My mom’s dad, “Pop” used his driving time as his thinking time. That usually resulted in funny stories. But the good news is that he never lost his cool when driving. Pop was an intrepid traveler who loved seeing new places. Pop used to go Europe every summer with my mom and grandma Betty. I have chosen to share some of his funniest car-related stories with you.
I vividly remember when Pop was driving and we were going to go have ice cream, and we went the completely wrong direction! But, he just shrugged it off and turned around. After about another hour, we finally found it! By that time, we had to get home in time for dinner, so we went a bit fast. (But we did get to the ice cream parlor.)
One time, when my mom was about 16, they were in Arles,France. My mom and grandma had been walking a lot in the heat of summer. It was probably 90 degrees out, and they wanted to go back to the hotel. So Pop went to go get the rental car, which was probably about a mile or so away. A half an hour went by, then an hour, and then an hour and fifteen minutes. My mom and grandma Betty started to get worried. Then, they heard a commotion. They looked, and there were about 50 people following Pop and laughing! Pop had gone on a “road” that got progressively narrower, with houses on either side. Nothing could intimidate Pop, so he kept going, until he was reached a long flight of stairs. He stopped. He looked. He drove. He drove down the flight of stairs. All 30 of them. Streaming behind him, like chicks following a hen, were hysterical locals and kids. When Pop had reached the bottom of the stairs, he waved! Then, Pop pulled up by my mom and grandma Betty and they got in! Pop just laughed it off with them!
Another time, they were in France, near the Spanish border. They were in a tiny hotel in a tiny town. My mom went to get into bed, and the sheets were wet. So, Pop went and asked the hotel owner if he could come up and change the sheets. After a few minutes of grumbling, the owner came up, felt the sheets, pointed at my mom (who was 16 at the time) and said “She made pee-pee on the sheets! I will not put new sheets on!” So, Pop told the owner in French “Monsieur, tu n’est pas gentille!” In English, “Mister, you are not nice!” There is a formal type of French that most French people speak out in the world, and then there is an informal family/friend version. Pop used the informal version. Pop told the owner that if he didn’t change the sheets, then they would leave. The owner told them that he didn’t care if they left. The owner went downstairs and let the air out of one of their rental car’s tire. Pop, my mom and grandma Betty were driving along in a small town on some old cobblestones at midnight. The car sounded like somebody was hammering a nail into a piece of pottery. Pop said “the car is steering funny on this side. I’m going to look at it.” Pop pulled over. The town was closed for the night; everybody’s lights were dark, and all the shutters were closed. Pop found out that the tire was flat. Pop started to change the tire. Soon enough, a car came up. Pop’s rental car had Spanish license plates. Their hearts were lifting because they thought help was on the way. But no. A Spaniard was driving, thought they were Spanish, and asked Pop for directions. Pop told him in French that he didn’t speak Spanish.
Another trip, they were driving through a small town in Holland. There were cars in one lane, and Pop was driving in another. Suddenly, Pop realized that there were a lot of bicyclists in their lane. Then, people started banging in the roof of their Simca rental car. Then Pop realized that they were driving in the bike lane! My mom was getting intense in the backseat, grandma Betty was getting intense in the passenger seat, but Pop kept on driving until he could safely merge.
Driving along in France, Pop and grandma Betty were looking for a museum. Pop made a right turn when he should have made a left. He was driving towards an outdoor café. All of a sudden, he was in it. Pop couldn’t back up, it was too narrow. (It’s a wonder he made it in.) he started to thread his way through the café’s outdoor tables. Instead of doing a normal 3-point turn, he did something like an 80-point turn. People were cheering him on! He went two inches forward, two inches back, etc. Grandma Betty was freaked out but laughing! Pop couldn’t have cared less; he simply kept on doing his 80-point turn. When he finally got out of the café, he stuck his hand out of the window and waved it like a maestro! (But he had directions to the museum.)
One time, when my mom was 15, Pop, my grandma Betty, and my mom were in Wales. They were driving by a pasture of sheep, and Pop stopped to take a picture out of the window. My mom and grandma Betty started going “Meh-h-h-h!” back to the sheep. Then, one very curious sheep started to climb into the car via the window. Pop started driving without a care in the world. Finally, after a few moments of struggling with the sheep, my mom and grandma Betty succeeded in pushing the sheep out of the car. Can’t you just imagine a sheep hanging out of a car window? I can!
Another time, they were in England, and there are very high hedge groves in England. Pop went to turn a corner, and was driving in the wrong lane! A garbage truck was coming down the road, and my mom was freaking out and screaming “I want to live to see my 16th birthday!” Pop waited until the last-minute to swerve, when the garbage truck was right in front of them! The garbage truck driver looked like he had just seen a ghost!
Someday, I would like to go to Europe, but not with a driver like Pop! What Pop lacked in driving skills, he made up for in being a good grandpa.