Saturday, January 30, 2010

Getting Home

I was snowed in to a small town thirty miles outside of where I live, for a couple of days. The South shuts down in bad weather, since it only happens once every other year or so. I had to work at a smaller hospital I rotate at, occasionally. So I holed up in a hotel. It was kind of fun. I watched the snow fall all last night - an anomalous weather moment, in this location, for me. It was gorgeous watching the giant flakes hit the covered swimming pool outside my window.

Today, I slept in (not a workday!), read in bed, had a long run and shower, and packed up to head home. I waited until one or two in the afternoon to leave so A) all of the sanding trucks had done their job and traffic would be at its peak and B) so I had plenty of daylight hours left for possible mishaps.

At about 1:00 p.m., I headed across the street from the hotel to eat at Subway. I was feeling super cool in my twenty-year old combat boots, jeans, and purple t-shirt covered by an open plaid flannel button-down shirt I had in college. How fitting that I was in my college town. I didn't dry my hair, so I was sporting what my partner Michelle calls my "sexy bed head look," a statement to which I laughed and replied, "no, it's my New Year's Resolution. The lazy, I'm not drying my hair everyday look." I had on my fingerless IPhone gloves. I was wearing bad weather gear that rendered me unrecognizable, the day before, at the hospital I rotate at. When the guy that was staring at me in Subway honked while I was crossing the street back to the hotel, I was pretty sure he thought I was cute and wasn't honking because I had just slipped and almost fell on the ice (but I could be wrong). I climbed in my car - ready to face the road - get back home to my kids. Blared some good, muddy blues, a guy whose voice is so rich and soulful I just want to climb inside it and live there forever. Called my dad, who was doctoring in my home town today, and had first-hand familiarity with the road conditions. Told him, five minutes into my interstate drive, that I had it all under control, roads were great, I would make it no problem.

It is this kind of moment that we all need to watch out for. The ones where you feel supremely confident, happy, almost ego overinflated. Because that's when it all comes crashing down.

I was driving down the interstate gazing dumbstruck at the scenery. My old college town looked like a little Swiss village - I wasn't used to seeing it this way, and it was so beautiful. All of a sudden my windshield wipers, which I had checked and cleared prior to leaving, stopped working. They became re-glued by snowy debris and ice that was flying up from the hood. I decided, well, it's not really snowing, maybe this won't matter. Then four trucks flew by me at 70 miles/hour, knocking up sand and snow and mud and dust all over my windshield. It mattered. I slowed to a crawl, peering through the muddy windshield. I turned the music down to concentrate. I suddenly realized two cars were behind me, and put my hazards on so they would know I was in trouble, and not just stupid. I was going to have to pull over on the icy snowy banks, to fix this.

About the time I was fighting to see though the mud, I had come to the realization that I had somehow gotten off on the wrong exit. I was going the opposite direction from home. I was stupid. I was heading into worse weather, and I could tell by the dicier roads. It would be easy to fix this, I would just have to turn around, and I was trying to remember the nearest exit where I could do this. I already knew, based on talking to my Dad, that the town I was staying in had gotten hit a lot worse by the weather than the big city I lived in. Good Lord. But first, the windshield wipers.

I got out of the car, and started hacking away at the snow and ice with trucks flying by, honking and knocking up more snow and mud on me and my car. One car slowed down, with blinkers on, and pulled up in front of me. I was scared and felt vulnerable. Here I was trying to fix a problem, and I was going to be raped or murdered on the side of the road. A guy about my age got out, he had a funny hat on, and asked if I needed help. I know that 99.9% of people are good, probably this one included, but I wasn't taking any chances. I called out to him that I was OK, just needed to get my wipers working. I thanked him for his offer. He smiled, nodded, went back to his car, and drove off. He probably sensed the fear and desperation in my voice. He was a good guy, and when it took me 20 minutes to get my wipers working again, I silently cursed myself for not taking him up on his offer for help.

Safe again, back in my car, wipers working, I drove to the next exit. It was a very small town, one that hadn't had much traffic or sanding trucks. I drove slowly over the overpass, praying I wouldn't end up like so many other abandoned cars I had seen on my short stint. Made it, and realized it would be tough merging back onto the cleared interstate from the snowy, icy exit ramp. I waited for a break in traffic, and jumped in. Cranked up the music. Drove back home.

The only other bad road was my own street, but I got home fine. Walked inside the house and melted from hugs from the kids. Sicily and John were so excited to see me, and we began to prepare for the dinner guests we were receiving - a couple and their two kids from Sicily's old school. They had us over, back in September, and it took an alarming four months for us to coordinate our schedules to return the favor. We ate spaghetti, drank wine, and the day's challenges melted away.

What we go through for our jobs. It's not just me - all of the lab technicians, supervisors, and gross room assistants were fighting bad weather, and staying in hotels, to keep the hospitals functioning, and take care of patients. I felt such camaraderie, and satisfaction from a job well done. There is so much drama in this world - so many people attacking and suing and fighting and reacting from whatever the hell they missed out on in childhood. So it's especially nice to experience moments like this, when all of the good comes out in everyone.


  1. I laughed at the part when the guy tried to stop and help you because I can relate to the random fear of being assaulted and murdered on the side of the road. My mom made me watch one to many 20/20 episodes of spring break disasters on women. On that note, have you read "The Gift of Fear"? Your intuition about that man may be have been right? In all your copious spare time (right), you should read it. Anywho, thanks for the entertaining post! Glad all ended well.

  2. Thanks! I have not read the Gift of Fear - and I'm a big reader, so I'll have to check that one out. I think I freaked him out so bad by calling out that I was just fine, had it all under control, that he didn't even come near me. As he walked away I thanked him for stopping, but I really think I was thanking him more for walking away so my heart would stop beating so fast. I was plotting an "Ice scraper as weapon" move. I might have been good at it, but thank goodness I didn't have to find out.

  3. Gizabeth, I would have done the same exact thing on the side of the road. I think motherhood has made me more fearful, actually. I am much more risk-averse. And how nice to come home to that kind of reception.


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