Volatile Helen Keller As My Co-Pilot

This weekend I experienced the heartwarming joy of driving over seven hours to a family function with my mother in the passenger seat.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her hijinks consider yourself lucky.

Every time there was any kind of question that required critical thinking or common sense with regards to the directions the papers flew in the air and the ear-splitting screaming started.

Here is an example.

D: There is a split in the highway coming up which way to the directions say we have to go?


D: Well, I’ve never been this way before so lets just veer north since that makes sense.

Mom: Oh great. Why don’t you just guess because that will get us there quicker. Why can’t we wait for (name removed for privacy) car to catch up and we can follow them?

D: Well, they keep stopping to pee and get coffee so I’m not waiting for them let’s just go this way.

Mom: (papers fly all over as she throws them dramatically as she gets on her cell phone and dials the other parties of our family pilgrimage who are also on their way)

D: Who are you calling?

Mom: ( ignoring me & talking to her sister who answers the phone in the other car)
Yeah hi.

D:We aren’t lost! Look there is the sign we need coming up

Mom: (throwing and rustling the papers again for full effect still talking to her sister) I know. She never listens. Whatever, I’m done arguing about it because we are completely without a compass here and she just keeps on driving and plowing ahead without any idea about what she’s doing. Not a care in the world, just keeps on driving.


Mom: (sighs into the phone) yup, okay. God willing we will see you before tomorrow.

D: Okay, there’s the exit sign we need do the directions say that I should take 24A west or 24B east?


Anyway, now we are safely in our hotel room with our entire family waiting to attend our function while Helen Keller is digging in her purse cursing the “too small” room key that she keeps misplacing.

Details to follow…



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38 responses to “Volatile Helen Keller As My Co-Pilot

  1. chuck duffy

    maybe she will mellow with age

  2. Oh dear…family outings, such fun. Where were your kids? In the back shouting and screaming “are we there yet?” “are we there yet?” or were you at least spared that particular horror? (Do kids really ask that on road trips? you see, I haven’t got small humans, so I don’t know if that’s a “cliche” line kids actually never say…hmmm)

    My suggestion: On the way back, put on The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta LOUD and sing along, drowning the screams of Hellen Keller…

  3. michael freeman

    It could be worse….you could be traveling with one “Marion”…reminds me of a family outing to the sunshine state in my fathers Caprice Classic(a vehicle not meant for a lengthy roadtrip)…I layed on the floor over the bump in the backseat for 1200 miles,as my father chain smoked marlboro reds with the windows shut air tight,playing Neil Diamond “Hot August Night” and Tom T. Hall 8tracks on a continuous loop until Georgia…at one point I think my mother encouraged me to defecate in my pants,because we were making “good time”……

    • chuck duffy

      oh my god Michael, you are killing me. You and Kelly need to get together and write a book. FWIW my dad used to forbid us to roll down the windows in our un-airconditioned 74 dodge dart in the middle of summer because ‘the wind made his hair feel funny’.

    • Dufmanno

      She made me crap my pants on the way here. We are sitting next to each other right now as she and my mother bitch about how three people bought the same gift as them.

      • dufmanno

        Actually I should qualify that my mother was the only person complaining. Everyone else seemed positively jovial in comparison.
        Also, I’m home now and I have to confess that the return trip had nowhere NEAR the drama as the trip up.

  4. Tom G.

    Where Can I get the “Volatile Helen Keller” voice for my GPS? It sounds great!

    • dufmanno

      It’s unnerving.
      Not only that, we actually HAD a GPS plus a set of Mapquest directions to keep us on the straight and narrow and someone had told us to ignore all that and use the directions THEY wrote out for us.
      Which, by the way were totally WRONG.
      Juggling three sets of maps and listening to the sad ignored voice of GPS lady was probably too much for us to bear.
      We short circuited.
      I read this whole thing out loud at the table during the event and everyone died laughing. Except my mother.
      Then she told me I have a very selective memory and everything is actually my fault.

  5. Oh dear. Oh my. I am so sorry. She should drive, and you should sip a juice-box wine.

    • dufmanno

      My mother is the most terrifyingly aggressive driver that ever rolled down a street. She swerves, she dodges, she weaves in and out of normal traffic.
      Her anger level escalates in direct relation to the stupidity of the motorists that surround her.
      This comes from nearly forty years of crazed commuting in New York and Washington DC.
      It is a sight to behold.

