Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I am reporting to you after surviving SNOWMAGEDDON 2014. I am happy to say, my "adventure" is over.

The state of Alabama knew that the central portion of our state would get "a light dusting of snow" on Monday night. What we got was a repeat of the Blizzard of 1993!

At 11:00 a.m. I left work, bound for home. The Chief told me to stick to the interstate because it would be heavily travelled. Little did I know just a few short hours, I would be trapped in one of the most harrowing experiences I have faced so far.

It was slow going. It took an hour to make what is usually a fifteen minute drive from the office to the interstate. I inched my way along, finally reaching the interstate, careful not to slam on my brakes. The snow was sticking and there were no ruts to follow, even behind the 18 wheelers. I made my way on to I-20, headed out of Birmingham, where the conditions seemed to improve.

Being alone with my thoughts right now, is not a good thing. I have the opportunity to mull over the past few weeks. The longer that I drove, the more angry I got at Darling Hubby (and his mistress) for what he had done to me. Despite being an awful driver any other time, he was amazingly calm, and drove surprisingly well on snow and ice. I had admired him for that.  He had always driven during situations like this, and I had always felt safe and protected.

But I was going to have to do this alone sometime, and now was as good a time as any.

By the time I had reached the I-459 interchange, just outside of Irondale, it was clear that something had happened up ahead. Traffic was at a standstill. It was now 1;30 p.m. My family texted me, as cell service was down due to jammed circuits. I was glad that I had bought gas on the way home the night before. I was going to need it.

I watched as 18 wheelers slipped and caught, rocking the trailers from side to side.

 It made me nervous and I tried my best to stay behind them. But as my lane would inch forward, I would find myself next to them again.

It took over an hour to make the otherwise short drive toward the Leeds exit.

As I approached the Leeds exit, I could see the traffic snarl below the Bass Pro Shop. "Goat Hill" looked like a parking lot. A long line of cars waited on the entrance ramp. I watched as several calls made a break along the shoulder of the road, only to be stymied by an empty car further up the way. I was averaging just a few dozen feet, but those were a few dozen feet closer to home.

I texted friends to see what progress they were making. One, a father, was frantically trying to get to his girlfriend and their baby who was stranded on I-20 driving in the opposite direction, She had picked up the baby from her parents and didn't even have a bottle for him. His phone was fading fast and her phone was apparently already dead.

I texted another, who I will call Brown Eyes (because, well, he has brown eyes: the second set I had ever fallen for, the first being JC when I was in first grade) or B/E for short, to see if he had any trouble getting home. He lived in the opposite direction from town. He replied that he had stayed on back roads and though it took a little longer than normal, had made it home in one piece.

I had made it about a mile past the Leeds exit and the traffic was moving less and less. Many had begun abandoning their vehicles and walking along the shoulder of the road.  Rescue vehicles had begun driving the wrong way on the opposite side of the interstate and I could see the tops of cars and trucks over the concrete wall as they followed. I was starting to go stir crazy and my heart was starting to race. Earlier I had been able to take my medicine on time, thanks to a unopened bottle of water from the Susan G. Komen walk in October. I had read about the dangers of drinking water that had been left in ones car. I drank only enough to get the pills down for fear of poisoning myself. My chest began to hurt. All I could think was that I was going to have a heart attack and no one would be able to get to me. I would die in my car on the side of I-20. Panicked, I frantically texted friends to talk me down off the ledge.

 It was now five o'clock and I suddenly had a more pressing matter to attend to: I had to pee.

I had started discussing it with my mother about an hour before. At the time, I was in the center lane. I explained how I was surrounded by traffic and there was no ideal way to handle the situation. Each time that I'd muster the courage, traffic would move a few feet, so I was afraid of getting caught with  my pants down (pardon the pun) when traffic started moving.  I didn't really have to go at the time, but knew it would not be long before it was pressing. She called me back with the solution. I just had to make it into the right lane.

As luck would have it, a spot opened up, and I was able to get in the right lane, behind a woman in a black sports car. She was irritating me by letting others into the lane in front of her, so we were not moving.  I spent a good ten minutes cursing at the back of her head. It was now dark and the snow was quickly forming ice. I watched as she would inch forward in her front-wheel-drive car, while dragging her back tires like a sled along behind her. I guessed that I was doing that too.

