There’s a moral to this story somewhere. I despise mini vans and now I drive one. That’s pretty much the story.
Except it’s not just any mini van. It’s the one my in-laws gave us, which is a very kind gesture. It was in immaculate shape when we got it, just 10 years old.
Fast forward a year and a half. Only two doors still work. The sliding side door no longer works because the tracking for the door rusted and caused some sort of something. Then someone accidentally pulled too hard on the door and the whole thing fell plumb off. With some tricky hammer work and lots of hip checking, the door was returned to its rightful place. So, from then on we’ve disallowed the use of the sliding door for fear that once opened we will never get it back on again.
Consequently this means all five children have to enter and exit through the front two doors. Remember, this van is old; it doesn’t have dual sliding doors. When my niece once tried to exit the van, she kept grasping at the door on the left side, behind the driver seat. “Why doesn’t this door have a handle?” she asked.
“Because that’s not a door. There’s only one side door in this van” I explained to the younger generation. She looked puzzled. You should’ve seen her face when I told her couldn’t use the sliding door on the right side either. As if it was a perfectly normal thing to do, she followed everyone else out through the front seat.
If you’re a passenger in the van, you’re fine. However, if you’re the driver in bad weather, the drive can be a bit temperamental. The driver’s side door refuses to close tightly. There’s always a little draft or something that comes through the open crack. Consequently, during the winter, the left side of your body will develop slight frostbite. Or, if it’s raining, your left cheek will get a little damp.
So anyway, we were about to leave school around 5:30 p.m. I was still in my classroom packing up, when, much like a security breech, one child has been dispatched to tell me that the sliding door has been opened. It’s stuck. Great.
There’s not another car in the parking lot, just our forlorn looking beast of burden. I spend about 20 minutes vainly trying to jiggle the door free without unhinging it.
Meanwhile, it begins to rain. And thunder. And lightning. The school is now locked. The van door is wide open. I give it one more yank to get it to budge. It budged alright. All but one hinge budged right off the door. There I am, soaking wet, holding a van door. They’re heavy.
I let the door land lopsided, half on the asphalt, half still hanging onto the van for dear life. It’s no use getting electrocuted over, so I hop back in, highly irritated. Inside the van, chaos reigns and the interrogation begins.
“Maybe you should fix the door.”
“Why aren’t we leaving?”
Gum chewing. Who is chewing their gum like that?
Kids are hungry. My head is pounding, people are crying. Thunder is scary. Rain is wet, especially on the left cheek and now the entire side of the van.
Ethan, our whimpering 6 year old, suddenly breaks into song except he’s crying simultaneously escalating into a full scale wail. He sounds like a Yiddish woman at a funeral.
“It’s the eeeend of the wooorld as we knooooow it. I feeeel fiiiiiaaaaaane.”
I have no idea where he learned the song and why he thought it was appropriate just then, but it was stinkin’ funny.
In an instant the mood changed to goofiness. While waiting for backup to arrive in the form of a hammer and hip check, I ordered a pizza and had it delivered to the only van sitting in the vacated parking lot. I tipped big.
It was still a downpour, but pizza makes everything better. The perspective brightened and the joking started. The kids will remember this for quite awhile. I’m just glad I was there to enjoy it with them. Every now and then, someone would drive slowly by, visually assess the situation and ask if we needed help.
We laughed. No, not yet, we’re still enjoying our dinner.