Friday, April 11, 2003

Thursday afternoon was spent at the auto service center in Red Bank, NJ, located an hour from home. We were two hours late for the appointment and arrived at noon, just as the crew was leaving for lunch. Turning over the keys, I was told that the 60,000 mile service is *very extensive*, taking 3 - 4 hours at least.

I routinely choose to wait for my car rather than transferring two child car seats to a loaner. The usual wait time is 1 - 2 hours and, given our home's distance from the shop, this stay-at-home mom with nothing better to do can pass the time with a book. Most other folks are too busy or important to wait for their car, opting for the luxury of a free loaner, so we usually have the waiting area to ourselves. Curiously, my kids behave better in public than at home, so managing them is easier.

This occasion would be different.

For starters, it was the kids' naptime. Bracing myself for a trying afternoon at the Volvo garage, I ensured that diapers were clean and tummies were full. Kenny wasted no time moving to the carpeted, kids' "play zone" in the waiting area stocked with toys that were new to him. In his young life, he has already spent many hours here. Kenny occupied himself very well while I tended to the baby. Always prepared for the worst, I had plenty of drinks, snacks and diapers on hand.

At 1:15, we walked to the train tracks at the intersection of routes 520 and 35. I know that two NJ transit commuter trains pass by, one in each direction, on every hour. It took only 15 minutes to walk the 300 yards from the dealership to the corner, faster than I estimated. How to kill a half hour? We took in a couple of doughnuts at the corner Dunkin' Donuts shop. Just as we finished, the first train went by. We stepped outside in time to experience the sights and sounds of the second train moments afterward. Kenny was thrilled. We returned to the dealership and checked out the showroom. Boy, the XC90 is a slick SUV - drool, drool. I tried to access my email from the dealership's complimentary computer cluster but the online email site is unrated so the filtering software blocked it. Naturally, the service staff had been looking for me during our brief excursion because I needed to approve their recommendation to replace a worn, original tire. Their quoted price matched what I'd pay back home in Freehold, and the other three tires were fairly new, so ok. With the cost of a new tire thrown in, the total expense of the service was mighty hefty on the pocketbook, on my nerves and, especially, on the kids because they skipped their regular naps and snacked all afternoon.

Our itinerary for the day had been set well in advance: repair shop, train station, beach, just like some litany out of Dora the Explorer. However, leaving the garage at 3:30 left little time for the next two attractions. I drove us to the Red Bank train station and had the pleasure of watching my sons' hyper-exuberant reactions, on the station platform, as two north-bound trains, minutes apart, pulled in and out. Gosh, how I miss hopping a train to NYC for an occasional show. Fond memories of my BC, "before children", days flooded in. Then, as we drove past the station on our way out of town, two more trains, one in each direction, passed through, the express train didn't even stop. The kids were exhausted, and I knew they would fall asleep shortly. As promised, however, I drove to Seven Presidents Beach, a state park, in Long Branch, just the same. They were asleep and I was unable to rouse them. Just as well, because the air temperature did not live up to its balmy forecast, never climbing out of the low 50's all day. It wasn't a good beach day. How many April days above the Mason-Dixon line are?

We drove home and I mustered the energy to attend an evening appointment while the kids terrorized the babysitter. I was happy to have Jeff, my husband, arrive home on Friday afternoon from a week-long professional conference on the West Coast. Next weekend, an annual retreat takes me out of town, so we'll see how Jeff manages!