In retrospect it may have been a tad foolish of me to blithely turn down our Pastor's invitation to collect Mike from the airport for me.
Let me begin by saying that the kids and I have been doing the 'airport run' for the last two or more years so successfully that I considered buying a cap and a sign. True, most executives requiring transportation from the airport would be a little fazed by the presence of three small children - one of whom is guaranteed to get car sick, and all of them likely to bicker. Then again, my rates are low.
That aside, for some time now we have braved the Sydney traffic twice a week in order to drop off or collect Mike. Now the Sydney run could go from forty minutes up to three and a half hours, depending on traffic. It could mean setting off at four am. or getting home after dark, depending on flight times. It could mean a simple trip there and back or it could mean getting halfway there and then dashing home again in a desperate sweaty hurry, depending on Mike's ability to forget stuff. But I had it down. I could do that trip in reverse, blindfolded while working out quadratic equations and knitting a scarf - which, in Sydney, is not such an unorthodox way to travel. Although, I may be giving the wrong impression by claiming an ability to conquer quadratic equations. In reality, just trying to count out $2.20 for the toll is taxing enough for me.
I fill you in on this history so that the following story doesn't cause you to think me completely incapable. So, back to the present. There were a few other considerations to bear in mind when doing the airport run here in the U.S.A. Let us not forget the minor issue of driving on the 'wrong' side of the road from the 'wrong' side of the car. But more on this later. Then there was the fact that I have only driven in Nashville twice, and both of those times have been the white-knuckled roller-coaster ride of fear that I like to refer to as 'following Mike'. So, needless to say, taking in the scenery was not really an option. Let us just say that he drives faster than I like to, and he doesn't give enough notice when he signals... and then let us never speak of this again. To sum up, my main concerns were,
1. That we would get lost.
2. That we would all die in an horrific flaming wreck.
3. That we would get lost.
Still, I had my pride to consider. My reputation as the 'go to girl' for airport rides. If I gave in on this I may as well have handed in my cap and sign. Seriously, what could really go wrong? I armed myself with directions from Mapquest, we fueled up 'Oprah' (our '92 Chevy Suburban) and we set off on our merry way, allowing an hour and a half for a forty minute trip.
One thing became obvious right away. At nine oclock at night on the Interstate there is no way to read directions without turning on the interior light - making it very obvious to any passing law-inforcement officers that my whole mind is not exactly on the job at hand (plus putting us at risk of option two, above). Hmm... perhaps it would have been wise to have given the directions more than a passing glance. Never mind, conveniently I happened to have brought the children - several of whom can read. So, throwing the driving directions in Sam's vicinity and switching on his little reading light I put my trust in the navigational abilities of a nine year old child.
The rest of the story gets a little hectic. Rather than give a blow by blow description, I will instead insert the following montage of images...
Sam giving directions. A road sign, claiming to lead to the airport, giving conlicting directions. Myself believing the road sign. A U-turn. Another U-turn. A further U-turn. Laura crying. Sam indignant because I didn't listen to him. Oli desperate for the bathroom. Laura crying. Still another U-turn. Sam needing the bathroom. Laura crying.
When they make 'Amy - the musical' this is the scene which will be set to Hillbilly music. And I have to say the task was not made any easier by the inconsiderate way the traffic was all travelling in the right-hand lanes. This may not sound like such a big deal - and it isn't - until you're trying to figure out which exit you want to take to go East... no , no , NO! EAST! NOT WEST! HANG ON KIDS, WE GOTTA TURN AROUND AGAIN!!!!!! Eventually I just caved in and rang Sue (my hero) who somehow knew exactly where we were, and also (and here's the important bit) how to get us to where we needed to go. Why is there no Nobel prize for navigation?
All of this drama, of course, made us ten minutes late getting to the airport. A fact I was more than mildly concerned about until discovering that the flight had been delayed an hour and a half.
Still, at least we managed to avoid that whole 'flaming wreck' scenario.