Sayed Kashua

That Moment When You Have to Bribe Your Kid to Come on a Family Road Trip

My teenage daughter knows me too well

Sayed Kashua
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Illustration: Sayed Kashua on a road trip with his family.
Illustration.Credit: Amos Biderman
Sayed Kashua

Tomorrow I’ll be starting on my first road trip in the United States. First stop: Niagara Falls. I always pronounced it “naya-GAra,” like the colloquial Hebrew word for toilet tank. Wonder if there’s a connection. Is it the waterfall effect – are we going to drive 10 hours for a toilet?

“I don’t want to go,” my daughter said. I was very sad to discover that she’d already spoken with a girlfriend about the possibility of staying at her place for the two weeks we were planning to be away. 

“But it’s family,” I said with tears in my eyes. “A family trip. Who am I doing this for?”

“Dad,” she said, “do you want me to write you a script of exactly what your trip will look like? After two hours, you’ll already be cursing the moment you thought that driving more than three hours a day was a good idea. My brothers will be fighting in the back seat out of boredom, and you’ll make the usual threat that if they don’t sit quietly you’ll leave them by the roadside, and they'll have to manage on their own. By now they know that your threats aren’t worth a thing. 

“At some point,” she continued, “you’ll start to accuse Mom of not checking the maps and TripAdvisor about where it’s worth eating, and when she does check, you’ll get upset because she chose an expensive restaurant. And when we finally get to the hotel, you’ll be totally exhausted, angry because you have to pay for parking and because they have fees that don’t appear on Expedia – and for the millionth time you’ll get uptight and shout, ‘What the hell is occupancy tax?’

“You’ll share a bed with one of the boys and in the morning you’ll say that he kicked you all night, you didn’t sleep a wink and now you can’t possibly drive another six hours to the next destination – and all this is even before we’ve gotten to the falls! And when we get there, you’ll be irritated by the lines, the heat, the price of the tickets, and you’ll shout at us to keep away from the railing and the water. You’ll say that every attraction is dangerous, and you’ll show us YouTube videos you’ve seen about accidents at tourist sites, water parks and fairgrounds.

“You’ll want to have a few drinks to calm down, but you won’t be able to, because you’re afraid you’ll have a headache the next day and then you won’t be able to focus on driving. Mom will say, ‘Drink, I’d rather have you drunk,’ and she’ll suggest that she drive. You’ll say, ‘No way,’ and she’ll get indignant that you don’t trust her, and you’ll say that you do trust her but you’re afraid she’s too calm and not paranoid enough for you to trust her. 

“The weather site will say there’s a 10 percent chance of rain at our next destination, and you’ll freak out and have a panic attack. Your palms will start to sweat, and you’ll breathe deeply, because you think you are able to control your anxieties by now. And you’ll be convinced that something is wrong with the brakes, the tires are too worn down, the steering wheel shakes during turns, and the wipers are scratchy and leave marks on the windshield – and it won’t rain at all!

“And if you are calm, you’ll look for a radio station to listen to, you’ll curse the Republicans and the Democrats, along with the liberals and the nationalists and the religious, and in the end you’ll say that you’re fed up with the news and switch to music and regret not having brought your own music, because streaming costs money. And you’ll curse country music and pop and romantic songs, and when a song finally comes on that you like you’ll turn down the volume or switch stations, because it’s too depressing or the language is too coarse for us as though we were still little kids and not sitting at a computer all day, and with all due respect to parental controls, we know how to get around that.

“Then, after two hours of driving, you’ll remember the annual Pesach trip to Eilat, and you’ll forget how much you hated Eilat and you’ll be flooded with nostalgia that has no connection whatsoever to reality and you’ll start to talk about the popsicle at Ein Gedi and the Aroma café at Hatzeva, or wherever, and about Kushi’s 101 roadside tavern, and about how ‘kushi’ is a disgusting word that Israelis use that’s the equivalent of the N-word, and my little brother will ask what the N-word is and you’ll repeat your joke that it’s Nintendo. 

“And for some reason you’ll shed a tear when you start to remember how we picked up Radio Jordan in the Arava, and you would get upset at King Abdullah and about how he has an English accent and that you can't understand how in the world the Jordanians are willing to accept a royal house that cooperates openly with Israeli governments. You’ll remember how you used to claim that the radio is so chauvinistic, and Mom would say that so are you, and you would get furious and not be able to come up with a response, because the thing is, Dad, you are a male chauvinist. But you’re improving in America, I admit. All your friends from gender studies and queer theory are having an impact.  

“After three hours of driving you’ll start to ask out loud what in the world we’re doing here, and say that it’s time to head home and nothing compares to the trip to Tiberias that your father used to take you on during summer vacation, sleeping in a tent on rocks and never in hotels, because who has the money for that? Then your mood will deteriorate very fast because of the politics, the racism, the Jews, the government and the Arabs and religion and Jerusalem, and because you know that it’s better here, at least for us, as you say. And you’re right, Dad, it is better for us here, but I don’t want to hear all that again and I don’t want to go on a two-week road trip with you, because I know you too well already.”

“So, that doesn’t sound like a terrific script?”

“No, definitely not. I’d rather stay here.”

“And if I give you $200 to waste in New York?”

“Not counting food?”

“Not counting food.”

“Then I’m in.”