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The Chattanooga North Pole
by Charles W. Dowdy



A small head hidden among blankets and the sides of a car seat screamed, "North Pole, here us come!"

Technically we were going to Chattanooga, which is not exactly the North Pole. It was the day after Christmas and we were going to the old railroad city because our three-year-old twins are train crazy. We were staying at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. The twins were going to go nuts when they saw the train cars we would be sleeping in, but about thirty miles into the road trip my wife grew weary of trying to explain the significance of our destination and went with something topical, i.e. the North Pole.

OK, that's what she told me to say but that might not be exactly right. My wife might have come up with the North Pole destination after the twentieth time she wedged herself into the backseat to retrieve a fallen book or return a stolen toy. I won't testify to this, but she might have actually said, "We are really going to the North Pole and if you two don't stop screaming at me like I'm your personal butler then I'm going to let Santa Claus GET YOU!"

Perhaps some of you not familiar with the age might think a Santa threat lacks teeth on the day after Christmas but my wife wasn't referring so much to the naughty or nice thing as the absolute, blind terror these three-year-old boys display every time they see the bearded jolly man in the red suit.

If you think this sounds a tad harsh then let me come to my bride's defense and tell you that up to that point our trip had been quite eventful.

The problems started with lunch. We made the tactical error of trying to eat in a real restaurant after our four children under the age of seven had been in the car for five hours.

The restaurant was an Outback Steakhouse. I guess I fell for their marketing plan. You know what I'm talking about. On their TV and radio commercials there is fire coming off the waiters' trays and explosions when they present the meals while yelling in funny accents and smashing beer mugs. Sure, if we went to a cafeteria or something we might stand out, but according to those commercials, no one would notice my mob in an Outback Steakhouse.

Apparently our Outback was on sedatives. The place looked like a club house for the AARP. I actually heard a napkin hit the floor when we walked into the room.

We were shown to a booth and for about fifty-eight seconds my children acted reasonably. Then, much to the consternation of the professional shuffleboard team sitting next to us, my wife and I totally lost control. As I watched my children interact, I couldn't help but think they fit in well on Fox TV, ascribing to a debating theory of simply trying to out-yell everyone around them. Without question the low point of the meal came when one of the twins tossed his full Sprite like a grenade at the waiter one table over. As I pointed out at the time, the cups were obviously not as childproof as they claimed. Still, you would have expected a guy working for tips to have shown a little more understanding.

But the Outback was nothing compared to the waterfall.

My wife always accuses me of hurrying to get somewhere when I have no reason to do so. Like perhaps it would be better to stop and smell the diapers along the way.

For once we were ahead of schedule when I saw the sign for some state park and a famous waterfall. After careful calculation I figured I could allot at least twenty-two minutes to prove my wife wrong.

The waterfall looked innocent enough as we unloaded from the car. A nice picturesque ten foot drop into a placid, little pool. As we got closer we could see there was actually more than one waterfall and the next one resembled something less picturesque and more tumultuous. And then we could see that the third waterfall appeared to be a stairway straight to Hell.

Between my running, screaming children and watery damnation, the safety conscious state of Alabama plugged two small bars into wet, slippery rocks. They might as well have put a small sign near the waterfall saying, "Parents with small children may begin freaking out now."

Of course, there was an upside to the waterfall. For once my wife didn't mind being in a hurry.


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Charles Dowdy is the father of four and the husband of one. Contact him at cwdowdyjr@yahoo.com.

Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

For more stories by Charles Dowdy, visit these USADS pages:
Goodby, Debt; Hello, Ricecakes
The Waiting Room War Zone
Small Towns and The 3 Second Intersection Rule
President Bush, Sponge Bob, and a Banana
The Twins Journal
Teeball Dad
Whatcha Doin'?
Amending the Neighborhood Constitution
Pregnant Dad
Double Trouble: Cross-eyed Twins
An open letter to my wolf


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