Journal entry: May 13, 2010 (age 41) – Brothers
Before today, I had never been on a long drive with my oldest brother, Jerry. He’s been married since I was six and a father since I was ten, so there just weren’t any occasions for the two of us to head out on the open road together. This three- or four-hour trip from Binghamton to Queens for a family event was bound to be interesting.
Jerry did all the driving, which was fine by me. He’s a good driver. I’m saddled with the navigational ability of cartography amateur Christopher Columbus (“Hmm, land – hey everybody, it’s the East Indies!”) and the anger management skills of tennis pro John McEnroe (“You CANNOT be serious!”). Also, Jerry’s a district attorney, so if I was behind the wheel, I’d feel pressured to perform redundant and tiring turn signals with my hand out the window. (I won’t single out the older brother who is an even worse driver than I am, but his name starts with a “B,” ends with a “b,” and has a letter in the middle that, in some fonts, could be mistaken for a zero.)
When Jerry picked me up, I casually announced, “I printed out directions from Yahoo Maps, and I brought my TomTom GPS.” “Objection, Your Honor,” Jerry shouted towards the windshield, “so did I!” He didn’t actually say that, but my imagination likes to pepper his speech with legalese and the gaveled “doink doink!” sound effect from Law & Order. What he actually said was “I printed out directions from MapQuest, and I have a Garmin GPS.” It was his global positioning kung fu against my global positioning kung fu. Only one would be crowned “General Jerry Garmin” or “TomTom TimTim.”
Neither of us questioned the fact that we weren’t driving on Route 17, which we both know is the easiest way to get to New York City. We both had the voices of sexy British women telling us to go through Scranton. This brought us to midtown Manhattan at the ideal time – 5 o’clock on a weekday afternoon. “That’s okay, Susan,” I cooed to the tiny woman in my GPS, “it’s 10 p.m. in London, and you’re probably just back from the pub.”
As soon as we entered midtown’s canyon of high-rises, my GPS lost its satellite signal for the remainder of our time in Manhattan. Susan, presumably, was by this time asleep in a pile of sick and chips. Jerry’s breathy bird had dropped off her friend and was continuing on as our digital designated driver. But Georgie had secretly been nursing her own pints of bitter. “In 100 yards, turn right.” Jerry rammed his way across four lanes of traffic with the whiplash effectiveness of a cabbie. But before we could make the turn, his fickle mistress changed her mind and said, “In 100 yards, turn left,” prompting Jerry to cut off many of the same surly drivers on the return journey leftward. Meanwhile, I was trying to read the printed directions, but both sets had radically diverged from each other and their talking sistren about the time we pulled out of my driveway.
Eventually we turned to ancient cell phone technology and the knowledge of a local. The directions took on a different, jarring tone. “Ah-right, if you hillbillies know what a friggin’ trestle is, park unda dat.”