone else. The GPS Lady. Who never once has made her cry.