"Just head up the 15," she said, pecking at her iPhone.
I dropped it into drive and pulled out.
Six people in the minivan, and so much gear that even with the rooftop carrier fully loaded, there were tote bags, pool toys, and coolers crammed between the seats. Three of the passengers were toddlers, and the rest of us were old enough to know better.
We drove on the freeway for an hour, and our friend, who asked that I call her Francesca since that's what she calls herself when she drinks a lot of cocktails and dances inappropriately with strangers (I mean, when she used to do that stuff before she became a mom and totally gave it all up), kept her daughter and our twins entertained with songs and stories from her seat in the very back of the van.
We got off at our exit and started winding up the San Bernardino Mountains. The van did well considering its payload, and I pushed it pretty hard through the turns. Francesca's husband, who would be joining us on Saturday, drives a BMW M5, usually too fast, and Francesca herself has a reputation for being a leadfoot. I thought that she would be impressed by my driving skills and the power of the sweet Sienna.
As we hairpinned our way down the other side of the range into the Coachella Valley, I cranked the AC all the way up, but the van still felt like a can of baked beans over a campfire. It was 9:30 pm by then, and all the passengers besides my wife were silent and, we assumed, asleep.
We cruised Palm Desert's well-lit, palm-lined main drag, looking at the opulent entrances to the massive resorts and imagining that we would enjoy similar accommodations when we arrived at our condo, which we had only seen on the timeshare website.
Then, for the next ten miles, we seemed to get stuck in a low-speed version of a Flintstones chase scene--you know, when Fred and Barney are running blurry-legged and the same background keeps flashing by them in a loop? It was like that, but instead of of stone furniture and appliances made of live animals, it was Panera and Chipotle and Del Taco.
After that, the backdrop got less glamorous: Food 4 Less, Dollar Store, Checks Cashed Here.
Finally we were in Indio, our destination. And on the outskirts of that little desert outpost was our condo.
I took the sweeping turn into the condo's driveway, and as I did, I heard it:
The unmistakeable sound of vomit hitting carpet.
My first thought, of course, was that a kid had thrown up. Then I heard the small voice of Francesca apologizing for unloading her Greek chicken salad onto the floor of the van.
Turns out Francesca suffers from motion sickness. Or, as she put it, "I'm a puker." Who knew? Well, she assumed that we did, having been friends for several years. We knew that she always preferred driving over being driven, but we hadn't realized that it was because riding with someone else at the wheel made her sick. Had we known, we would have insisted that she ride in front (assuming her daughter would have allowed her to, which is doubtful). Also, we probably would have looked more closely at the route options Google maps offered us, and realized that by selecting Option 1, through the vertiginous mountain roads, we had stood to shave a mere five minutes off the time Option 2, the freeway route, was calculated to take.
All that time we had thought Francesca was sleeping, she had really been struggling to not puke, while being held captive by her daughter who needed to snuggle with Mommy's arm as she slept, and afraid to open her mouth to speak, lest what came out was spew instead of words. For an hour and a half she had suffered like that. Once we got out of the mountains, she explained later, she had felt better; but that turn into the condo driveway brought it all back up.
One benefit of Francesca living with motion sickness for so long is that she has developed the foresight to puke strategically. Since there were no empty bags or buckets handy, she had zeroed in on one of the loose strips of carpet on the floor of the van that's meant to be moved around depending on how the seating is configured. It was easy to pull out, and, considering the prodigious amount of barf, there was very little collateral damage.
Careful not to wake the sleeping toddlers, I pulled the carpet strip out, and helped Francesca de-van.
We've made a terrible mistake, I thought, as I dragged the carpet across the recently sprinkled lawn in front of the condo lobby, shreds of the forsaken meal clinging to the damp Bermuda grass. There were no other buildings in sight. Just mountains of sand-colored boulders, pockmarked with shadows and more lonely than the moon that dimly illuminated them. The wind rattled the dry palm fronds and intensified the heat like the convection function in an oven.
I looked at the air temperature on my weather app. Ninety-seven degrees. At 10:00 pm. A hundred-and-nine tomorrow. It's a dry heat, though, people like to say about the scorching desert. Yeah, I thought, like fire.
|One of the worst things I have ever ingested|
|The twins and some fat white guy|