I had planned to stay in Sioux Falls, SD, for two nights. Frankly I needed the break so that I could recover from all the driving that I’ve been doing lately. When I checked into the hotel they told me that they couldn’t guarantee anything but the first night. The girl at the front desk did tell me that it was likely that they would have cancelations as it was typical for business travelers to do so on a Monday. So I shrugged my shoulders and figured that I would just see how things turned out. One good night of rest might be enough.
In the morning I waited and extra hour after breakfast started and then went down to see how things were shaping up. Not good. “Actually” , she said, “we’re overbooked.”
“Wow” , I said, “that sounds like something I’d hear at an airlines counter.” She smiled.
So I wondered what they did do when people arrive thinking that they have booked a room and then are told that “Sorry, we’re overbooked”. Are they offered a bag of goodies and a chance to sleep in the lobby? A free night at any location of their choice, subject to blackouts? A dip in the pool before they go search for another hotel?
I had time to get my accumulated laundry done well before checkout so I went back to room to gather it up and take it down to the guest laundry services area. The amount of clothes I had just qualified as a single load and so I started it up and grabbed a book and went to the sitting area in the lobby. Hoping that by the time it was all cleaned and dried there would be some cancellations.
No such luck. Many chapters later and with a bag full of dried and folded clothes, I was told that they were still over-booked and that the outlook was not promising. I felt it best to check out and head for a place called Pipestone in Minnesota.
The P71 was waiting patiently for me out in the parking lot. I popped the trunk open with the remote and placed my bags inside. Then I opened the driver’s door and settled myself inside, ready as ever for some more road miles.
The GPS fired up and I let the engine warm a bit. It was early enough in the day that traffic wouldn’t be bad. I followed the instructions from the voice of the GPS. I had chosen and Australian voice because I found it the closest thing to a New England accent.
It was a short trip to the highway and the divided road was in four lanes at that point. The right lane for a right turn, the two centers for straight ahead, and the left lane for a left turn on to the highway heading east. The traffic lights were red and there was one car ahead of me in the left lane for the ramp to the highway. As I drove forward I saw that there was a sedan in one of the center lanes that had just put on their turn signal for the left lane. There was time for me to pull in behind the car waiting at the left turn light and still give plenty of room for the car signaling left to pull in behind me while we all waited for the green signal.
While I waited I glanced in the mirror at the car behind me. There was a young boy in the front passenger seat, probably about 14, with braces, and undoubtedly a younger sister in the back seat that had situated herself so she could sit and see between the two front seats. In the drivers seat was a woman, presumably the mother sitting behind the steering wheel giving me the finger.
I could see that she was mouthing something like, “Thanks asshole.”
I wasn’t quite sure what my faux pas had really been, but the kids in the car with her were certainly getting animated with their mother’s display of anger.
Hmm. This didn’t look like it was the first time they had witnessed their mother’s ire. I thought about how that must be for kids to see an example of outright venting of rage by a parent.
I was at a loss as to why this woman was reacting so strongly. It wasn’t like I had cut her off and prevented her from entering the turn lane. She was able to do so quite nicely. I hadn’t prevented her from catching a green light, there was none, it was still red.
Maybe she had lost her job. Had a support check bounce. Maybe the dog had died.
Meanwhile the young boy had been staring at the P71 and now was clearly mouthing to his mother, “That’s a Police Car!” I sensed that there was some kind of denial from the mother because his lips said, ”No, that’s a real Police Car!”
By that time the turn signal had turned green and the P71 moved forward onto the Interstate.
The single mom and her children faded back to keep about 20 miles between them and the P71.
Now I suppose you expect that I got a grin on my face and gloated at the circumstances and the reaction in the car behind. I didn’t.
I know full well that what I’ve been using for a road trip car and what kind of vibes it gives off. I also know that if I saw myself coming up in my rear view mirror it would effect my road behavior. The P71 is just that way.
But it was not a moment that made me feel superior or gleeful. Instead I became very thoughtful as regards the situation that I had witnessed. I’ve done my time as a parent as well as a child and a sibling. I felt sad that a parent found the situation so bad and get so distraught that they couldn’t contain their anger. That they had to give their children such and example of rage.
And now what would the children take away? Would this be an example of how they should deal with their own experiences of anger and frustration? Would they wonder why the “police car” didn’t find a way to stop their car and scold their mother? Would it be a learning experience where they saw one adult fly off the handle and another “let it go”?
The P71 drove on toward Pipestone, MN.