Did you know that Americans consume 20 percent of their meals in their car? Instead of being disturbed by this nugget of information, my response is yum.
I’ve had some of the best meals of my life behind the wheel. I’m not talking about fine dining, of course, but when you can hand off a teething infant to your husband, flee to your escape pod and enjoy a chicken sandwich with honey mustard from the Chick-fil-A drive-thru where the only sound is you sucking down a chocolate shake, it’s a luxurious dining experience.
My car is my safe space, my retreat, my very own tiny home. It’s where I go to hide — from my family. Yes, my kids are years past the teething stage, but I still, at times, sequester myself in my vehicle.
After a spring break trip last year where I, at times, felt like I was being held hostage on a hormone roller coaster called “Extreme Mood Swing” — come for the death defying drops and stay for a G-force so intense you’ll need years of empty nesting to recover — I eagerly informed my brood that as soon as we arrived home I would be going to the grocery store.
I was gone four hours. Four blissful hours where I sat in my car, reclined my seat back and read a book while enjoying a Culver’s butter burger with fries. I was so happy and content I didn’t even feel a smidge of shame when I went through the Culver’s drive-thru again, two hours into my post vacation recoup, to get a cookie dough concrete. That meal ranks up there with one of the most delicious epicurean events of my existence.
The only downside of hiding out in my car is that sometimes I’m busted by my family. After all these years they’ve only now kind of caught on to the fact that my many trips to the store are in reality mental health breaks.
A couple of weeks ago, right before Christmas I was about to lose it. I still had gifts to buy, cookies to make, a mother- and brother-in-law in town, and a freaking Secret Santa. (Just why on the Secret Santa? Why don’t we call it what it really is? A week of buying crap from the Target $5 bin for your co-worker.) I had to make a run for it.
Under the auspices of needing gift wrap, I bolted for my car and high-tailed it to one of my top 10 happy places — the Freddy’s drive-thru, where I order a Chicago dog. Once I got my food, I pulled into a parking space, blasted my car’s butt heat, pulled up a book on my phone and settled in for a renewal.
After about an hour I got the dreaded text “Where R U?” which meant is was time to return home. Two hours later the whole family piled into my car to look at Christmas lights, and that’s when my lie was discovered.
My car reeked of Chicago dog. If smells had a rating it would have been at DEFCON 1. I had put the Freddy’s bag on the passenger seat, which also had its heater on, and I think that served as a turbo intensifier. It was as if I had a hot dog with extra onions aromatic diffuser in my car.
The Chicago dog odor prompted a flurry of questions from “Did you bring everyone Freddy’s?” to “Is that you’ve been doing for the last hour?”
I felt duty bound to confess. So, I shared with my family that I did indeed have a Chicago dog for lunch – eight hours ago.
Don’t judge. Every mother needs her secrets.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at email@example.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.