Intersections – Driving and Cursing
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
My parents, who never ever swore, raised a daughter who just this morning whispered a very loud, “$hit!” In front of my kids no less. My offspring turned and looked at me with disappointed eyes.
“Mommy, don’t say that,” they chastised.
I try to keep my saucier language to “dang” and “crap.” I swear judiciously and for emphasis. Even when I write, I like to put little symbols in the middle of my curse words to seem less vulgar. There is nothing wrong with swearing. Halfway through the summer, I want my kids to go the f*ck back to school. When someone makes a left during right turn hours, I probably call him an a$$h@le.
My favorite kind of alone time is in my car. I can swear freely, but eventually I’m in the car while carrying passengers. Kids. And I can’t curse. Not even one, “Gosh darn it.”
Instead of cursing I’ve noticed that I utter strange monologues to my kids as I drive. These are things that don’t make sense anywhere else in the world.
Don’t ask me for anything until you are buckled in. I can’t hear you until I hear the click.
We just left the house. How can you need to use the bathroom and need a glass of water at the same time now that we are in the car? We left the house two minutes ago. We don’t have a bathroom in the mini-van.
My name is not “But Mommy!” My name is Mom, Mommy, Mother, or Mama. Don’t call me “But Mommy!”
When you exit the vehicle, do not hand me your banana peel. I am not a garbage can. When you exit the vehicle, do not leave your banana peel in the cup holder. My car is not your garbage can.
We have dubbed slow drivers “Edna.” It saves us from having to call everyone an idiot who makes an illegal left turn onto Ponce De Leon Avenue.
In addition to my kids, I drive around other people’s kids. One pointed out that her grandmother is named Edna.
“Is she a good driver?” I asked.
The child thought for far too long. We are still calling bad drivers Edna.
Another day, I was driving the morning carpool to school when our neighbor’s child said, “There was a lady who lived down the street from us in North Carolina. Her name was Edna. She was missing a finger.”
I don’t have a response for comments like this except, “Touché.” The car, our haven of strange conversations, makes these observations sound normal.
When I pick up my youngest, she is always starving. The sight of the car makes her faint with hunger. She can barely last the brief journey home.
Her: “Mommy, I’m hungry. Do you have anything to eat in the car?”
Her: “But not macadamia nuts.”
Me: “Ok, then no.”
Her: “I want cereal.” Long pause. “With milk.” While we are driving.
I start a new monologue.
This is not the kitchen. This is a car. What about this car makes you think that you can order like it’s a restaurant? Even our kitchen at home is not a restaurant.
But then this weekend, I had two fully cooked pizzas in the trunk of the car for a snack between soccer games. That’s not weird, right? That doesn’t mess with my kids’ expectations of food in the car, does it?
My kids don’t like the old school hip-hop radio station. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. offend my kids the same way those artists offended my parents.
The other day, I was scanning the stations on demand. I passed Taylor Swift, Drake, and Fall Out Boy. The baby protested.
“Put it back to the last station,” she ordered.
“You are five. You want to hear Drake?” I throw one of his lyrics back at her. You can do this in a car. Everyone knows all the lyrics to all the songs while driving. “Did you used to call him on your cell phone?”
“Put it back, Mommy!”
“I’m the DJ,” I say in a menacing voice. “Not you.”
This didn’t seem weird until the next day when the kids were back in the car being chauffeured to school. The littlest one again started making requests for a specific radio station. Her older sister hushed her.
“Mom’s the DJ. Don’t ask to change the station. She’s the DJ.”
The car got silent. I smiled and nodded at the driver on my left. I have shouted a lot of things in my car. Rarely are they curse words.
I can’t hear you until I hear the click.
This isn’t the kitchen.
I’m not a trash can.
Get out of my way, Edna!
My name is not “But Mommy.”
I am the DJ.
Maybe we should walk more.
Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.