Baby, it’s cold outside, and that has everyone ’round here up in a tizzy. I reside in Texas, y’all, and every time there’s even the slightest risk of inclement weather, the meteorologist gets what I like to call his (or her) weather hard-on, and that’s all anyone can talk about. Do I sound annoyed? It’s only because I’ve survived some winter storms, some bad ones, and today’s Arctic blast is completely B Team all the way compared to the hell I’ve lived through with ice.
Walk back in time with me for a minute to the year 1996, a time in history when tweeting or facebooking your way through a trip was not even possible, when all the entertainment we had was talking to our families or playing the license plate game or “bury your horses” (that’s a real game. I promise it doesn’t involve any actual burying of horses), when cars didn’t have DVD players with every movie ever made available in a red box outside of your local Wal-Mart, and radio reception on long road trips sounded like white noise with hillbilly talk radio hosts some where in the background. Now, let me tell you about the longest and worst road trip of my life.
Some necessary background: I had this really awful car accident in November ’96, my first semester of my freshman year of college that landed me in a wheelchair for 4 months. Yeah. It was awesome. I broke my hip in three different places, inoperable places, so the only treatment was to stay off of my hip and take pills for the pain. Ok, digest that for a minute.
As typical for me, I had to travel for the holidays. We, i.e. my dad, mom, and I, decided to head North to Kansas to visit one of my four brothers for Christmas, and on Christmas day, we had what our meteorologist here in Dallas would call “A Serious Arctic Blast” and by serious, I mean, that the entire state of Kansas along with Oklahoma and Northern Texas were covered in ice. Covered, people, and the temperature had no plans to raise any time soon. We decided to brave the roads the day after Christmas with my dad behind the wheel, and my mom in the passenger seat. I took over the back seat with my pillow and my crutches, wheelchair secured to the roof of the car because the trunk was full of luggage and gifts.
The one good thing about my accident was the drugs. I had a severe head injury, too, so that coupled with pain in my hip earned me some serious meds. All of which, came in handy on this trip so much so that I don’t remember a single thing about the 10 hour drive to my brother’s house. The drive home, though…I remember that…and here’s why.
I woke suddenly from a very comfortable car sleep to my mother’s shriek. “Oh, honey,” she yelled to my dad, but it sounded more like, “Aw huuny!” because my mother’s accent is totally country. I love her for it. “Oh Gawd,” she continued. I sat up from my back seat slumber to examine the cause of her dismay to see nothing but cars and break lights ahead of us. Brick like blocks of ice covered the highway, and traffic ceased to move. Stopped. Parked. Nothing happening at all.
My dad got out to examine the ice simply because he got bored and antsy an hour into our highway halt only to find out from a trucker parked ahead of us that traffic was stopped for miles. The cause: the trucks could not build up enough traction to make it over the ice on the hills, so every time they would try to move forward, they would slide back.
We had over a half a tank of gas in the car. Did I mention that I’m in a car with my parents, and I’m eighteen years old? Remember, this is before smart phones. Another interesting fact, my dad was a preacher and refused to listen to secular music, so he used the time in the car to listen to sermons on tape. You read that right…sermons, as in lectures pertaining to the bible…on tape. As I sat in hell, I listened to the word of God.
A few hours and three sermons into our sitting still, I felt the urge to pee. (I know.) My mom and dad, along with all of our fellow stranded travelers found relief behind trees on the side of the road. I, unfortunately, could not navigate the ice on my crutches, and my wheelchair was…wait for it…frozen to the roof of the car, so I just had to hold it. I took a lot of pills, and I slept.
Drugs are bad though, children.
We moved twelve miles in nine hours. TWELVE MILES IN NINE HOURS, Y’ALL. And every time we rolled over a block of ice, pain shot through my rump, even with the meds. Not even slightly kidding.
Finally, we drifted into a Loves gas station on fumes. I rushed to the restroom to see what looked like a thousand women waiting for the three stalls inside, one of which, the handicapped one. I looked around. Clearly, I was the only handicapped person in line, but I waited and waited. Until finally my mom, aka my hero, said in her very loud, very accented voice. “I can’t believe this. Don’t y’all see this child’s handicapped?” Never in the history of my life did I expect that sentence from my mother to sound like music to my ears, but it worked. Before long, the line of women stepped back and each ushered me with their hands to go ahead of them until I reached the heaven of the handicapped stall and finally felt relief. I’m pretty sure I sat there for 10 minutes. And I sit, not a hoverer. You’re welcome.
So when I hear about “Arctic Blasts” and “Winter Storms”, I get a little perturbed because nothing sucks worse than being a handicapped freshman in college stuck on an icy road in a car with her parents for nine hours. NINE HOURS!!!! And that was just the sitting still part. The rest of the drive took twice that long.
PS: Should you find yourself waiting in line for a restroom, choose the one that’s specified for you, and leave the handicapped stall for the people who really need it. Remember…there’s only one.
PPS: If there’s no line, pee away.
Enlighten me…what were some of the worst car trips you’ve been through…with or without parents? Have you ever been stuck in the ice? For how long? Did you too have to pee?