Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Four and one half hours

That's how long it took me to get home last night. A trip of 25 miles, that normally takes me 45 minutes, took four and one half hours.

It started with freezing rain, at evening rush hour, complicated by holiday traffic. I turned onto a four lane major state highway and crept along till my turn onto a smaller state road. My lane was full of cars and the surface was just wet, but I could see that the opposite lane was pretty icy. My turn onto a windy, hilly side street was thwarted by an accident.

I turned around in the parking lot of a veterinary clinic (a colleague, so I didn't think he'd mind) and started back. Ahead, I saw a set of brake lights. There were two vehicles stuck behind a Camero jammed into the guard rail, and a sports car slipping and skidding down the slope toward the mess. I waited at the top of the rise, then gradually released my brake pedal one delicate touch at a time and worked my way downhill.

I was pretty proud of myself, keeping it under control, until I neared the bottom. Then my back end started swinging around to my right. I applied the brakes gently, turned the wheel and ended up stopped behind the other cars, still on the road and (mostly) in my own lane, but at a 45 degree angle. Well. This is interesting.

I put on the parking brake and sat there, sussing out the situation. I reasoned if someone could stop the on-coming traffic, the rest of us could work our way around the Camero. I watched for a break in the flow. No good. The other cars aren't going to be going anywhere because of the first accident. I figured the police should close the road until the two obstructions we
re cleared.

I called 911 to report the problem and asked for someone to direct traffic. I can hear you all laughing - of course, there was no one available for such a minor snafu. Every officer was out on more serious calls.
I called my sister for comfort and moral support.

A woman in an SUV went by. She blared her horn, shook her fist, and made ugly faces at me while (apparently) shouting vile words. What in the world? Did she think I liked being stuck sideways, with my nose in the other lane? I didn't do this on purpose, "lady." Have a little compassion, can't you?

The salt truck went by, and a good portion of his delivery landed right under the front of my car. Good! That should help the slippery patch where I am sitting {sideways}, if I ever get a chance to move. I sat and thought.

It was time for the people to take matters into their own hands. Two Good Samaritans got out of their cars and began directing traffic. Those of us stuck behind the Camero were able to get out around him and move forward. I didn't slide one bit once I started moving. I found a different route and aimed towards home again.

At this point, I had been on the road for about one hour, and had gone less than five miles. The situation was not looking good. I was supposed to be at the Christmas party at the pottery studio. I called them, reported my delay, and told a friend who lives near the vet hospital to just stay there, not to try to come home just yet.

Things were looking good; traffic was heavy but not unreasonable, the roads were merely wet, not slippery, and I began to have positive thoughts. Till I turned onto another four lane state highway. This was my major east-bound route, and there was no other safe way back home. This road was not slippery at all, but for 12 miles, we just crawled. There were no accidents and no reasons I could see to be going this slowly, but there you have it.

I called my sister, and we talked for an hour as I went 3 miles without touching the gas. I kept my foot on the brake and lifted it on occasion, proceeding forward on "idle" alone.

As I neared the studio, I called them again, planning on stopping by, not to party, but just to take a break. I needed to get out of the car, stretch and relieve some tension. I turned on the country road that leads to Scarborough Fair, only to find traffic at a stand-still. Again. I turned around in a drive-way and headed for home, calling my instructor to tell her what was happening.

Everything was fine, slow but fine, till I turned south on the last leg of my journey home. The smaller state route was slushy, icy, slippery - it was no damn fun, to be exact. I watched the cars ahead of me, trying to anticipate conditions. A salt truck went by me - Hurrah! On one hill that I was particularly concerned about, someone had scattered a load of sand, which made the climb much easier.

I pulled into my driveway at about 10:40pm. I had left work at 6:10pm. I had been driving, without a break and under tension, for 4.5 hours. I was tired, stiff, and more than just a tad anxious. My commuting companions, Holly and Grace, were bored. They had been champions throughout the long, long drive, but they were ready to get out of the car. And, to be honest, we all needed to pee!

I gathered up all the things I had toted with me that day - purse, spare clothes for pottery, water bottle, left-overs from my lunch, the Scottish shortbread and peach wine I had for the party - and started for the back door. I knew the sidewalk would be slippery, so I stayed on the grass for the most part. At one point, I had to cross the walk. When I planted both feet on the concrete, I began sliding sideways, downhill, towards my garage. I waited, assuming I would hit a rough patch and stop. As I picked up speed, I envisioned this situation ending badly, but could not figure out how to prevent it. Finally, I went down on one knee, in a kind of "controlled fall," then picked myself back up and finally made it into my house.


This morning, as I listen to the rain on the roof, the weatherman tells me it is 45 degrees. I will miss having a white Christmas, but that's OK. I'm not in a hurry to repeat that drive in the near future.



denapple said...

I feel for you Kathy! Some kind person warned me about the icy sidewalk at the bus stop, saving me from serious injury. One man was waiting for the ambulance, moaning loudly from his broken wrist! So glad I'm not trying to travel anywhere this holiday!

donaldthebirder said...

Glad your safe. Saw a jeep flipping repeatably on SR 32 in front of us, bounce of the guardrail of the other lanes and land on its side in the median - luckily, no one was injured. I couldn't make it to work either (3 days off in a row!) - there were wrecks everywhere and the FD had roads closed - fire truck spun out. My brother had to walk home from work (lives in Milford), as SR 28 was closed.

Merry Christmas

Susan Gets Native said...

You poor thing. But at least you have a good head on your shoulders and can handle crisis-driving.
I watched in incredulity the traffic going by our house on Rt. 48. No one was going over 3 mph. Geoff had planned on finishing his shopping last night, so that's why he is out there right now. With all the other goofballs who wait until the last minute.

Very glad you made it back home last night. And lots of snuffles to your dogs for not making it any harder on you!

Heron said...

Uggg ! What an experience, glad you arrived home safely. It seems the "weather outside is frightful" from coast-to-coast.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas !

NCmountainwoman said...

Thank goodness you are safe and sound. My son and his wife drove through Cincinnati on their way to our house, barely outrunning (thank goodness) that terrible weather. Merry Christmas to you and the girls.

Lynne said...

I held my breath through your whole story! Glad you are home safe and sound. Relax now!

Merry Christmas friend!

Mary said...

Geez. When I express my desire to see snow, I sure don't miss those horrible commutes in icey stuff. So, maybe I should be just so happy to be living in southern NC. No need for snow blowers.

I'm glad you made the trip without a dent.

Merry Christmas, Kathi!

Mary (word verif crunchet)

holly-the-person said...

Been having PC problems, so I'm having to catch up here. We've had good weather so far although there was a 25 car pileup nearby one icy night. Glad you and the girls made it home safely!!