JOE HILDEBRAND has uncovered the secret to surviving a family holiday.
There’s a great Gary Larson cartoon in which a professor tests his “controversial” method for treating the fear of snakes, heights and the dark: the patient is padlocked in a box with a bunch of serpents and hurled from a top-storey window. The premise is that nobody would be crazy enough to lock themselves in a confined space with the source of all their aggravation.
On a completely unrelated note, this summer I thought it would be a good idea to take my family on a road trip.
There are many good reasons to take a road trip – being on the run from the police, for example – and, it turns out, several reasons not to.
These might include, say, having a heavily pregnant wife and a toddler who is yet to master toilet training.
Even so, there is something alluring about the call of the open road. A plane trip offers only queues and delays, and the anxiety of missing your flight or being publicly shamed by the hand-luggage police. Not since the death of Sid James have the words “Carry On” evoked so much trauma. A car trip, by contrast, promises freedom – being master of your own destiny. “The humblest person is a king in his own car,” Tony Abbott once wrote. (Indeed, so committed was Abbott to automotive transport that his colleagues decided to throw him under a bus.) And so I thought it would be a good idea if, instead of flying from Sydney to Melbourne for Christmas, we loaded up the car with three-and-a-half people and 487 toilet accessories. This was high risk, yet I reasoned it would have the dual benefit of: 1) allowing us to see some of Australia’s beautiful countryside; and 2) reducing as much as possible the time spent with my mother. I should point out that my mother is the most selfless and perfect human being, which is precisely the problem. For it doesn’t matter how old or successful you are, any prolonged exposure to your mother turns you back into a petulant teenager. Last week I spoke to an awardwinning journalist who spent half his holidays locked in a bedroom crying to Led Zeppelin. As a result, virtually every middle-aged man I know has calculated that the longest acceptable exposure to his parents is a week, comprising one day of rapturous reunion, three days of happy reminiscing, two days of airing grievances and one day of packing.
And this is where the true genius of the road trip comes in: it allows you to combine the maximum amount of time off work with the minimum amount of time spent with your relatives. YOU: Can’t wait to see you, Mum! YOUR MUM: How long are you staying for? YOU: Just a week. We’re driving down. YOUR MUM: But I thought you said you had five weeks off? YOU: Er, we’ve just moved to Darwin. Of course you don’t really have to move to Darwin if you need a four-week car trip – in the big cities you can just move two suburbs away. Or you could simply move somewhere more civilised, like the Balkans. Either way, a road trip is a great way to escape a family holiday. Now if only I could figure out a way to escape the car.
Any prolonged exposure to your mum turns you back into a petulant teen”