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Trapped in a Truck with a Mother-In-Law from Hell

Dear Savvy Traveler,

In 1978 and 1979, I was stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany. My ex-husband's mother came to visit for FIVE WEEKS and wanted to see as much of Europe as she could. The three of us spent most of that time wedged in the cab of a pickup truck (his mother was, well, large) driving through Europe. To save money, we slept in the back of the truck, which had an aluminum cap. This woman made hideous sounds in her sleep and snored louder than anyone I've ever known. Those snores, reverberating against the aluminum walls, didn't exactly have the makings of a sweet lullaby. I got very little sleep during those five weeks.

We traveled throughout numerous countries. She spent many hours on the road reading aloud, in her nasal voice, from Fodor's guides, invariably mispronouncing the names of people and places. (An Amsterdam museum, she announced, featured the works of "Vincent Van Goosh.") When she wasn't reading or criticizing my driving, she quizzed me on why I hadn't given her any grandchildren. She also told me that my decision to remain childless was making her son very unhappy. (Funny, I had thought it was OUR decision, not MY decision.)

In every country we visited, she refused to believe the locals could not understand her, and raised her voice on the premise that speaking loudly would shatter the language barrier. And she also railed in querulous tones about how stupid it was that American currency was not accepted everywhere.

Believe it or not, I kept my cool until just two days before the end of her visit. (I was raised to respect my elders and also wanted to preserve my marriage.) By then, however, I had reached my limit and shouted at her that I wished she'd go home. She and I did not speak for those last two days and, needless to say, I was thrilled to see her leave.

-- Gioia



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