Are We There Yet?

A timeless question uttered by innumerable children (and countless adults, if we are to be honest with ourselves). Generally when this question finds its way to the conversation, we are at our wits’ end. We have run out of the patience we promised ourselves we’d maintain upon embarking on the journey, and now it becomes all about the destination.

So what do we do when we arrive only to find that the journey, cliche as it sounds, was the best part of the experience?

This isn’t to suggest that the destination isn’t worth the journey. Take Carlsbad Caverns, for instance. The caverns themselves are breathtaking. Words large enough to describe what has happened there underground do not exist. It is both alarming and humbling to look up and see the literal weight of the world supporting itself right above your head. Yes, Carlsbad Caverns are unquestionably a destination for which making a trip is completely justified.

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Getting to the point, it is perhaps the people inside that offer as much amusement as the stalactites and stalagmites. Upon entering the caves, whole families wrought with the pleasure of being out of the car and the anticipation of what lies in store for them eagerly make the initial decent. Despite the warnings of the park rangers to “only whisper” because of the echo, children find it difficult to contain their enthusiasm, and parents find it equally difficult to contain their tempers. By the time these families reach the bottom, they are as ready to find themselves on the journey home as they were to find themselves making their arrival.

“Why didn’t you tell me there was more down here to see?!” the husband bellows to his wife (inasmuch as a person can bellow in a whispered voice).

“It says it right there on the sign,” the wife explains in that tone of exasperation so familiar to a woman who has endured both an exasperating car ride and a rather difficult and unexpected (why walk when they have elevators that take you all the way down to the bottom?) hike to a cave she did not want to see in the first place.

“I did not drive all this way to see only part of this thing. I wanna see the whole thing. Now, how do you get over to that part?”

His wife has apparently interpreted the question as rhetorical as she is no longer acknowledging her petulant husband.

Meanwhile, the children have run into one of the far reaches of the main cavern, forcing their parents out of their argument and into a frenzied effort to decipher the cavern map, and the other tourists are simply trying to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

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Further up the path, a young couple accompanied by a belligerent father attempt to captivate the moment via digital camera. The younger gentleman readies himself to act as photographer only to find the batteries have long since outlived their usefulness. Ever the helpful soul, the wise father makes an attempt to offer his sage advice:

“What’s the matter with that thing?”

“Well, Dad, it appears the batteries have died.”

“Batteries? I thought you replaced the batteries before we left?”

“I did, Dad, but I replaced them with old batteries from the drawer.”

“Old batteries? You mean used ones?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Well, that’s just no good.”

Score one for belligerent old man. There is something to be said for stating the obvious, and an important lesson was learned by all. Hopefully.

Yes, the caverns are a sight worth seeing. And so are the faces of the families making their departure. They sullenly rip the doors open on their Minnesota minivans, resigned to the vicious ride that awaits them and thankful that family trips only happen once every summer.

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