By Rachel Lechler

I told my dad I was going to write a story about all the fun times we have in the car, since we spend so much time driving. When I asked him how I should start it, his suggestions included, “Once upon a time in the west…ah, east…ah, southeast,” or something along the lines of, “What our dog has to listen to in the morning,” since he’s always in the trunk no matter where we go. Before anyone starts freaking out about our dog being trapped in the dark, scary dungeon of the trunk, imagine something more spacious with a big fluffy bed and slobber-covered windows in the back of our big blue Jeep. Like a luxury condo for dogs. Tucker has separation anxiety from my dad, so whenever he leaves the house, Tucker throws a hissy fit and completely throws himself out of whack by throwing up and tearing apart anything he can get a hold of. We take him with us as much as we can.

My dad is always the first person I go to when it comes to ideas for a story. Sometimes I share with him what my classmates write as well. The other day I told my dad that a part of Emily Thomas’s story included a drive-thru mortuary. His response went as followed: “Do they ask if the deceased wants fries and a big drink with that?”

In the morning, at 6:10 exactly, we leave to go to my bus stop, only about twenty minutes away from my house on Kiawah Island. After we talk about how we slept, my dad usually asks me what kind of day it is at school.

“Is it an A or B day today?”

“It’s an A day.”

“So, it’s a Sarah day,” referring to my best friend, the beautiful and tiny Sarah Baxley, whom he absolutely adores. Sarah and I have three out of four classes together on A days and that excites my dad to the point where he starts serenading her name loudly and following up with a chain of la la la’s. In the midst of all this, I’m already starting to text my boyfriend, Collin, and trying to block out the sound of my dad’s out-of-tune “singing” when he asks, “So, Twinkletoes is up?” As if that couldn’t be any more flamboyant. He knows it bothers me and starts laughing when I sigh loudly. My dad’s laugh is something to laugh at altogether, though. It literally sounds like he’s furiously exhaling, while he slaps his knee a bit, and then has a slight coughing fit. My dad doesn’t mind mine and Collin’s relationship since he thinks that Collin is such a good kid, a southern gentleman type that always opens the car door for me when I get picked up, but that doesn’t stop my dad from making jokes about him whenever possible, especially when it comes to the fact that Collin is two years younger than me. So, naturally, that gives my dad the right to think up some little boy comments pertaining to Collin.

This proceeds for a while until my lovely bus, 518, pulls into my bus stop at 6:32 exactly every morning with its annoyingly squeaky brakes screeching in the early morning silence. By then my dad’s singing one of his jingles that usually don’t make any sense and end with me expressing how weird I think he is.

“Willy, Willy, Willy, Willy, Willy. The Willy with the brilly.” Willy, being my bus driver, who, for the first year of riding the bus, thought I was a boy and called me “son.” After I told my dad this, he found it so humorous that occasionally when I get out of the car to get on my bus, he loudly exclaims, “Bye, son!” But he usually says, “It’s Willy and the yellow submarine!”

The best part of driving with my angry German father is when his angry German side comes shooting out of the Angry German Closet when we’re stuck behind someone whose driving technique isn’t exactly up to par. First, he starts irritatingly smacking his hands on the steering wheel, shaking his head and sighing dramatically. Then, he gets colorful.

“Move your piece of crap car, you idiot. What the hell do you think you’re doing!? I am going to run you over!” And, that’s just the censored version. I’m pretty sure I see steam blowing out of every hole on his face sometimes. Since my dog gets very frightened when my dad raises his voice, I hear him shifting uncomfortably in the back of the car.

“Dad, you need to calm down your road rage a bit before you give yourself and Tucker a heart attack.”

“I don’t have road rage! Just as long as these idiots get out of my way.”

My dad isn’t always the most upbeat person though. My dad sometimes treats me like I’m his personal therapist and opens up to me when he doesn’t know what else to do. He owns a construction business and since the economy isn’t the greatest at the moment, he’s been having problems finding jobs, so he sometimes breaks down over financial complications with medical bills from my mother’s cancer, or all of the other necessary monthly bills. I try to help him the same way he helps me when I’ve had a bad day, throwing a few good words and witty comments his way to make him smile.

The best part of my day is when I get into the car with my dad after a long day at school. After the usual conversation on how our day was and if anything exciting happened, no matter what kind of mood I’m in, he can easily make me smile when he says, “I missed my Sweetiepeeps. I thought about you all day,” and holds my hand until it’s absolutely necessary to let go in order to maneuver the steering wheel. Eventually we get into a long discussion on who loves each other more and who’s more wrong about their opinion on the matter.

“Dad, I love you more. Get over it.”

“That’s not possible.”

“You know I’m so right.”

“If you’re right, then I’m left!”

My dad knows I love it when he takes me to school, so sometimes he’ll go out of his way to put me in a good mood by letting me sleep half an hour later and take me. We often stop at Starbucks on the way to school where he knows my favorite cup of coffee by heart, and so do the employees. One time we were sitting in front of the drive-thru window talking to the cashier while we waited for our coffee when my dad mentioned that they make the best cappuccino in the world. The woman began to tell us how she times the complicated procedure of making a cappuccino by singing the chorus of “Another One Bites the Dust.” My dad found this amusing and decided he would bring it up again another day.

“Thank you for choosing Starbucks today, how can I help you?” an overly perky female voice rings through the intercom. How can anyone be that cheerful in the morning?

“Yes, I’d like a cup of Another One Bites the Dust.” The woman, understanding the joke even though we were sure she wasn’t the same woman, began to laugh.

“Okay, anything in particular?”

“A venti white chocolate mocha with four Splendas…”

“And a venti cappuccino with eight Splendas.” You know you go to Starbucks too much when the woman at the window can finish your order for you.

While waiting behind the line of white compact cars in front of us, my dad and I get on the subject of music, where we start singing the aforementioned song and talk about classic hits and composers.

“Did you know that Beethoven was so deaf that, all his life, he thought he was painting pictures?” I sat there dumbfounded.

“Really?” My dad starts laughing, shaking his head, and I push him jokingly. By then Tucker lifts his sleepy head slowly into view from the back of the car. At the same time my dad and I start showering him with a chorus of, “Ayyyeee Tuck Tuck! Puppy dog, puppy dog, where is my puppy dog?!” Tucker licks his lips a couple of times before drooping his eyes again and falls back asleep.

I could continue writing about all of the weird things my dad says since it’s just endless and ridiculous, but at the same time I love it. I love that he gives me weird nicknames like Humpty Dumpty and Sweetiepeeps, and that whenever I tell him I can take him down, he says, “It takes a machine, not a spare part.” I love that sometimes he enters a room by flapping his arms around and shuffling sideways with a goofy look on his face. He’s a kook, but he makes me laugh. I don’t care if it’s cliché, I couldn’t have asked for a better dad to have all these strange conversations with.

Poor Tucker

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