Flat Stanley saw her life flash before her eyes the last time she spent a few hours as a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by Thing One (eldest son). It was 6 AM. All five feet, two and one-half inches of FS had become one with the reclining seat when the world came to a rumbling, alignment-destroying, 60 mph trip down the unevenly graded median of a four-lane highway. By the time FL managed to sit up enough to see out the front window the view had changed, as the car was sliding sideways at 50 mph down the middle of two lanes. In less time than it takes for a parent to say never-jerk-the-wheel-to-get-back-onto-the-pavement, the back end of the car had swung around so that we could see in full detail what it looks like to have traffic coming at you head on. One breath later the car had traveled to the far edge of the highway. Now all we had to worry about was the rock wall that would stop the car but smash Thing One's head into shapeless pulp.
Thank goodness for big mud puddles. One load "whump" and the windows were covered in mud and the car -- stopped.
FS said, "you ok?"
Thing One: "Uh-huh"
FS: "I'll drive."
Thing One: "Ok."
We got out, walked around the front of the car and switched positions. The cars that had been headed straight at us whizzed by. FS started the car, looked carefully in all directions, turned the car around, and drove away. Fully alert.
That was nine years ago. Thing One is now a more mature driver, but not necessarily a more...reassuring driver. So when 11 pm rolled around and FS's older, tireder body had already put in a full 11 hours of driving, she turned the steering wheel over to Thing One. Who's a night owl. So he should be ok. Which he was. Except for the part where he kept the car in its lane by constantly jerking the wheel. And the part where the brakes are touchy so instead of gradually slowing down, all objects in the car were thrown forward when he tapped the brakes. And the part where he kept the cruise control on regardless of traffic and road conditions. And the part where FS apparently suffers to this day from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by that earlier experience.
After several near-misses, FS was jolted from her uneasy rest by an especially violent decrease in speed and a loud "Oh! Oh!" from Thing One. The occasion? Gas prices were down to $1.89. FS begged for and was granted a reprieve of uninterrupted rest when Thing One agreed to pull over at a gas station and read. An hour and a half later, we were back on the road.
FS was out. Really, out. Deeply slumbering. Blissfully resting, only vaguely aware that she had placed her very life into the hands of an offspring when. Deja vu. It was happening again. As in, as if for the very first time. Big thumps. Vaguely reminiscent of traveling across a grassy median at 60 mph. Only different this time, because there were. Two. Distinct. Thumps. Followed by an "Oh, No." And then smooth travel. Holy mother-of-all-mothers. FS was so far gone she couldn't even panic. Her first words were "If you turn the cruise control off, the car will be easier to drive."
The next two minutes included several thought fragments along the lines of "My watch says I can't tell lunch in the pasture where the house is bedroom and up there thumb drive in my purse, is it here?" and "I didn't buy supplemental insurance on this rental vehicle."
Thing One had run over a deer. In his defense, he noted that the deer had already been run over by other vehicles. Nonetheless, the thumps were impressive. I am sure that the rental car made a significant contribution to the flattening process.
When daylight came, and after we'd both slept off the all-nighter, we looked for damage to the car. The only evidence was blood on the rims of both rear tires. Front bumper intact, headlights intact, nothing metallic dangling from the undercarriage.
On the return trip, we left early. An hour later our hosts noticed a dead cat on the road near their home. Since I was driving, I am able to say with a clear conscience that it wasn't us. But that PTSD. As if raising Things One, Two and Three to adulthood wasn't trauma enough.