Not that I would ever recommend it as a fun way to kill two days, but if you ever need to clear your head, drive I-95 from Florida to New York.
That’s what I just did with a U-Haul attached to my car as I recently trekked 1,200 endless miles thinking about my mother. Had she still been alive, she would have been none too pleased that her “little boy” was driving alone with a heavy metal box rolling behind the car at 70-plus miles per hour. I could hear her not-so subtle advice as I started the trip: “Not a good idea. You’re too tired. You have no experience schlepping a U-Haul. Don’t be a moron.”
If only she could nag me now.
Unlike years past when my family and I did the trip to Florida (and back) without stopping overnight, I stayed in North Carolina after 11 hours on the road that Tuesday at a Motel 6. Although my mother taught me to be the ultimate bargain hunter, she would have taken one look at that dump and said, “Oy vey! They should pay you to stay here. You can just vomit from the décor in here.”
When I went to check in at the motel, I was expecting to see Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates skulking in a dim corner. Needless to say, I took a pass on a shower that night. In a rare moment for me, I went to bed not even bothering to turn on the TV. When Mr. TV avoids the small screen, you know something is very wrong.
I got up bright and early the next morning, which just happened to be Christmas Eve. Rule of thumb to anyone taking a road trip: don’t do it on Dec. 24. Although I zipped through the rest of North Carolina and Virginia, there was heavy traffic elsewhere. And as I waited two hours to drive three miles to get over the George Washington Bridge, I could not help but feel sorry for myself. “This is how I am spending my Christmas Eve,” I angrily thought. But then it suddenly dawned on me that I am Jewish and don’t even celebrate Christmas. If she had been sitting next to me in the car, my Mom would have said something like, “You schlemiel.
Why did I Bar Mitzvah you if you’re worried about Christmas?”
Fifteen hours after beginning my trip that morning, I was home, five hours longer than it should have taken. Exhausted after the long trip, I chose to stay home the next day alone, collecting my thoughts and sadly thinking about the recent chain of events.
It’s odd what pops into your mind at a time like this, but I kept thinking about when I was a kid and got my first real job at a local supermarket named Olinsky’s around the corner from where we lived. As excited as I was about earning my own money (a whopping $1.60 per hour, if I recall), I was upset because I had to work until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.
Since those were pre-VCR days, that meant I had to miss my favorite show, The Waltons.
“Your whole life cannot revolve around television,” Mom scolded when I balked at the late hours on Thursday. But as crazy as it sounds, rewatching the The Waltons over the holidays on DVD was a great comfort to me.
I also remember Mom pushing me to join a bowling league on Saturday mornings, which I enjoyed immensely. But that, of course, meant I would have to give up my weekly dose of cartoons. “So you will watch less television,” I remember her telling me. “But, Mom, that means I will have to miss The Groovie Goolies and Wacky Races,” I pleaded. Suffice it to say, I bowled.
As the years progressed and I hit my 20s, Mom was anxious for me to find my mate. “I want to be a grandmother,” she used to tell me. But little did she know that I spent the wee hours of the morning on countless Saturdays watching repeats of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which aired on WNBC from 2-3:30 a.m.) after a rash of bad dates. Would I ever “make it after all,” I wondered.
Thankfully, I did, personally and professionally. And the one TV theme song that has come to my mind in recent weeks must be a familiar one to everyone.
All together now (with a tug on the ear): I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh, and sing a song. Seems we just got started and before we know it, comes the time we had to say, So long.
Of course, I have to cue Mom here again… “Everything with my son is TV! I can just plotz from him!”
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