Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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Wheeling & Dealing

nothing drives me crazy quite like driving

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Beth Czech

Raise your hand if you have family or friends living in the Twin Cities. OK, keep your hands up. Now, raise your hand if you have family or friends living about two or three hours from the Chippewa Valley. Good, just keep those hands up. Now, if you find it kind of annoying to visit those people because you feel the drive time is a hassle, go ahead and stand up. Good! OK, nice. Now shuffle your feet to the left. To the right. Bob your head and that’s what I call dancing. Great job, everyone.

OK, stop dancing. 

We all have relatives or friends who live “pretty close.” I have family in the Twin Cities. And I have family that lives in a little town about two hours north of here. They live in this weird not-close-enough-for-a-quick-trip but not-far-enough-for-a-big-trip proximity, and personally, I’ve never really come to terms with this awkward distance.  

We can’t just jump in the car and zip over to our parents’ for diner. If we had family or good friends in the next town, we could be all “spur of the moment” and move about like a summer breeze, rippling across a sun-soaked lake. But no, we need to pack our stupid suitcases and gas up the stupid car and leave out stupid extra food for our stupid cats that immediately freak out and eat all of it. 

And with two kids, long car rides are sometimes a teensy-weensy, little bit, ever so slightly agonizing. Like getting poked in the eye with rusty steak knife. Not always.
But sometimes it’s like carpooling with Satan and Satan’s younger brother, Also Satan.  And they aren’t getting along. 

There are a couple of alternate, scenic routes we can take, but they add drive time. And with two kids, long car rides are sometimes a teensy-weensy, little bit, ever so slightly agonizing. Like getting poked in the eye with rusty steak knife. Not always. But sometimes it’s like carpooling with Satan and Satan’s younger brother, Also Satan. And they aren’t getting along. 

Why not make it fun, like a mini road trip, you ask? On a true road trip, you can have zany little adventures with the quirky small-town folks who live in the idyllic little villages off the beaten path. If you’re lucky, these little towns are hiding dark secrets, and you get to uncover centuries old supernatural injustices and save some orphans. You’re right – stuff like that is fun. 

However, since we’ve driven these same routes again and again and again and again, “exciting” or “quirky” are not words I’d use to describe these trips. If I had to describe these trips in one word, I guess I’d say, “monotonous.” Or “tedious.” Or “a perfect time to contemplate the mind-shredding emptiness of our frigid universe.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my wife, and if the kids are distracted, long drives are a great time to talk. But driving – the physical act of driving a car – does something weird to my head. I go into a sort of trance where I’m good at thinking, but not so good at talking. And I’m not the most amazing conversationalist to begin with. 

I’m sure there are things I could do to snap out of it. We could drive at different times of the day. We could get donuts. We could play games. We could take turns riding on top of the car like it’s a really fat, really fast horse with good handling. There’s gotta be something.

Sure, maybe I’m a big whiney cry baby poopy pants. I’m sure many of you out there don’t have any family within driving distance, so you have to pay for expensive plane tickets just to see your mom. And I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who live just a few blocks from your extended family, and you’d gladly sell your firstborn child to get two hours of highway time betwixt doorsteps. 

OK, maybe you wouldn’t sell your firstborn, but once the middle kid’s head lice clears up, he’s totally on the market.

Here’s the important thing. Once we actually get to our family’s house, everything’s peachy. I love seeing them. And I wish we saw them more often. It’s just that ding-dang highway I can’t stand. So if anyone out there knows of any space-bending wormhole things, please let me know. Email me at mike@volumeone.org and use the subject line “Found a Wormhole.” 

I’ll wait. 

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.