My college roommate went on an awkward first date with a guy in which they silently ate pizza and watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles in his apartment living room. She came back to the sorority house proclaiming how stupid the movie was, and therefore I refused to watch it for at least the next five years.
Turns out it wasn’t the movie that was bad. Clearly there was no second date for Kristen and Ron (names changed to protect the innocent). But my friend had been so focused on the lack of chemistry that she missed out on what could have been the one redeeming element of her evening. Sure, she was dining on pepperoni on a secondhand couch under the glow of a halogen lamp, but how could she have not recognized the comic genius of John Hughes’ Thanksgiving-themed film? That’s what I wondered when I finally got around to seeing it myself with my husband. I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Anyone who’d pay $50 for a cab would certainly pay 75.” “Dad wants ambrosia.” “Train don’t run out of Wichita.” “Those aren’t pillows!” There are literally dozens of lines from this movie that we somehow find quotable in everyday life even now. But under the absurd surface of scenes like Steve Martin’s character drying his face with an enormous pair of underwear, or John Candy selling shower curtain rings as “Diane Sawyer autographed earrings,” lies a story driven by the love of home and family. When Martin’s character finally makes it back to his wife and kids with Candy in tow, the movie manages to make the not-so-easy turn from humor to heart.
Seems to me that the past year and a half—don’t you love how we have to keep adjusting how we describe it?—has felt a little like the torturous journey taken by the two characters in this movie. Just when you think you’re almost to your destination, the finish line moves again. The flight is diverted. The train derails. Before you know it, you’re in a burned-out car that’s missing its roof and headed the wrong way down the interstate. Then what? All you can do is laugh.
Maybe this is the Thanksgiving where we finally give up on waiting to arrive at the ideal destination. No one knows what lies beyond the next bend in the road. This time, I’m choosing to be thankful for life along the journey, and for those who are on this journey with me. That includes you!
Do we feel this vehicle is safe for highway travel? As John Candy tells the trooper, it’s not pretty to look at. However, the radio still works! Turn up the volume and let’s ride.