The plan was to open the passenger doors, both front and back, then squat between them. That way I would be shielded She suggested that I take off my vintage wool dress coat to do the deed. I wriggled free of it and threw it into the back seat, where I also put my purse and the reusable shopping bag,  that I lovingly refer to as "my briefcase," so as not to knock them out of the car.  I gathered two or three napkins I had found in the console and put them in the seat. I crawled over into the passenger seat, looking back out the front window to insure that traffic wasn't moving. I reached back and opened the back passenger door. When I opened the front passenger door, a gust of wind carried my napkins off into the night. But worse than all that, the interior light came on.

As if peeing on the side of the road was not bad enough, now I was going to do it under a spot light.

I bent over at the waist and unbuttoned my pants, squatting and pulling them down at the same time to avoid a show. The air was cold and the momentary blast on my bare backside, made getting things started nearly impossible. I thought that I heard the crunch of footsteps in the snow. Great, now I had looky loos coming up behind me. The ice on the side of the road was slick and my high-heeled boots had begun to slide. My feet were steadily sliding further and further apart. I already had a cramp in my right butt cheek from standing on the brake for so long. I was trying to relax and "let it flow." I frantically fished around in the floorboard for more napkins, managing to only come up with one. My sliding feet were now putting my boots and pants in the way. I squeezed my thighs together to try and bring my feet in, all the while bracing my abs to keep myself upright. THIS was much more of a workout than I bargained for!

It took forever! I had always been able to do my business really quickly, but this moment of torture seemed to go on forever. Across from me, I could see two drivers of 18 wheelers, standing between their rigs talking. Both were facing me. Just on the other side of my car, I could see the white van, carrying a family of four. I could see the mother in the front seat point my direction. It didn't matter. What are the odds I will ever see these people again?  When I was done I dabbed with the napkin and dropped it, trying to pull my pants up with the same motion that I had taken them down with. I closed the back door. I could see the shadow of the woman behind me trying to crane her neck to see what I had been up to. I mouthed the words "making yellow snow" at her and crawled back into the car.

With that over, I was able to calm down and relax. Traffic had not moved in several minutes. I decide to try a call to B/E. After getting the "all circuits are busy" for most of the day, I was relieved to hear him answer. 

Have you ever had an old friend that you could call for whatever reason, no matter how much time had passed, and they instantly made you feel better?  B/E had always had a calming effect on me.  We had always been better friends that girlfriend/boyfriend, and though we did date, we parted amicably. We had been in touch, on and off over the years, the Lord sending him into my life as the voice of reason at just the right times. Though I hadn't spoken with him since my last divorce nearly twenty years ago, the first time we spoke two weeks ago,we talked like we had just spoken the day before.

We talked about the weather, how I was still in nearly the same spot as I was when I texted earlier, how I had suffered the ultimate indignity and peed on the side of the road in front of hundreds of strangers. He cackled. "You didn't have a cup or a bottle in the car?" Well, as a matter of fact, yes I had a bottle, but I was not exactly equipped to pee in a bottle. Really, that is the only time that ever wish I had been born male.  We discussed the options of using the bottle versus what I had done (another perk of talking with old friends is that they tell you like it is). I can honestly say if this ever happens again, I won't have a problem jumping out of the car to handle business. Sounds a lot neater.

 I never thought about the fact that I didn't have a way to wash my hands until just now, but now think that was a good thing. My "Lady Macbeth Syndrome" would have kicked over in high gear. The last thing I needed was to have hives too.

He's given me great insight over the past few days on my present situation and D/H, having survived a similar situation himself.  I told him how I was mad with D/H, simply because he could drive on ice and snow and had he been faithful to his vows "to love, honor and cherish, holding only unto me, as long as we both should live," that we would at least be facing this ordeal together.  He listened, and told me that he knew how I felt, but I would get through this. Each challenge I faced by myself and accomplished, would make me stronger.

