Homer Simpson is a Genius.
(Or, “Beyond Bubble-Dome”)

>> Friday, May 11, 2007

I want to be the first one to drive the bubble-dome car.

Remember the bubble-dome car? It’s the car Homer Simpson invented when his half-brother owned the auto-manufacturing plant. For some strange reason, it popped into my brain the other day while driving home after work with the kids. Dubbed “The Homer”, it had lots of crazy features, but my favorite has to be the “bubble dome”.

It may seem a bit extreme, but hear me out. While the dome may separate parents from kids, it brings parents closer to sanity. It also reduces the number of times a child has to hear “No!” or “Stop That!” or “Don’t ever make that noise again!” In short, it restores peace where chaos and stress normally reigns.

We commute with our girls between one hour to 90 minutes each day. That’s a lot of family time, and it’s not always pleasant. In the “olden days” when Daddy went to work, he could take his time and drive home alone, shaking off the work day, listening to his own music and “bucking up” for the family.

My husband and I commute together, and our first stop on the way home is the daycare center. No time to unwind. No time to forget arguments with coworkers. No time to indulge in our private musical muse.

Don’t get me wrong. We Love our girls -- capital “L”. Picking them up at the daycare center is like opening presents on Christmas morning. They are little gifts to us in brightly-colored clothes. Sometimes we spy on them, just to watch them in their “natural” habitat. We can’t wait to hear about their day -- who they played with, what they ate, where they got hurt.

But the parental/child bliss usually ends before we leave the parking lot. They’re hungry and dissatisfied with their snack options. One wants the other’s toy. One is singing and the other doesn’t want her to sing. Then they sing different songs at the same time using annoying voices in some bizarre form of competition.

Pretty soon the stress of the day catches up with us, and it isn’t long before our pleasant greetings become angry barks. I’m reminded of a Mystery Science Theater movie, “Space Children”. In the movie, some poor family was near the end of what appeared to be a very long car trip. You could tell by the looks on the parents faces. At one point, the kids tried to get their parents’ attention and the parents brushed them off, “Not now, kids! Can you please stop bothering us!”

One of the MST gang then added, “Isn’t it enough that we had you?”

Now I understand. Homer understood, too.

With the Dome, kids can be kids, and grown-ups can be grown-ups. In the “main cabin”, Michael and I can listen to the music we love -- music that inspires us, makes us laugh, and makes us rock. In the Dome, kids can listen to Cookie Monster, Kermit the Frog, and other songs they love from the 70’s. (Are we keeping them in a time warp? Their current favs are “It’s so easy to fall in love”, and “Heartbeat, it’s a love beat.”)

In the main cabin, we can sit quietly (keyword “quiet”), or listen to Howard Stern, guilt-free. In the Dome, the girls can cry as much as they need to. Girls are born with a certain amount of crying they need to achieve. The Dome would be an ideal outlet. Don’t all girls enjoy crying in the car the most?

As is, the Dome is nearly perfect. But to it, I would add a few new features to go “beyond the bubble-dome”.

First, an intercom for those times when we’re all feeling sociable. To that, I’d add an Auto Response Feature that says “Is that right?”, “Uh, huh”, and “Really” after pauses in their speech patterns for those times when we need to be by ourselves.

Next, I’d add a Vomit Sensor. My little one gets car sick. With the Vomit Sensor, I imagine a plastic bag that engages in a split second much like an air bag. It shoots out to catch the hurl, waits for a sufficient pause, and then whisks it away in a special storage compartment.

Finally, an auto-vacuum is a must. After we’ve exited the vehicle, all crumbs, scattered raisins, sand, and gold fish would get sucked away and deposited into an eco-friendly container that we can toss into the garbage can. The next morning, we’d enter a car that’s fresh for the day ahead, instead of smelling like stale bread and puke.

And so, after arriving home at the end of a long commute, we’d all be satisfied and relaxed, ready to face the evening together -- making dinner, taking bathes, playing puzzles, and reading stories. Our sanity would be intact, our minds would be at peace, and our voices would be softer.

Is it really so much to ask for a little “Dome Time”, beforehand?

Here’s to you, Homer.

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