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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Under Water

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Our time in the UK was ending. We had to go to Portsmouth to satisfy my son’s deep desire to see the HMS Victory...

Our time in the UK was ending. We had to go to Portsmouth to satisfy my son’s deep desire to see the HMS Victory, the ship commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson in the 1700s. A few years ago, my son was so obsessed with the British hero that he actually went as Lord Nelson for Halloween.

We also had to satisfy my desire to see Stonehenge. For miles, or shall I say, kilometers, we thought we must have taken a wrong turn, as we saw no billboards or “advertisements” for the famous stones. I guess those Brits haven’t yet figured out how large, colorful billboards contribute to the beauty of the landscape.

Nevertheless, our trusty GPS assured us that we were on the correct route, and sure enough, we popped up over a hill and, behind a tractor that was mowing hay, were the stones. It was Father’s Day when we stopped there, and our entire group took the opportunity to give Joel some good-natured ribbing about visiting the site of one of his first construction projects.

Then it was time to cross the English Channel. We’d never used the Euro Tunnel before, but our dependable travel agent had pre-purchased a pass. But if listeners have been tuning in, they’ll remember that we had a different vehicle than the large van we had reserved. What we now had was a compact SUV, packed to the doors with luggage and souvenirs we had sworn we wouldn’t buy.

As we pulled through the entrance area, we clueless Americans wondered, “Are we doing this right?” But we followed the signs, stopped at the booths, and showed our identification when asked. The only small glitch came when we learned that the wrong vehicle was registered on our ticket. The Frenchman attendant said that we were supposed to be transporting an eight-passenger van through the tunnel, and he looked a bit suspicious when we explained why all these suitcases and so many “très énorme Americans” were jammed into this “petite voiture.”
He said that we had paid too much; the ticket for the taller van cost more than the ticket for the compact SUV. We needed to proceed through a different gate to obtain a refund. We had already winded through so many signs and exits to get to the doors of the Chunnel, we begged to be allowed to just proceed without getting our refund. We must have appeared so stupid that he eventually shrugged his shoulders, chalking up our decision to plain old American superfluity. If we wanted to throw our money away, who was he to argue?

We then followed another vehicle into the entrance and onto a waiting conveyor train. Now remember, I have fairly significant phobias involving enclosed, moving spaces over which I have no control. So, when the Euro Tunnel attendants shut the portal doors between our vehicle and the one in front and the one behind, I was a bit taken aback. Flying through the air in a giant winged cylinder is bad enough, but at least a passenger can see out. We were about to go 250 feet deep below the sea bed and 380 feet below sea level for 31 and a half miles. The thought weighed upon me.

The signs inside our compartment said to roll down our windows, turn off our engine, and remain in our vehicle unless we needed to use the restroom. Of course, my teenage son decided that he couldn’t wait to go – this from a kid that can hold his bladder longer than any other human I’ve ever encountered. Through his toddler years, I worried he was dehydrated because he could hold it so long. I think we all know that Dashiell just wanted to go along the tiny walkway beside the cars and push the little buttons to open a narrow door between compartments.

The idea of my 13-year-old walking who-knows-how-far, through individual vehicle compartments, passing within inches of strangers sitting in their cars, made me want to accompany him. But when I volunteered to take him to the bathroom, my offer was rather unceremoniously and rudely rejected. As he opened the door, I just knew, “That’s the last time I’ll ever see my son.” But I wouldn’t be writing this if that were the case, and in about five minutes (that felt like an hour), he reappeared in our compartment. Tune in next week to find out what happened when we popped out in France!