77. Lost in Conversation

77. Lost in Conversation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Lost in Conversation

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.

~Ernest Hemingway

Awhile back, our family was on a trip to visit my parents, who had retired and moved to Idaho. My wife and I were having one of those great conversations that parents sometimes have when the kids are asleep in the car. We were laughing as we recalled fun memories, while trying not to wake up the two sleeping angels in the back of the minivan. We were talking about current events, and looking ahead to our goals and hopes for the future. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation, I realized the freeway sign overhead read “Salt Lake City.” (Note: In case you have never driven from California to western Idaho, you should know that there is no reason to see a large overhead sign that reads “Salt Lake City” on the way. If you do see a large overhead sign that reads “Salt Lake City,” it means you are nearly in Utah, which isn’t a bad thing, unless you are attempting to visit your parents in Idaho.)

Suddenly, I felt like the hunting guide in Washington State whose hunting party became hopelessly lost while he was leading them. The group was very unhappy and let him feel their distress. “You told us you were the best guide in Washington!” they yelled. “I am,” he said, “but I think we’re in Montana now.”

Thankfully, we came prepared with maps—a map of the western U.S., a map of each state, and one of those maps the Auto Club puts together that is a flip chart of your whole journey. (Or at least your planned journey. They didn’t put Utah in my flip chart for this trip.) Those maps allowed us to reduce our extra time on the road to seven or eight hours.

But before getting back on the road in the right direction, I had to make “the” phone call. Maybe you know the one I am talking about. It’s the one you make to tell your parents you’ve driven hundreds of miles out of the way en route to their house.

“Hello, Dad,” I said. “We’re going to be a little late.” I was hoping I could just say we were a little behind schedule. There was no need to get into the details.

Then he asked, “Where are you?” I don’t think I had finished answering before he wanted to know, “How did you get there?” while trying not to laugh too hard.

I found out what it’s like to be in your thirties but feel like a teenager who is calling home because he ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere with not a cent in his pocket, standing at a payphone to make a collect call home to ask Dad to bring him some gas. Not that this actually ever happened, of course.

There were a couple of good lessons learned on that trip. First, great conversations with your wife are to be prized, as is a really comfortable seat in your car. Second, I am thankful for road maps. In fact, without them I might be driving through Canada at this very moment, still searching for Idaho, instead of sharing this story with you.

You might be happy to know we finally did make it to my parents’ house. Along the way, we discovered that the town of Elko, Nevada, is the Home of Cowboy Poetry. It says so right on the sign coming into town.

~Cecil Swetland

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