Here’s my journal from a recent work-related trip to Battle Creek, Michigan.

Wednesday 9/22

Goals: tie up a few things at work; drive to Battle Creek

I had a ton to do before this trip so I went in to the office in the morning. I enjoyed back-to-back meetings until noon, wrapped up as much as I could, and took off to pick up Maya from preschool.

At preschool, the teacher released kids one at a time as she saw parents in the hall. Each time she checked for parents in the hall she looked at me, then moved on to another parent. She clearly recognized me but was unsure which child belonged to me (we’d only met twice, and not recently). It didn’t help that I was unshaven and a bit disheveled.

Fortunately Maya broke the ice by running out to get me. That always helps put caregivers at ease (thanks, Maya!).

Maya and I arrived at home to find things in really good shape (thanks, Sarah!). We finished packing, loaded up the car, shut things off, and drove away.

Of course before we really got going on our five hour drive, we had to run a bunch of errands. After dropping off a movie rental, we did my most favoritest thing of all time (ALL TIME): went to Walmart. I hate Walmart. I’ve long maintained that Walmart is some sort of evil experiment to see what people will put up with in the name of allegedly lower prices on chintzy plastic crap they don’t need. The results of this Walmart experiment will shock whatever messed up scientist proposed it and will reshape our understanding of psychology and economics as we know it today.

Basically Walmart reveals that we’re all savages. Enough on that (I do love Target, though…)…

An hour later and we were actually on our way. Sarah informed me that since Walmart is technically two towns away, it’s technically considered a pit stop (not an errand). This was an uncommon case of Sarah being totally wrong (Walmart is 12 minutes from our house and we didn’t need to pee so it doesn’t count). I do concede, though, that I dread going there as much as I dread pit-stop restrooms and rural Midwest “culture”.

So we were on our way towards I-80 when my inner nerd started to burn. It’s kind of like Harry Potter and that forehead zit whenever he got “excited”, except mine is triggered by technology. What got me so excited? That’s right folks, EZ-Pass. On this trip I would use the same tech that basically put men on the moon to pay my tolls without stopping (but slowing to a near stop) or fishing out antiquated money. Who’s magical now, Harry?!

After a few hours the kids reminded us that it was time to eat dinner. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve driven West out of Ohio on I-80, you probably know the 60 mile stretch of nothingness that I’m talking about.

After a bunch of pleading and creative games, we distracted the kiddos long enough to find a decent place to stop, my number two most favoritest place to be: Panera. See, honey, that is how much I love you.

I was pretty sure we’d struck gold when we saw they had an outdoor, fenced-in patio. The weather was awesome and the kids were very restless so I was liking the idea that they could run around without bothering anyone.

So we ordered what was apparently a King’s meal:

$23?! When did Panera get more expensive than a sit down restaurant?! This is for two adults and one child (Charlotte only eats scraps), and I drank water.

I couldn’t act all outraged over this for long, though, because Sarah had just discovered that we were locked out of the store. Yes. We’re inside the completely fenced in patio, all alone, but outside the store, and the door was locked. After weighing my options, I opted to gently knock on the glass and motion for some old lady help me back in rather than jump the six foot fence (or, in hindsight, use the gate that was…right over there).

I found a manager and was preparing to give one of those Grey’s Anatomy speeches where I ramble on in short little, fragments combined into one giant, annoying run-on sentence about how I need to eat outside so my kids can breath and be free and you want my kids to be free right? and then they won’t disturb anyone and we’ll all get along and why won’t you just open the door because then it’s a win-win and I always thought win-wins were good and yes, win-wins are good so I’m not going to stand for…” but he just shrugged and unlocked the door without the need for a stupid monologue. Door open, no monologue: that actually was a win-win.

So the kids pretended to eat and we took turns ogling the receipt and were off again.

With about 45 minutes to go, thing2 started losing it. We made it to t-20 minutes before we couldn’t think of anything else that rhymed with anything and pulled over. We enjoyed the goings on at a deserted, almost-scary gas station and filled her up with peanut butter crackers. And were off again.

Thing2 continued training for some sort of marathon where you scream instead of run and only fell asleep—I swear—as we pulled into the loading zone at the hotel. We unloaded pretty much everything and paid the valet to move our car into a space that was about 12 feet away (mandatory valet parking).

And so our journey, and our Wednesday was complete.

Stay tuned for the next installment, filled with many adventures. Here’s a teaser:


Sarah said on 2010-09-26

First of all, love the post. I literally laughed out loud at parts. :)

Second, Wal-Mart is two towns away. No matter that it is only 12 minutes from our house. We cross not only two city lines but ALSO one county line to get there.

Jennifer Norch said on 2010-09-27

Whole different COUNTY?!?! I’m with Sarah, definitely a pit stop!

Sounds like your trip is off to a roaring start, and you are one funny writer, Michael. Can’t wait to read the next installment!

Math Zombie said on 2010-09-27

  1. Walmart is the worst.

  2. Preschool teachers should check photo ID if they are unsure if you are the parent or not. They should also have a sheet saying who exactly is allowed to pick up the kid. Having a kid run up to an adult shouldn’t be enough. For example, what if we have a falling out and you hate me for some reason, I could go pick up Maya without your permission and she would run up to me because I’m awesome.

  3. Harry doesn’t need EzPass. He can travel cross country through fire places and teleportation.

  4. Does that Panera receipt say that a kids PB&J, yogurt, milk is $5.50? That is insane. Panera is pretty delicious though.

  5. How does that olympic even work? Points awarded for loudest and also for falling asleep fastest/slowest?

  6. Do you and Sarah have some sort of blogging contest or something, you’ve been on a daily blog roll.

picturingtheordinary said on 2010-09-27

I agree, Panera is getting way too expensive. Hilarious post and so true about the Grey’s Anatomy banter…but I do admit to watching the show and sometimes enjoying it…

Michael Haren said on 2010-09-27


  1. yes, I agree. This is a pretty small program so I’m not alarmed by it, but yes, you’re right.

  2. Yes, $5.50. Yes, insane.

  3. Writing is hard and the motivation to do it comes infrequently. I enjoy it while it lasts, though.

All: thanks for the encouragement. It is much appreciated!

Sarah said on 2010-09-29

FWIW, the preschool does have a list of who is allowed to pick up the kids (Michael is on it :)). And, since Michael took Maya to the parent/child day for her first day at preschool, I think the teachers are pretty familiar with him…just weren’t sure which kid belonged to him at first!

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