Another installment from the Bad Mommy 1970’s vacation files.

As Squidward got older, he began to put his foot down at some of the atrocities to which we were subjected. He made his first of many stands with the restaurants where we would eat. He announced one day that he refused to step foot into any of the following: Denny’s, IHOP, Huddle House, Waffle House or any other place that served breakfast syrup as one of the four food groups. Allegedly, he would always end up putting his elbow into some sheath of syrup left behind by patrons of breakfasts passed, and this was enough to ruin the rest of his week. One time he got up, washed his arm, and walked straight back to the car while we ate.

There was a small window of time where when Squidward got his way and our parents began avoiding these restaurants. Unfortunately, that window of time also conveniently coordinated with the same time some of these motels we stayed in began offering a box of gooey gummy donuts in their lobby for free. This was too much for my father to resist. With his eyes, he was telling us to “Eat the donuts or starve.” With his hands he was telling us, “Grab as many as you can and run for the car.”

The bar for our expectations with motels was set very low. My father was notorious for finding the cheapest motel to house his family for the night. After one particularly bad experience at a bug-infested Thunderbird Motor Lodge (which still exists, by the way) Squidward, now having fully embraced his role as the Family Elitist, was comatose for several days. To this day, my acceptable standard of accommodation is compromised by all those years staying in roadside motels. The bar is very very low for me. I’d sleep in a bathroom at a Shell station if I had to. A few summers ago, I happily slept in a dirty Econo Lodge room under the 95 overpass while Cool Dad lay awake, praying a serial killer didn’t pick our room next.

When the 80’s finally arrived, the station wagons were dismissed, thereby beginning a wave of sedan style cars my father obtained for free from various sources. No one ever paid my dad for being their lawyer. Not in cash, anyway. They paid him in stuff. We had free dry cleaning, a ton of vacuum cleaners, and several televisions – all obtained from past clients who were short on cash.

We had an Oldsmobile which broke down in the cornfields of North Carolina. While my mother, brothers and I sat in a motel coffee shop, my father was at the repair shop waiting to find out the problem with the car. The mechanics took pity on my father and cooked him a steak. This sent my mother over the edge. There was some altercation about how he could eat steak while his kids and his wife were fending off white trash and eating chicken nuggets in a motel, all because he had taken a lemon car from his friend.

It didn’t matter that we had a zillion different cars after the wood paneled station wagons, once you sat in the back of the wood paneled station wagon, it was in your blood.