Growing up my dad drove everywhere we went. We would all pile in the car, mom up front, sister and I in the back (as far away from each other as the bench seat would allow) and my dad firmly planted behind the steering wheel. He was a great driver. Always on the defensive. Never panicked in a snowstorm, during torrential downpours, and could drive for 13 hours straight if need be. But for all of his prowess behind the wheel, my dad had two glaring flaws…the man never asked for directions and he loved going down the road less traveled whether he knew where he was going or not. And yet, despite his inherent stubbornness, he rarely seemed to get lost. I don’t know if he was watching the moon and stars for navigation? Maybe he licked his thumb and stuck it out the window to gauge the wind when no one was watching? I could swear I remember him using a divining rod one time on our way to the beach. He was a modern-day explorer and his car was his Santa Maria.
Maybe one reason I never remember my dad ever getting lost was because we always seemed to find ourselves in a place my dad knew. That place was Squedunct.
Squedunct isn’t found on any map I ever looked at. Tom Tom wouldn’t know what the hell you’d be talking about if you typed it in your GPS. OnStar would hang up on you if you asked where it was. But Squedunct is out there (like Atlantis or El Dorado). But unlike those hidden mythological places of mystery and golden buildings, Squedunct is easily found. Anyone driving can find Squedunct. Squedunct could be and is lined with row homes, back roads, poorly lit streets, ‘S’ turns, ‘U’ turns, big city blocks, country lanes, and unrecognized names of avenues. Squedunct could be any street, neighborhood, or unfamiliar road. Squedunct is found after one veers off of any main artery of travel regardless of whether or not they know the way.
At any given moment, cruising along some highway to some destination, my father was prone to making a left. Why? That is a question both you the reader and my mother may never know. But he did. He would turn off much to my mother’s bewilderment (and percolating annoyance). Sometimes he knew what he was doing and other times there was a good chance we would be paying an interstate toll before we got to where we were supposed to go. And when asked, “Dad, where are we?” his answer was always, “Squedunct”.
It got to the point that when he would make that left, the entire car, in unison, would chime “Squedunct”. As a kid it was exciting. Winding around turns and bends. The countryside uninterrupted by urban sprawl and Target shopping centers. In a strange way, driving through Squedunct gave our family time to be together. Sure my mom wanted to kill my dad and leave him in Squedunct, but even that, we would have done as a family. I don’t know if that was his intention or if he was just incapable of doing things the easy way, but we often visited Squedunct while driving. It had even lived on with my family well in to my college years.
(Sunday afternoon)“Dad, I have class on Monday, let’s not take Squedunct to go back to school okay?”…he would chuckle and turn left anyway.
I can’t drive with my dad anymore. No more trips to the beach with a divining rod. No more turns down nameless roads. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been back to Squedunct. I have no GPS system, nothing on my phone to help with directions. I do have some maps in my car that I have pulled out on rare occasions (namely when I was running late for a meeting) but most times I’m content trying to figure out west by looking at the setting sun as I am smack dab in the middle of Squedunct. Plus, I have my own family now that I drive. When we go somewhere, Alicia is in the front and my girls sit in the back as far away from each other as the bench seat will allow. I settle in behind the steering wheel (and sometimes lick my thumb and stick it out the window). And at any given moment, I’m prone to making my wife crazy and getting my kids wondering about where exactly we are going, when I turn left off the main road and head into Squedunct.
Squedunct: (skwee-dunk-t) noun. 1. Any place your father or other parental unit happens to drive instead of a main route and doesn’t want to admit they are lost or ask directions. 2. Where you go when you turn off a main highway just to see where the road takes you.