Friday, February 16, 2007

blog of epic proportions

Can you tell how sick I am of studying? I'm pretty sick of it.

So, to pacify my mind, I feel inspired by the news of stranded motorists in the snow in Pennsylvania to share my own story of being stuck in the snow in my car. I think this experience meets the definition of a minor fiasco.

Picture it: Columbus, Ohio, 1998. I had a two-week break from work and I was supposed to go home for the holidaze (home being Georgia to visit my less-than-fun family), but I just really didn't want to and, when the weather between me and home got pretty bad, I told my family it was just too dangerous for me to make the 8 hour drive. Sorry. Not coming.

But, after a few days, I got really bored and really lonely. My housemate was out of town, as were most of my other friends, and my workplace was closed down for two weeks. By the end of the first week, I was totally stir-crazy. So I had this really ridiculous idea to drive to Niagara Falls. Yes. At the end of December.

Next brilliant idea: I asked a woman named Boo (I swear to god) to come with me. Me and Boo had been hooking up a little bit, but it hadn't really been working out and I was distancing myself from her. All the red flags went up, but she was adventurous and she was the only person interested in my impromptu drive to Canada in the dead of winter. I had no choice!

So me and Boo set off for Niagara and... you know... it was mediocre. The falls were nice, then we went up to Toronto and it was cold as a motherfucker (what did I expect?) and then, when our little fun-fest was over, we started back. We spent our last night on the Canada side of Niagara in a sweet little motel. We hadn't had any trouble until the morning we were supposed to head home. We woke to a light dust of snow. How quaint.

Within an hour and a half of starting out, just as we passed Buffalo, NY, things started getting really rough. The snow was falling fast and furious and it was obvious, as we drove south, that it had been snowing fast and furious for awhile down there. Traffic slowed and the 18-wheelers we saw jack-knifed on the sides of the highway up ahead did not bode well for us.

Pretty soon traffic was moving at less than a crawl. Turned out, the highway was closed up ahead and the delay we were experiencing was caused by the slow drag of all the cars being redirected to the other side of the highway to drive back in the direction from which we'd all just come. Eventually it was our turn. We crawled along behind a million-mile long string of cars all trying to find the next best way wherever they were going.

We could've headed back north to relative safety. Gotten a motel room again. Watched some teevee and had some food. Wouldn't have been so bad. But it didn't even occur to us. Nope, we were die-hard. We were getting home, NOW. Consulting the map, we realized there was a secondary road that could take us parallel to the highway.

We (and 7,000 other motorists) attemped that detour, which took us through the tiny town of Lackawana, NY, later made famous by some so-called Al Queda wanna-be's. Thanks to the snow and ice on the roads and the (did I mention the) 7,000 other motorists, it literally took us 4 hours to drive from one end of Lackawana to the other. Oh. My. God.

Not to mention, by that point, I had reached maximum capacity for managing my irritation with Boo. Gum popping is something I can't tolerate, just to name one of one-million things she was doing that drove me nuts. To this day, if someone starts to "tidy up" the contents of my car (yes, it's sometimes a tad untidy) I start to shake with suppressed rage.

Anyway, at some point we realized we'd been in the car for over 8 hours and hadn't gotten out once to pee. Or eat. Or stretch our legs. We eventually pulled off the secondary road to try and use a bathroom somewhere. We learned, once we walked into the Burger King we managed to find, that in the time it took us to navigate the exit from that road (probably 45 minutes, behind a mack-truck trying not to jack-knife), they had *closed* that road. All the roads around us were closed. We were stuck.

We spent a few hours sitting in the Burger King, which had decided to stay open extra-late for all the other folks who were stuck there. Eventually, we retired to the car where we slept all night in the front seats with the engine running and the heat on. I woke up at daybreak and started driving. I didn't even care if the roads were better, but fortunately they were. All in all, we spent 30+ hours in the car together. And we were lucky, compared to the Pennsylvania people! At least we had Burger King! And we could leave in the morning.

I don't think I spoke another word to Boo in my life after that because I had used up every grain of patience I had ever possessed in regards to her. For a very long time, I counted that experience as the thing I'd lived through that showed me that I could do anything and be ok. I knew I had patience. I knew I could persevere. I knew I could resist the urge to be mean and nasty (or violent) in the face of frustration and a really annoying companion. Since then, other, worse things have cropped up in life and, you know, I'd like to think my ill-fated trip to Niagara layed a foundation which helped me get through those other things. Either way, it makes a story. So there you go.


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