Every summer during my youth, my entire family packed into our Chevrolet and my father drove us to Florida to see his parents. My dad was a school principal and we usually left the day after he got out for summer vacation. It was a long, hot two-day drive with three bored kids in a car without air conditioning. Tempers flared quickly and often. Meals at restaurants were our only refuge.
My little sister, Shawna, was only four, my brother, Kenny, was eight and I was 16 during the summer of 1972 when this story happened. We had stopped for lunch in Kentucky at Jerry’s, a Big Boy clone. My dad liked to relax in a sit-down restaurant whenever we stopped for a meal. Quite frankly, he probably needed the break more than any of us. The five of us were sitting in a booth, we were all hungry and our food was due at any moment. My four-year old sister whispered to my mother that she had to go potty. The two of them got up and walked to the ladies’ rest room. As they walked away, Kenny and I got a whiff. Ewww. She obviously had to go potty really bad.
The next few moments all happened simultaneously.
Our meals were delivered by our waitress, my brother noticed that my sister was dropping little brown turds as she walked to the rest room, and my dad bent down to pick up one of Shawna’s droppings under our dining table. My brother bolted after my mother and sister. He arrived at the ladies’ rest room door just as they disappeared inside, so he stood at the door and banged the door.
“MOMMM! MOMMM! MOMMM,” he yelled.
He waited for a response. Nothing.
“MOMMM! MOMMM! MOMMM,” he continued.
The whole restaurant stopped. Everyone was looking at my brother. My mother refused to answer, hoping he would just go away.
Not a chance.
My dad was now completely under the dining table with a handful of napkins. It looked like a family of deer had been living under our table. There were little brown nuggets everywhere. At this point, my brother yelled even louder.
“SHAWNA WENT GRUNTIES!”
My mother yelled back as loud as she could, “SHUT UP!”
I looked back down at my dad under the dining table. His napkin was full. He looked up at me.
“Help me,” he said.
“Uh-uh,” I said.
I grabbed my double-decker hamburger and as many French fries as I could hold in one hand and escaped to the parking lot. I remember the fries were so hot they burned my hand. I sat on the trunk of our car and ate my lunch in peace. This was my refuge for now. I knew there would be hell to pay, but at the time, the alternative was worse. Much worse.