“Stupid rental car,” my wife growled.
“Huh?” I bumbled, snapping out of an exhausted daze. “I thought we liked the rental car.”
Having ventured to Maui with my parents, we’d rented a minivan that would comfortably fit the six of us and our fleet of Traveling Toddler Circus props. Even with the two extra adults there was still plenty of room. Compared to the 4-door sedan we usually cart the kids around in and into which certain strollers only fit one way (when inserted with ninja precision), it was a veritable vehicular vacation on top of our location vacation. In fact, it had inspired us to seek out a van of our own once we returned to Phoenix. Or so I thought as my wife suddenly slandered our steed’s good name.
“We do like it, except for this stupid speedometer. I have no idea how fast I’m going.”
Straightening up on the passenger side, I leaned towards my wife at the wheel to survey the dash. The numbers and gauges shone brightly up at us as we traversed the dark, sans-streetlight coastal road. On this particular night my parents were out on a date and my wife and I were headed back to the hotel with our passed-out munchkins. When it’s just the four of us, my wife usually opts to drive due to her propensity for motion sickness and a particularly vocal flair for back-seat driving. While many of my male peers might see this as gender-role sacrilege, I assure you, this is the optimal driving arrangement.
Examining the dashboard, I saw exactly what my wife was talking about. A digital gauge displayed her speed in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.
After denying the urge to rant about our country’s ridiculous resistance against the Metric System (which, sadly, none of our presidential candidates seem to be addressing in this election year), I tinkered with the single button below the display–pressing, holding, requesting miles-per-hour via Morse Code–but to no avail.
“There’s got to be something else. What about those buttons on the steering wheel?”
My wife pointed at various controls as she replied, “No, these are for the stereo, this is cruise control, this is the cappuccino maker, and this turns the headlights into the Batman Signal.”
We’d had a terrible misunderstanding earlier when Christian Bale had arrived in black Batgarb assuming we needed assistance.
“Huh.” I stared lazily. “Well, does it really matter how fast you’re going?”
“Only if I don’t want to get a speeding ticket.”
“Why, what’s the speed limit?”
“Hmmm…” I attempted a strained facial expression–one that seemed I was painstakingly scouring my brain for the Metric-to-English conversion–but after the tiring day we’d had, my mind was spent and all I’d really accomplished was a half-decent constipation face.
. . .
The Twins had seen the ocean for the first time that day. I’d always imagined them hesitantly avoiding the waves, wanting to watch from a safe distance on the shore while digging in the sand, especially my daughter who as a rule is shy and guarded in new situations. But to my pleasant surprise, it was entirely different.
They were fearless.
Running towards the tide, giggling uncontrollably as it splashed all over them, bending down to try to catch water in their mouths as it crashed (and trying so hard not to make a bitter beer face at the taste).
There was a moment where I had them on either side of me holding my hands, and I watched them marvel with their little eyes at the vastness of the ocean, looking out at the horizon. My daughter pointed and “Oooh”-ed. My son punched a wave and cackled. It’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
However, along with the amazingness and fun of the day came the sheer energy involved in continually lathering them in sunscreen, chasing them across the sand, walking up and down the stairs of the pirate ship pool playscape, pushing strollers up steep grades to restaurants and tourist traps, and urging tiny mouths to eat something (ANYthing) in sensory-overload island-themed restaurants. “Having fun sure is a lot of work, isn’t it?” my mother had laughed while watching us wrestle the kids into their bathing suits. (My two sisters and I were only four years apart, so she remembers similar outdoor excursion efforts with us.)
. . .
So now, after a fantastic but fantastically exhausting day, with the Dynamic Duo now finally asleep, my mind was set on getting them to bed, hammering down a few to-go mai tais from the downstairs pool bar, and collapsing gloriously onto my pillow.
Not hacking into the rental car’s speedometer.
“Is there a manual or something?” my wife wondered aloud.
“I don’t know. Where’s the glove box?”
“Should be in front of you.” Duh, John.
“I can’t open this damn thing.” SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! “Come on, you piece of–”
“Stop. Forget it. You’ll wake them up.”
“What the hell is with this thing?” I snarled, glowering at the Metric Menace. “We’re smart people! I’m in a damn Ph. D. program! We should be able to figure this out!”
And that’s when I saw it.
The answer had been there all along, and it was embarrassingly simple. Which is why I admitted:
“Oh my God. Babe, we’re idiots.”
Grimacing in shame, I pointed just to the right of the digital speedometer, revealing the solution to what will now forever be known as the SpeedometerGate Scandal.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” my wife sputtered.
After a good five minutes of punch-drunk laughter, my wife finally turned to me and said, “We probably shouldn’t tell anyone about this.”
I nodded. “Yeah, probably not.”
This is Part 4 of the sprawling, epic TwinfaMaui Saga, which makes it one better than a trilogy. Suck on that, Lord of the Rings.
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If not, perhaps try converting them to the Metric System.