We talked for a while, interrupted occasionally by a family member calling to gauge my progress.  Droves of people walked past me. Where I was sitting, I could see a spot on the side of the road but was not quite to it. I told him about the 18 wheelers, spinning tires but making no headway. Of the chick in front of me, dragging her tires along ("you are probably doing the same thing" he had quipped) of the rear-wheeled drive compact car just ahead of me, spinning and sliding all over the road, and the Mustang ahead of that car that did the same. I told him I was rethinking buying another one after seeing that.

A call came in from a number that I didn't recognize, so I had him hold on for a bit to click over. It was my daughter's aunt T/L. "Hey, are you still up on the interstate?" I told her that I was and apprised her of my current location. "You are not far from us. Do you think that you could walk?"  I wasn't sure at that point. I had on high heeled boots, I was wearing dress clothes. I did have a wool coat and gloves, but no hat. "I'm not at that point right now, but if I decide to ditch, I will call you back so you can look for me."

I went back to my conversation with B/E without cutting him off. I was finally learning how to use this stupid new phone. I told him of T/L's offer but how that would only be a last resort.  It was after 9am and I needed to call my boss. If I was going to be out here much longer, I wasn't going to be worth anything at work the next day, where we were on a delayed opening of 10am.

We said our goodbyes and I called my boss.  I told her how I was now approaching seven hours of sitting still on I-20 East with no end in sight. She was telling me of handling in coming calls and that my coworker, who also lived in my town, had made it home, despite leaving after me. I did not know how she did it without getting on the interstate somewhere or traversing a treacherous hilly road. About that time, a man knocked on my window. I asked her to hold on and rolled my window down. The man was offering me water. Another man walked up with a back of snack crackers.
"Are you sure you don't want the water?" the first man asked. "It's gonna be a long night" holding out the bottle to me.  Hearing this my boss responded, "Oh my God"

"What? What do you mean?" I asked. "We've been moving a few feet within every hour" "Well that has stopped now that they've closed the interstate. The drivers ahead of all this, " he said waving his hand ahead of him, " are stopped for the night. No one is going anywhere." My boss repeated her comment, "OH MY GOD" I thanked them and rolled the window back up. "I guess you heard that" I said remorsefully. "What are you going to do?" she responded. "I have an offer from T/L to walk down and stay with them. They are only another mile or so down the road. I could walk that"

We said our goodbyes as well. I had finally made it up to the open space on the side of the road. I put the car in reverse and backed up just enough to clear the black sports car. It took some maneuvering but I managed to get into the spot, just big enough for my car, and leave room on either side to get out when I came back. I called T/L and told her to turn on the pool lights, visible from the interstate, get the ladder out to make it over the fence, because I am on my way. I sent a mass text to all that I had been speaking with and told them I was ditching. I explained that I had made this tough call after what the man had told me,  I would be there all night, and I was down to a quarter tank of gas. I was going to need that to get home.

I called several folks and told them I was ditching and walking to T/L's. My BFF, Cyn, said her bubby could come retrieve me if he could find me. I later learned that he had driven the wrong way down I-20 West  peering over the wall looking for me. 

I looked around the car to make sure that I didn't see anything valuable. I put my phone in my purse and zipped it up tight. I made sure I had my gloves on and buttoned my coat. One button was off just enough that it gapped, but otherwise it was warm and toasty. I grabbed my "briefcase" and purse, took a deep breath and opened the door.  I put my feet out on the ice, slowly and gingerly putting my weight on them. So far so good. I made sure to lock the doors, that I had my keys, and started out. It was just shy of 10 pm.

T/L told me to stick to the "puffy snow" rather than walking down the road, that would be mostly ice. I had not gone very far before I slipped and fell on the downward sloping shoulder. I walked in heels all the time, I decided stick to space between the road and the "rumble bars" instead. It was much easier to walk on. Abandoned cars littered the road, and were turned every which way. It looked as if a child had left them in the course of play, to answer his mother for dinner.  I walked past the last two 18 wheelers and was shocked that there was not another soul on the road, all the way to the exit. I had been just a quarter mile from freedom. It had taken nearly an hour to get that far. The mile marker next to me read 142, which meant I was 2 miles from the exit. The  road stretched out before me like a white carpet.