  6. michael freeman

    Chuck…thanks..look forward to seein you again,maybe if that wedding comes to fruition…..the book would ne theraputic/funny/…and sell extremely poorly……BTW love the hair comment…I belive we were the generation that got screwed…when we were kids, it was all about the parents…now that we are parents,its all about the kids….I really feel sorry for the grandkids…asuming the world doesnt end in 2012…(which is why I refuse to stop eating Count Chocula,and drinking beer)

    • dufmanno

      If we all make it up to the wedding, what are you doing with your kids? It was a big topic of conversation between all the cousins who all have a brood of children.

      • michael freeman

        I was planning on leaving them home, unless there is a alternate plan brewing…Im sure that they would rather go…especially if they get wind that their other cousins will be there…

  7. I suffer from topographanosia. I have NO sense of direction. I am dangerous in a car. Then Husband drove us everywhere because that was our only hope. And his rules were: If I (meaning he) drive, I (meaning he) sets the rules. So the radio went to full tilt boogie glass shattering volume and there were no rest stops. Everyone had to pee in my coffee cup after the coffee was finished.

    • dufmanno

      You guys must have fantastic aim. I have yet to pee in a cup while traveling and not completely destroy the entire rear portion of a vehicle.
      I like to “push through” when we are making time but someone always can’t handle it and we have a bathroom emergency.

  8. Anecdotes like these make me appreciate that my mother is dead.

  9. I don’t understand. Why do you allow this? On our road trips these days, my father and I get in the car with mom, then immediately piss my mother off to the point at which she announces, “I’m done with both of you!” and sits quietly, sulking, scowling and staring at hair nails. Then dad and I are able to converse happily. My greatest fear is that someday she will catch on. This is also the only way I can get He Who Loves All Things Wicked to ride anywhere with all of us. He used to refuse to ride in a car with me and my mother at the same time. I kept telling him it was a painfree experience. Now that he has seen it for himself, he thinks it is rather magical……in fact, when she and I start going at it, he will sometimes suggest the 4 of us go for a ride.

    • dufmanno

      My mother can only sulk for about 3/4ths of a microsecond and then she’s back in the game.
      She can’t stand to hold her tongue if she sees something that needs fixing. Like my driving.

  10. OMG. You described my mother. Eerily. Does she wear plum lipstick?

  11. Just think how much simpler it will be to commit her when the time comes.

  12. You’re giving me hives. HIVES. Is there a pool in that hotel? Two words. Accidental drowning.

  13. I’m sorry. I know I am completely wrong. But when I was reading this, I kept on picturing Bette Davis as your mother…

    p.s. You PERFORMED your blog post at a gathering?! AWESOME! We should do that at the drag brunch too. Awesomer if you do it with Bette Davis’ voice.

    • dufmanno

      The Bette Davis image isn’t that off base. Add a dash of Joan Crawford and some martyr sauce and you’ve got her pegged.

  14. i feel your pain. i can’t drive 20 minutes with my mother in the car.
    “the other is way is quicker”
    “slow down – there are always cops along this road.”
    “you buy premium gas”?
    “when you speed up like that, you use more gas”
    “i wouldn’t park here. i’d try up there”
    fucking endless.

    • dufmanno

      I once ignored the “slow down- there are cops along this road” advice and got a big fat ticket. This was made even more painful by the shit eating grin on my mothers face.

  15. Karen

    I’m a follower from another blog (FFF). You and your family – I must must know you! This entire thread should be read onto a CD and sold! I laughed, I cried…Or maybe I am just easily amused.

    By the way, I wore the uniform skirt in your FFF header for four years at a Catholic all girls high school. To which I am loyal to this day, but I have lots of stories.

    If FFF ever has a FFFling, it must be in the east — I’m in SC, just down 95.

  16. Absolutely delighted to know that mine is not the only mother who really ought to be chained indoors, never to be inflicted upon decent humans ever again.

    And I just spent a weekend with her.

    SO many reasons why there’s now an ocean between us.

    Good luck, kitten.

    – B x

  17. I can no longer take my father out anywhere when visiting my parents because he insists on spouting out directions home. I grew up in that house. I drove there to visit him. Why does he think I need directions to find it again? God forbid I take a different route than he usually takes, he starts yelling that I’ve got us lost. Three streets away from the house. As if that’s possible.

    • dufmanno

      That is what makes it so interesting. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it so it really is like trying to reason with an Angry Helen Keller. They can’t hear your pleas for calm, they can’t see you signaling for help or crying and their mode of communication is a deep animal wail.
      I’ve got to get in “the mode” where I only see and hear the open road.

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