Dad, Are We There Yet?

matthew's picture

This is a political post, but it's going to take me a while to wind around to the final point. Bear with me; I hope it's worth the ride.

When I was a kid, we went on a lot of road trips. I mean, long, tedious, hours-spent-winding-through-wilderness road trips. We drove from Maryland to Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, Florida... basically, if it was near the East Coast and somewhere south of New York State, my family would occasionally get a wild hare to pack all the boys in the car, load the trunk with luggage, and set off to visit family.

On this trip, there were milestones, turnpikes, landmarks, and a whole host of things we passed. There were hills, valleys, mountains, obstacles we had to cross, obstacles we had to dodge, dirt roads, and even an occasional wrong turn with a subsequent U-turn, a little back-tracking, and final arrival at the destination.

You might think this would be kind of a fun trip, right? I mean, you pass all these historical places, sometimes eat out at unique cafes, and you can have fun on a road trip. But that, unfortunately, was not the way our family managed it. My dad was a bit of a cheapskate, and didn't pay for air conditioning on most of these rides. In fact, in the few vehicles we eventually owned that had air conditioning, he thought that leaving the windows down for a little "4 and 60" natural air conditioning was the way to go to save gas money.

This wasn't a totally horrible idea, really. I could stick my hand out of the window, catch a few breezes, feel how the air shifted when a big semi rode past, celebrate when that one semi eventually responded to our "honk, honk" hand-signs with a loud air-horn blast, etc. Except the biggest problem was that we usually ended up driving in the muggy, oppressive summer heat, and our cars inevitably had vinyl seats.

The vinyl seats were sticky and uncomfortable, and, being a kid, I of course was in shorts for summer. Which means that my skin stuck to the vinyl. I'd get a rash, or just get really uncomfortable. Some of these ramifications were my own fault for not preparing adequately. I mean, looking back, I think "why didn't my dad tell me not to wear shorts?" Well, sometimes he did. But more likely, he just assumed I would remember from the mistakes of my past that shorts + vinyl seats + summer heat == bad. I eventually started remembering, and the voyages got a little better.

The last thing, of course, that everybody remembers kids saying, is "Dad, are we there yet?" Now, we kids knew at least on an instinctive level that, until the car was stopped and we saw relatives running out toward the car, that we weren't there yet. In fact, in most cases, we knew we weren't anywhere close. Faceless miles of interstate still faced us. Discomfort plagued the trip, and that brother sitting next to me would just not stop touching me and getting his shorts-clothed leg sweat on my legs. The potty and food breaks were way too short, and way too infrequent.

"Are we there yet?" is, in truth, not a legitimate question at all. We weren't really wondering whether we had arrived at the destination or not; we were actually expressing a general complaint that we were uncomfortable and unhappy that we weren't already having fun at our final destination.

Despite the outbursts, Dad would keep on driving. Yeah, it was a long freakin' way. It seemed like an eternity. But even though we could all look on the map and figure out when we were getting close, it still felt like it took forever. I'd second-guess my dad in the driver's seat, then spend time counting mile markers to see how close we were. I'd question every detour, repeatedly ask "Are we there yet?", and generally make a nuisance of myself because I didn't like where we were, was bored, and just wanted the trip to end so that I could have some fun.

Back in November, I voted for Barack Obama. He's since had to make some really tough decisions. Controversial decisions. Painful decisions. In some cases, wildly unpopular decisions. But these problems were inherited from the previous administrations, and complete recovery is just a long freakin' way away. The trip back to fun-land is going to take a while. We put who we thought was the best man in charge of directing this huge Winnebago down the road to recovery, and it's possible he's going to make mistakes. Sure, we're welcome to criticize, but for the next few months if I hear more whining and complaining about how long it's taking, or whether we should have changed lanes back there or not, I've got one thing to say to these "Are We There Yet, Dad?" complaints:

Sit down. Buckle up. Stick your hand out of the window and try your best to enjoy the ride. We aren't there yet.


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JB's picture


Loved the journey and can fully agree with your message. I think a big problem a lot of the populous has is that we have become accustomed to instant gratification. This situation that we are in just isn't going to happen that way.

Sammy G's picture

I've Been In The Car For A While

Matt, I've been in the car for a while. I've had my hand out the window. I've tried to enjoy the ride.

My problem is that we don't know where we're going. What's the point of asking 'are we there yet?' when nobody has a sense of where we're headed?

Ben's picture

Don't you know?

Getting there is half the fun.



daniel's picture

All too clear

I think it's pretty clear where we're going. It's not a family trip to Disneyland; it's walking the green mile.

matthew's picture


Cool, I can't wait for the tall black man to take the fall for someone else's crime.

Oh, wait, it's happening right now.

Matthew P. Barnson

Matthew P. Barnson

weed's picture

Too Much of Business as Usual

To continue your analogy, the driver of the car is a cool guy to ride with. He shoots straight, is fun to talk to, make better decisions on which roads to take, and it a lot more fun to ride with.

But the cars still going in the same direction it's been going in for the past 30 years. Spend, spend, spend. Legislate legislate legislate.

Obama has an over 50% approval rating, while Congress has one in the 20%. Tell me what they're doing different, except that Obama is still the golden boy.

And before you claim we're throwing Obama under the bus, remember I voted for him. It may have been because he was the best of some bad choices, but I did vote for him.

My $.02

My $.02

"Cool, I can't wait for the

"Cool, I can't wait for the tall black man to take the fall for someone else's crime. Oh, wait, it's happening right now."

Okay, this is just made of win and gold. *applauds*