McHookups 1 (of 2)

This story is difficult to tell, so it may take a couple of days. Not because I’m ashamed of it or anything, just because it’s long and involved.

In July of 1999, my dad drove my mom, Kendra, Kenny and me in their RV from Oklahoma up through New England, our Geo Prizm in tow. Kenny was two years old. So many memorable moments: Crossing 6 lanes at breakneck speed in Philadelphia, arriving in Boston during 5:00 PM rush hour, Niagara Falls at the Fourth of July. But Connecticut offered us our greatest awakening.

Before our trip, Dad had given me a crash course in RV dynamics so I could spell him sometimes at driving. But this scenario was not optimal in his mind. RV-ing is a serious commitment to him. To me it was a big car that, in no particular order, allows you to make sandwiches in it, nap, and relieve yourself at your leisure—all without ever having to pull over.

Because Dad had to drive so much, when in the middle of the night we found ourselves on the turnpike in Darien, Connecticut (outside Greenwich), his faculties fading, we had to stop. Number 17 of his “119 Rules for Brannon Driving My RV” was “Brannon can’t drive the RV at night.” His eyelids heavy, his forearms twitchy, all of us road-weary—every sign pointed to “Park.”

That 24-hour McDonald’s seemed a Godsend, a shimmering red and gold archy oasis in the darkness. Dad pulled in, chose a spot way out in the expansive lot, and parked. He methodically selected optimum placement: Easy pull out, away from the traffic, yet close enough to the restaurant and its lights to assure our “safety.” Dad shut everything down, skillfully flipping switches like he was bringing the Millennium Falcon down from light speed. He adjusted the thermostat to his liking and crashed on his bed in the back.

I helped Kendra square Kenny away in the middle section (away from Dad’s snoring). Mom was already in the passenger’s seat. We were both too exhausted to sleep, so I climbed up into the driver’s seat and drew the curtains closed behind me. Unfortunately, the thermostat was in the back with Dad, and he had it locked on “Siberian Winter.” Mom and I whispered conversation, shivering, trying to wind down enough to sleep.

While I had been fussing with Kendra and Kenny, evidently Mom had been conducting reconnaissance from her perch. Once I was situated in the driver’s chair, she said, “Watch for a few minutes. Something weird’s going on out there. See if you can tell me what’s going on.”

“Now Mom, what could possibly be going down at a Connecticut Turnpike McDonald’s in the middle of a summer weeknight?” A lot, as it turns out.

What she had already observed was an odd social phenomenon—odd to us, anyway. I don’t know how they roll up there in Connecticut; I suppose what we saw might seem completely normal to them:

A car would pull into a nearby parking space. The driver would park, turning off his headlights and engine. Then he’d just sit there. He wouldn’t get out. He wouldn’t go into the restaurant. He’d just sit there in his car for a while. Then another car would pull up and park in the same way. Then a couple more. Then another. Every so often, one car would start, turn on its headlights, and move to another space nearby and repeat the ritual. Then suddenly—abruptly, even—two of the cars near each other would start up, turn their headlights on, and leave, one car kind of following the other.

I say “he” when I refer to the driver, because in every case, each car had only one occupant: a man.

In my addled state, my normally Sherlock Holmesian mind was a little slow catching up. But it became apparent: We had stumbled smack into the ever-elusive homosexual hookup hoedown. You pull in and park, check out some of the guys parked around you, and if one suits your fancy, you give him your call sign, and the two of you retreat to—???

You know what? None of my business. Like they say in Jersey (or so I’ve heard), “Fugghedaboudit.”

What do you think is gonna happen? (Lots of fun, I can assure you.) Why do you think my dad has to have it so cold when he sleeps? And have you ever observed a hook-up ritual that you had never seen before? Tell us about it.

Be sure to tune in Friday for our conclusion…

Wow. It’s Quiet Here...

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