I walked on into the darkness, my positive attitude melting away with each frozen step. The thought that I could fall and hurt myself, or worse, tire out and collapse, kept inching it's way into my mind. The thought that I may die of exposure so close to home began to weigh on me.

Suddenly I heard the buzz of an ATV engine. I turned around to find a utility cart speeding up to me. It stopped next to me. There were two men up front and one sitting cross legged in the back."Where are you headed?" the driver asked.  "Just up ahead, almost to the exit" I replied. "Can you take me?" I asked hopefully. "Sure, get in the back" The man in the back jumped out and helped me in. Then off we went. "I'm Paul" he said, offering his hand.  "My preacher, the driver, and I decided to come down here to see if anyone needed any help. We found this fella, (the other passenger up front) he's a bad diabetic. He's been without insulin all day. We are taking him to the exit to meet his wife. "  We rode on. In the car, this drive was less than 2 minutes. But in this little cart, it seemed to take forever.

The fact that his name had been Paul was not lost on me. The apostle Paul had been known by not only his beliefs but by his actions as well. I never thought to find out the preacher's name, or what church they were from. I was just glad to be moving. I later learned that my mother was desperately praying for the Lord to send help to me. These men were the answer to her prayer.

When we reached the house, I called T/L to let her know we had arrived. She came out on to the deck, her boyfriend followed behind with a ladder. Paul, the preacher and me made our way down the steep hill to the underbrush below. All I had to do was fight my way through the thicket, climb the fence, and I was home free.  I had to crawl through the underbrush, snapping off twigs and bending back saplings along the way. "You got this?" Paul had called to me. I could not answer, I was focused on keeping my glasses on my face and the not tearing my coat. "No, little fella, you come here, I need you!" T/L called out to him, But he and the preacher were already struggling back up the hill. "Hey, you come here!" she called out, to no avail. She had wanted to give him $10 for his trouble, to use for gas. But they hopped in the cart and drove away. A guardian angel would not have taken a reward anyway.

Her boyfriend put the ladder over the game fence. This is a four foot wire fence, topped with barbed wire, used to keep game and other critters from making their way out onto the interstate. I climbed the ladder and he helped me down the other side. Finally safe, I hugged T/L. My legs, shaking badly, would not carry me any further. I nearly collapsed with relief. They practically carried me into the house.

T/L sprang into action. She seated me in front of the gas heater. She brought me dry clothes and socks. She brought me a hot bowl of chili. She fixed me a cup of coffee. She showed me the bed I'd be sleeping in. I was never so grateful.
I even made a new friend in the midst of my adventure. He's really great!

I slept like a rock, waking just before 7:00 am. The loud wail of an 18 wheelers jake-brakes woke me from a sound, dreamless sleep. From the window I could see traffic moving once again. A friend had told us that traffic started moving around 4am.

Around noon, we headed down  I-20 West toward Leeds to retrieve my car. On the shoulder, cars made their way backwards up the exit ramp. When we reached the 140 exit, the abandoned cars looked like a scene out of a zombie movie.  We made our way down to the entrance ramp and just short of getting back on I20 East, a state trooper blocked the entrance.  A salt truck rumbled by.

After about 30 minutes, the rig in front of us started to move and we were on our way. I was less than a mile from my car. As we pulled up behind it, I could see that it had been safe, pulled off the road enough to be out of the line of traffic. I jumped out and fired it up. T/L motioned for me to come on. There was a break in the traffic and I gunned it to make it into the clear lane, I was so excited to be on the road and moving that I almost forgot the road was still dangerous.

As I followed them off the ramp, my first thought was to get gas. I couldn't get the card swiper to work, so I had to go inside, but I was so happy, I didn't care. Coffee was second on my mind. I waiting patiently as the waitress juggled a mountain of tickets, an obvious sign that they had been busy as a 24 hour establishment. The coffee was fabulous. I wonder where they get it (giggle).

When I arrived on my doorstep, it had been 27 hours since my ordeal began.  I had faced it on my own, ( after getting good advice from smart people, of course) and triumphed.

Things are looking up

I was saddened to learn that my peaceful and quaint hometown had gained national attention by towing the cars of stranded motorists and charging between $175 and $300 to the owners. Well, you can't win 'em all.


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