Sunday, January 30, 2011

Car, Cars, Cart

Amy is an extreme introvert, which means she perishes easily in the absence of solitude and silence. Of course, her job involves going to a loud, crowded, cramped place and having really high-intensity interactions with a parade of really difficult people. Without going to any detail, this week was particularly draining. This called for an intervention. Kids, it's time to get out of the house Saturday morning and go have some fun so that Mama can recharge.

8:00a - Kids have been up since 6, so plenty of time to put clothes on, have breakfast, and get ready to head out. We drive the car gingerly to the mechanic to get the oil changed. I've only driven three other times this month, none since the big snowstorm, so I'm gripping the wheel with both hands like there's no tomorrow.

8:10a - Car safely dropped off, we walk a couple of blocks to the nearest subway station and within minutes are downtown and heading to Reading Terminal Market. Not many people out, so downtown has a quiet but majestic feel to it.

8:30a - We slowly meander through the aisles at the Market. The kids clamor for all manner of goodies: chocolates, candies, pastries piled to eye-level. They settle for two pretzels for a dollar from their cheap dad.

8:50a - Earlier that morning, I wondered what I would do with the kids so early in the morning besides the Market. After all, all the shopping spots didn't open until 10a. Then I saw an ad for the Philadelphia International Auto Show. It was opening day. It opens at 9. And it's free for kids 6 and under. Even better, buying a ticket online got me two bucks off. So we pack up from the Market and head across the street to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

9:00a - Big pile of people waiting for the doors to open. We get in and go to coat check. The lady has the audacity to charge me double the $2 per item fee. I mean, just because I've jammed a backpack, three jackets, two scarfs, three hats, and three pairs of gloves into a big shopping bag doesn't mean that shouldn't count as one item, right? OK, maybe she was cutting me a break.

9:10a - Brand new cars everywhere, with license to climb in and out of them. The kids are pretty geeked up about this.

9:50a - Mechanic calls with the inevitable "we have two other things we want to do while we're in there, Mr. Huang." The second item, which he says will cost six hundred bucks, causes me to groan aloud, to which he replies, "Well, y'know it's going to take us a good hour and a half extra to do that." At that hourly rate, I think I'm in the wrong profession.

10:40a - We've been going for 90 minutes and Aaron is starting to perish. I hold on to him with promises of fortifications in Chinatown, and try to distract him from his tiredness with desperate cries of "look at that motorcycle, Aaron!"

10:50a - One of our favorite Chinatown bakeries is just two blocks away. We get pastries for the kids and then they ask for bubble tea. I think I just bought myself another hour or so.

11:10a - Back at the Convention Center, we find another huge exhibit hall we hadn't previously hit. We grab all the free schwag we can, and I hoist Aaron onto my shoulders to fend off any whining about hurt knees.

12:10p - I think we're done here. We haven't heard from the mechanic but hope that he's either done and hasn't called us, or will be done once we get back to our neighborhoods.

12:30p - Neither. It's going to be another hour. I take the kids outside and hit a food truck to score two foot-long meat, egg, and cheese sandwiches for five bucks. They eat while I snooze.

1:10p - I am awoken by the mechanic's voice, saying my car's ready. I get the kids organized, throw them in the car, and we head to the grocery store. Yes, the grocery store: with snow piled up everywhere, I am loath for us to have to park the car twice this weekend, so I figure we do all the car-related errands all at once. I wonder if the kids will cooperate.

2:10p - They are a handful but there are no significant meltdowns. They even pester me to help me unload the cart onto the conveyor belt. For some reason, they love doing that.

2:30p - Home at last, and with a parking spot not far from our house, to boot. And now the hard part: getting five big canvas bags, a bag full of car-related brochures/schwag, a wired Jada, and an asleep Aaron into the house. Needless to say, it's a multi-trip act. A fitting end to another fun and crazy Huang Kid itinerary.

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