It’s a sticky afternoon in Texas, circa 1999, when I drive my silver Volvo sedan from Houston to Dallas. I am headed on this boring trip north to pick up my 12 year old/pre-teen daughter, who’s been paying a visit with an old neighborhood friend in the “Park Cities” where we’d lived several years earlier.
Motoring along the barren highway called I-45 at approximately 80 m.p.h, I hold an eye on the rear view mirror, keeping track of who (m)might be on my tail. Assured I am not under surveillance, I crank up the radio volume, and sing along with a catchy western tune:
“I don’t wanna play house, it made my mama cry…when mom and daddy played house, Daddy said:”Good-bye!”…
When suddenly I feel an explosion of sorts. My trusty Volvo starts to shimmy and shake, and I am FORCED to hold onto the steering wheel as if it were the last life preserver on the Titanic.
Sensing a blown tire, I take my foot off the gas and let the car coast into the first parking lot I spot. I am forced to think through my terror. Once confident the car has safely stopped, I glance up at the ugly concrete building in front of my eyes. There on the large front window is a huge sign that makes my heart sing louder than I had been.
SALE SALE SALE!!!
Buy 2—get 2 FREE!
“Praise the Lord”
Years later,( that would be last week) having relocated to Virginia, I was driven to attend a girls’ soccer game in Charlottesville. UVA was “playing” Notre Dame, and a Texan friend’s daughter was starting for the Fighting Irish. Wanting to see her again after too long (I could care less about soccer) I watched the game in torrential rain, caught a cold, lost a glove, ruined my new cowgirl boots, but got caught up with my pal and delighted in the fact that UVA beat the saintly girls by one kick or whatever it’s called.
Heading home the following morning I hit Route 29 North for the quick 2 hour trip back here to Vienna.
Ten minutes into the drive, doing about 70 m.p.h., I noticed part of the red Subaru station wagon in front of me was missing a small section of its left rear-end.
Oh my God! I was having another visual migraine—this time behind the wheel. Deciding against panic or slamming on the breaks in a line of traffic, I held my breath and PULLED OVER into the first turn off I could find.
Parking the car in a prime spot I could only partly see, I closed my eyes,massaged my temples, took a few gulps of water, and skimmed my surroundings. I was in the parking lot of a quaint, country church and the pastor (?) was out front pulling weeds while smoking grass.
“God be with you, Mam”,the blessed man offered, after I ‘d explained my dilemma.
Fortunately, these headaches don’t come on often for me, and when they do—only last 20 minutes.
As I watched a portion of the digital clock in my car, I counted the seconds until I could hit the road with 20/20 vision, looking forward to my cozy, dry, warm, well-lit house.
Then there was the shaky period after grad school when I got inspired to drive my dirty old white Toyota Corolla from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. , where I would search for a career. Loaded down with everything I owned, from a typewriter with a missing “A” to a rusty GE curling iron to a blonde Dynel wig, I hit the road the day I finished my last class. As I recall the course was titled “Aging Gracefully” and I had taken meticulous notes which I still refer to nowadays as I rush toward my “golden years”.
I mapped out a southern route across the country ,and after four or five adventurous days on the road found myself lost one evening in torrential rain, somewhere outside Knoxville, Tennessee. As grey skies turned black, I decided rather than panicking, I’d pull over at a large, friendly -looking dwelling set back off the road amidst trees. Through the downpour, I made my way down the driveway, where I could barely make out a dimly- lit kitchen through a large picture window, where quite a few diners around a large table appeared friendly and harmless enough.
Bare in mind I was wearing a white T-shirt and cut -off jeans at the time. Scurrying up to the door, I was greeted by a tall, burly man in suspenders. (Yes, he had a shirt and pants on as well—you perverts.) “Come on in little lady” he drawled.
Wiping raindrops from my tired eyes, I looked up to see about a dozen similar looking guys turning to gaze at the 24 year- old girl in a wet T-shirt gaping at their dinner scene.
I felt like a mirage.
As a pathetic lost traveler in the rainy darkness, I had chosen the local firehouse as my rescue.
Poor me was given not only directions but dinner and an invite to sleepover at the station. I tossed the offer around inside my soggy head, then decided it best I hit the road and find cheap lodging along the way, aptly called “The Sand Man Motel”, if my memory serves me well.
While contemplating pole dancing and swearing I’d never indulge, I pulled over for a good night’s rest, vowing to worry about tomorrow tomorrow… .
More times than I like to admit, I have been out driving some car and been forced to pull-over.
I don’t mean like cops are chasing me or the feds have my name on some black and blue list, but I have been forced to pull off the road for personal reasons. Often (not the time to follow here)no authorities are involved, unless you count the Lord…
About a century ago I passed a stupid test and was awarded a drivers’ license in the potato state. That would not be Maine—but Idaho.
Gotta love those spuds although my dad told me most of the prime bakers are shipped out of state and we Idahoans get the dregs. Oh well. I diverse. And wouldn’t you know I’d decide to wed a stud named Baker. There are no coincidences, and I prefer Kilmer—more unique and classy.
So I turn 14 and in Idaho during those prehistoric times a kid could drive –only during daylight hours—never after dark. Go figure.
The thinking was farmers needed their kids to drive tractors after school so why not make it legit?
Are you following my drift? Speaking of which, we could also drive a snow plow in times of knead.
There I am, or was—cruising home from the “library” in Mom’s white VW beetle, when I sense the light changing, and I don’t mean the stop signal. It IS the cops flashing me and they want me to, you guessed it, PULL OVER! So of course, a disciplined parochial school student, I maneuver my bug into the first driveway I spot.
And in my scared stupor I realize it is my father’s house.
(I was hitting 42 in a 35 m.p.h zone.)
I told myself this was not a big deal, but it was because in Nampa, Idaho in those daze every traffic violation, marriage, divorce, domestic altercation, little thing was published in the IDAHO FREE PRESS on page 2. And my Dad loved perusing this rag each night after he returned from whatever he did all day.
I had to think fast, which comes naturally to me, thank my not- so -lucky stars. I fetched the paper before our frisky dog Stubby could, and carefully cut out Page Two (2)—Dad’s favorite- but I planned to give him an extra strong bourbon and water when he got home, with hopes he would skip from page 1 to 3 without a third thought, or even a thought at all…
My plan failed. Dad tried to act mad but I saw him stifle a grin as he told me I could not take the car out again for an entire week.
And I was not allowed to use scissors for a full year. Or so he said…