We sped east toward Tybee Island on Interstate 16 last week when our daughter spoke up. "Kids at school were talking about going to the Bahamas for spring break, but I don't even know what that is."
"The Bahamas are islands in the Atlantic Ocean just like Tybee is," I explained. "But it's all the same ocean."
"Oh cool! I'll get to see them," she yelped.
"Uhm, no. Same ocean. Not the same beach."
"But we're going to JCB," my husband proclaimed.
His announcement didn't faze the jumbling, jabbering swarm of kids in the backseat. "Where are Miss Charlotte and Laynie going this week?" my persistent girl inquired, oblivious to her father's news.
"To the happiest place on earth."
"Where is that? Is that where we're going? Same ocean?" she excitedly blabbered.
"No. It's Disney World," I told her.
"But we're going to JCB," my husband repeated, more emphatically.
"What are you talking about, JCB?" I finally asked.
"We're touring the JCB plant in Savannah. JCB is the largest backhoe manufacturer in the world," he said, clearly pleased with himself for planning a vacation to rival the Bahamas.
"Oh," I replied.
"Why do we always do boring, dumb stuff on vacation?" whined our 12-year-old, whose self-esteem gets all tangled up in our alleged conspiracy to make him miserable.
"Is AZB a happiest place on earth?" our concerned daughter wanted to know.
Even though I didn't desire to experience the magic of heavy machinery, I jumped into mama-mode to bring the day back to sunny shores. "It could be the happiest place on earth. I doubt they have mouse ears, but we might get to wear yellow hardhats and safety goggles. Your father worked hard to plan a special activity for us. We may never get a chance like this again."
Someone in the backseat groaned. My spouse, whom I intended to buoy up, accused me of sarcasm. "Don't make fun of me. Y'all will find this interesting. JCB in Savannah is the North American headquarters for the company. This is a big deal. You've seen it. It's that place off of I-95 with the backhoes on islands in the middle of that lake. I bet we'll probably find out how they do that."
I shook my head, no, but insisted, "I am excited," and flashed a smile at passengers as a warning. While discontent spread rapidly through the backseat, my husband exited onto I-95 and called to finalize our security clearance.
In the lobby, we viewed the JCB DieselMax automobile, which broke the diesel-powered land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. We also examined a portion of a backhoe signed by former prime minister of England, Margaret Thatcher.
In a magnificent theater with stadium seating, we watched a film about the Blue Angels of backhoes, the Dancing Diggers; JCB machines raising and lowering themselves by their hydraulic appendages choreographed to ballet music. And to top it all off, we got to observe the action on the production floor, where real men put together real machines in the arena of real life.
Over the ku-shhuuhhh of compressors and zing of power tools, and despite my well-hidden grim disappointment that we did not get to wear yellow hardhats and safety goggles, I reminded my children that, while many of their friends can boast about visiting the Bahamas and Disney World, my offspring could exclusively brag about the privilege of touring JCB.
And thanks to our generous guide who gave us gifts (something unheard of in The Magic Kingdom), my kids have the T-shirts to prove it.
Lucy Adams is a Columbia County native and McDuffie County resident, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. E-mail comments to lucybgoosey at aol.com, or go to www.ifmama.com.
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