Mommandad were in love. With each other, yes, but also with a city: San Diego. Dad worked seven-days-a-week as a newspaper man, but finished early on Sundays. So that was our day to visit San Diego. Not every Sunday, but most, it seemed. “Diego” translates to “the replacer.” And that’s exactly what Mommandad wanted to do, replace our current home with San Diego.
Not me. I wanted to stay right where we were. With my friends. Because San Diego was booorrrrring! I mean, yes, it had a perfect climate, beautiful Balboa Park with its world-class zoo, and luxurious marinas (if you had a yacht). But mostly, “Honey, we’re going to San Diego!” meant…
“We’re going to tour model homes.” Argggh! Walking on plastic carpet-protectors while looking at rental-furniture-filled rooms and being pitched at by an overly-cologned tract housing company rep was exactly how I pictured purgatory.
So Mommandad let me bring a buddy. When one was available. Jeff’s family was usually busy. But Rory was Cinderella, overworked and underloved–only a boy version with an evil stepfather. So he was thrilled to get away when they let him.
The two of us found things to do while Mommandad house-shopped. But interestingly, what I remember best was the trip there and back. Why? Because of…
The Staring Game!
It worked like this. During the nearly two-hour drive on the I-5 Fwy, Rory and I would wait until a solo driver pulled into the lane behind us. And then we’d stare at them. That was it. Just stare. As though we were scientists observing a lab animal.
Most of our lab animals would nervously change lanes after a while. Some would grin and give us an “I see what you’re doing” look. A few would flip us off. But our favorite was a balding middle-aged guy in a suit, obviously a travelling salesman. He grinned, and then took up the challenge to stare back. He hung in there longer than anyone else ever had.
But we were warriors earning our place in Valhalla.
After about half an hour, he began to crack. Lit a cigarette and never smoked it. Threw it out the window. Then lit another, and forgot about it until it burned his lip. Then cursed at us as if it we’d made it happen: “&$@~+^#%$*ing kids!” At some point, he finally gave a little “you win” nod to the victors, and pulled out of the lane. All in all, he was a pretty good egg. I hope he sold a few extra vacuum cleaners that week.
We never did move to San Diego.
But that’s a story for another time.