I thought it would be easy to travel on Thanksgivings if I planned accordingly. AAA estimates that traveling around Boston the Tuesday before Thanksgiving can take 2.5x longer if you leave between 5-7pm. This was fine with me because I was leaving the Northshore at 2:30 and traveling through Boston to the Southshore. Without traffic, it should have taken 50 minutes.
I picked up my daughter from gymnastics and then picked up my sister-in-law and my nephew on our way. Before departing from their house, I asked my daughter multiple times, like all parents, "Do you need to go to the bathroom?" and was repeatedly met with the same response, "Nope I'm fine." Here was my first mistake.
Maybe it was eagerness to get on the road, or my willingness to create a life lesson about going to the bathroom before you get into the car. I will say my daughter is good about being able to hold it until we get to a bathroom, so a 50 minute car ride should have been a walk in the park. But like most things related to parenting, it wasn't.
We got onto 93. We had the DVD player on in the back seat so everyone is content. My sister-in-law and I were bonding over the unintentionally funny things my wife says when my sister-in-law points out we can take the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle ) lane. Fantastic! Traffic was starting to back up so I immediately weaved my way to the entrance of the HOV lane. Here was my second mistake.
Almost immediately after laughing at all the "suckers" stuck in traffic, the HOV lane came to an abrupt halt, and we start grinding our way between the concrete barriers that separate us from those "suckers.” I was feeling rather superior up to that point. About 30 minutes into the slow crawl down 93, I heard the dreaded words all parents hate from the back seat. "Dadda I have to go potty!"
Putting on my preverbal detective hat, I attempted to figure out at what emergency bathroom category she's currently experiencing, Category 1 being she might have to go, and up to Category 10 being I'm going to have to wash out the car seat.
The next few questions and answers come out like a "Choose Your Own Adventure” book. However, in this case, the adventure is chosen for you.
Me: "Ok honey, we'll be there soon."
Option 1: She says “Ok.” This means she really doesn't have to go. Turn to page 4
Option 2: She says “I really have to go.” This means we need to start to head toward a bathroom. Turn to page 7
Response: Option 2. Crap.
I was literally stuck between the Jersey barriers or waist high concrete barricades, with no exit options.
Me: "Can you hold it?"
Option 1: She says “I'll try.” This means she will buy us some time. Turn to page 5
Option 2: She grunts. This means she's been holding it for a while already. Turn to page 8
Response: Option 2. Damn it.
My sister-in-law tried to distract her.
Sister-in-law: "What do you want for Christmas?"
Option 1: She goes on and on about all the toys she's seen on TV and circled in her toy catalog. This means we might have a chance to find an acceptable area to pee. Turn to page 6
Option 2: She doesn't say anything. This means we are at Defcon 1 (meaning near nuclear war, or peeing pants inside a car). Turn to page 9
Response: Option 2. F*ck.
I couldn’t even pull over as the HOV lane is one narrow lane, NO pull offs! I'm finished. My mind immediately started to plan the inevitable clean up I'm going to have to do when we arrived at my in-laws. Then my sister-in-law saw a minor bump out in our lane. The barriers had been shifted wider in order to accommodate a bridge station. I went for it.
I squeezed out of the drivers door, pulling my daughter out of the back seat and carefully avoiding being run over by the cars passing me on the left. I brought her to the other side of the car where my sister in-law was waiting with her door open, attempting to create some privacy. We were literally in the middle of 93 with cars on either side of us, and no grass to go on. My daughter was wearing pants and a dress. “This should be easy,” I think.
Here was my third mistake.
Underneath her clothes she was wearing her gymnastics leotard. THE WORLD IS AGAINST ME!
Thankfully my sister-in-law had the patience of a saint, and was able to get my daughter’s complicated clothes off. Here we were with cars on either side of us, grinding through traffic, with a naked 4 year old squatting between the car and the barrier. It’s only because of an act of God, or my amazing sister-in-law, that I didn’t get peed on that day.
We reassembled the clothing ensemble, and I put my daughter back in the car. With the newly found relief, my daughter was now laughing, and thought it was really cool to pee in the middle of a highway. She was laughing so much she can't see the steam coming out my ears. I casually pulled back into traffic, and we slowly made our way to the destination.
Next time AAA needs to account for children's pee breaks while traveling.