philosophy at age eight

“If you cannot control your peanut butter, you cannot expect to control your life.”
~ Judah-ism

Friday, April 1, 2011

new frontiers

Pretty neat
It has been fairly calm, snow-wise, here in Seattle during the winter of 2011.  With one notable exception, we had just a few short snowfalls that resulted in less-than-impressive coverage, as pictured here.  A month or more ago, walking the half-mile home to the new house after spending a day cleaning the old one we'd just vacated, John took this picture because he thought the blue shadow was pretty neat.

But this post is about the notable exception. 

~ * ~

Late February, I had to travel from Seattle to Portland, Oregon for a big meeting at a client.  Having flown from Seattle to Portland previously, my -0- positive memories about this experience, coupled with the newly minted threat of TSA jokes, cemented my belief that the 3 hours it would take to drive it had to be a better choice.  After all, it would take just as long to fly down as to drive it, if you take into account the time wasted at the airport, the unpleasant experience of rising to altitude only to spend 5 minutes there prior to the nausea-inducing decline, followed by another airport...  Driving was the clear choice for this seasoned, corporate traveler.

Of course, it happened that we were supposed to get the snowstorm of the year -- of several years -- the night I drove down. 

This is a dramatization based on true events, captured by real people
that are not me, and are not actors.  Please do not sue me.
Just so it's out there, not going was not an option.  I'm not suicidal, just... employment during recessions is a good thing. 

John, worried that I might get stuck somewhere alone along the highway, thought it would be a good idea to send Mae, our just-turned-16-year-old daughter, along for the ride.  Perhaps he thought it would be good if I had someone to eat if we got stuck on the side of the highway long enough.  Or vise versa.  Regardless, it was the first road trip Mae and I had ever had alone together, and it sounded kind of fun, so we filled the rental car with Monster energy drink, artery-clogging pastries and nuts (all guaranteed to taste better than skinny teenagers or juicy and tender mothers), and took off.  We listened to some music, had some mother-daughter chats, endured a white-knuckled 10 minutes worth of driving snow in our face, and then coasted in the clear to our hotel in Portland.

I worked late into the night at the hotel, preparing for the meeting the next day while Mae lounged around, watching TV and consuming 250 calories after 725 calories. A typical night. And in the morning, when I realized that the noon hotel check-out would not allow me to leave my teenager wallowing around in her PJed glory while I attended my full day meeting, I had a small melt-down, eventually found her a mall to amuse herself at, and toddled off to work.

As things would have it, Buddha, God and probably a fairy, too, were playing with us. It might have just been the weathermen, but let's be real; when have they ever gotten it right?  I heard it all day long, from every stressed business woman and man I ran into; the big storm, the real storm, the perfect storm, was coming tonight. Not last night.... tonight.  And a new, young co-worker of mine, who had chosen (badly, may I say?) to fly down from Seattle to attend the meeting, apparently decided she didn't want to fly back in the perfect storm, and begged a ride home from me in my wittle bitty rental. 

With my teenage daughter. Who hasn't found a single corporate person that she couldn't shock.

"Hahahahahaha... sure, that'd be fine! Hahahahahaha."  <-- nervous laughter

At 5:15 pm, my co-worker (let's call her Neo) and I drove over to pick Mae up from the mall on our way out of town, stopping only long enough to grab some Venti coffees and energy drinks from the corner Starbucks. I was a little preoccupied with thoughts of Mae saying something really shocking in front of Neo that I wouldn't be able to live down at work (because let's face it, teenagers can always come up with something shocking, and Mae x3) while trying to respond appropriately to Neo's chatter during the first forty-five minutes.  I had developed a new respect for her ability to talk non-stop for those 45 minutes, with barely a pause to sip from her coffee, when she switched momentarily to her cell, releasing me from the polite bondage of corporate connectivity. My respect grew to a fearful awe when it passed the hour and fifteen minute+ mark.  I re-visited the wisdom of actually allowing her to consume energy drinks, and realized that living with the intensely introverted John had mutated me into something of an introvert myself, and if I was really going to be trapped into this car for another two hours, I just might...  at which point I was gratefully distracted by an incoming blizzard. 

It started out much like last night, but quickly went from bad to worse. I couldn't take any pictures because 1.) my cell phone was out of battery, and 2.) I was driving and legitimately afraid to take my hands off the steering wheel, and 3.) Mae's cell was on its laaaaaast itty bitty legs, thanks to her bout at the mall, and I had sternly warned her to keep it off so that when we ran off the road we could call 911, and 4.) Neo was busy wasting her cell battery freaking out to someone about how scary this all was so that when we finally ran off the road, we would only have Mae's itty bitty battery on which to call 911.  However, I have endeavored to steal the following photos as a representation, to attempt to describe the experience for you. Bear with me.

Imagine this:
Lonely road (called I5 north, sure, but it's lonely when you can't see anything on the sides!)
Only it's dark!:
Like this
And it's blizzarding like crazy, so you can barely see a thing, and have to drive 2 miles an hour in a straight line behind the car right in front of you, so you don't accidentally drive right off the road:

Like this, only dark! With driving snow!
Until the crazy truck-drivers who think they are God drive up around you, going a psycho 30-miles an hour and sometimes failing, and you curse and laugh at them. And eventually you realize that there is a huge mass of semis all around you, everywhere, taking over the road and going nowhere. And then you look in your rear view mirror, and watch this big Ford truck, right behind you, just start sliiiiiiiiiding... sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiding sideways, into another car.  And then you slam on the brakes because you were so fascinated with the slow slide of doom in your rear view mirror that you almost managed to run into the car in front of you, going 2 miles an hour. And you sliiiiiiiiiide just a bit, but at 2 miles an hour, you were one of the luckiest bastards on the road, and not only do you not hit the car in front of you, but you also manage to get moving again, which is a goddamn miracle.

Neo, of course, has not stopped talking yet. And she has something really freaked out, but tempered by inbred corporate politeness, to say about that near miss. I blocked it out.

After a short while, it looks like this, only many, many more semis, a lot darker, a little less snow on the road and a lot more snow coming down, faster than you can imagine:
Freaky, huh?!

Then all the coffee and energy drinks Mae just inhaled hit, and she interrupts Neo's monologue to beg me to pull over so she can pee. 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (I say.) I am very, very sorry to say this, but if I pull over, if I stop, we will never get started again! We are going 2 miles an hour, and if I go 3 miles an hour we'll slide off the road, and if I go 1 mile an hour, I'll either be ruthlessly run over by the truck going 2 miles an hour behind us, or we'll stall, and never get moving again. We'll have to eat whoever dies first to survive until the end of this apocalypse. There are no exits for another hour, at this pace, and even if we were right next to one, I couldn't possibly drive this American-made, generic rental car with no snow chains down the ramp without, again, getting stuck! 

So I'll just piss in this bottle, then (she says.)

WHAM.  There it is, the first shocker. Sadly, she's dead serious so I can't even laugh it off like she's joking.  That's okay, I just have to work with Neo every day, no biggie. I sternly declare her dead if she pisses in the bottle.

Then I'll just roll down the window and pee. No one can see anything! I really have to peeeeeeee!!


If my sister was sitting beside me, this would be funny. In fact, I would be rolling on the ground laughing. But it's not my sister.

Like, just, stick your ass out the window and pee?!!


I sternly declare her dead if she touches the window control. More nervous laughter is called for. Ha Ha Ha, those teenagers, where do they get it? (Will she think Mae learned that from me, that I modeled sticking my ass out of a moving car, mooning the freeway and peeing out of a moving car?)

At this point, we've approached the two-hour mark on our supposedly three-hour trip home, and the GPS says we have two more hours ahead of us. At 2 miles an hour, I think it's lying, and even Neo is faltering between breaths.  I finally confess that, since Mae and my cell phones are basically dead, and considering that jack-knifing semi right in front of us, maybe she should conserve her cell phone battery, to save me the ignominy of having to eat her.  She looked horrified, but geez, it's not like I drove off merrily into a blizzard without a working cell phone on purpose.

A little bit like this, only with a LOT more snow,
and no side rails  >.<
Speaking of that jack-knifing semi, it was the most hair-raising moment of the evening.  It was right in front of us when it went into its slow-motion, cringe-inducing kink, twisting sideways across all four lanes of the freeway. The only way around that truck was edging off the road, into the morass of tall, pristine snow climbing higher as we watched. But if I didn't get us around that truck, we would be stuck there on the road all night. Literally, all night, because there was no help coming... stuck in the car, because it was a blizzard out there and too cold to get out... and who knew how long until we were rescued, since we'd already passed dozens of cars and semis run off the road... No. No matter what, I couldn't let that happen. I was a desparate woman. 

Without a pause, I aimed for the side of the freeway, into all that snow.  There were no tire tracks in which to safely follow, and it was not a quick, smooth or pretty trip. I barely scrapped passed the front bumper of the semi, and Neo squealed. Mae... well, it's hard to impress a teenager.

Anyway, I did it. I got us around the semi, blazing the way for all cars stuck behind me, and was now forging a new trail.  There with no other cars ahead of us. It was eerie, and freaky. I was not impressed, especially when another truck driver went flying past at 15 miles an hour, taking everyone's lives into their stupid hands! Craziness, I tell you.

It went on for a long time like that. I eventually made it up to 5, 10 and then finished out the blizzard at around 30 miles an hour.  It was a wild ride... a five hour, wild ride.  Mae finally got her bathroom, two hours after her threat to bare her ass to the snow faeries.  And by then, I too was deeply regretting my two energy drinks. 

Once in Seattle, it was clear except -- of course -- for rain.  At approximately 11 pm, we dropped Neo off at her car and Mae climbed into the front seat. When I looked over at her, her eyes got really wide, and her hand raised, flapping in the universal sign for talking. We both burst into laughter. Neo had managed to find something to talk about for 5 hours straight. It's a gift, and we had never seen the like. We were tired, and in shock.  Since I had to work again the next morning, I pointed my trusty little rental car toward home, with a sigh.

Mother-daughter bonding... everyone need not apply.

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