My very first skydive.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Optimism Tested

February 2012

This is all true. Every last ridiculous moment.

Wait...let me start by saying I am an optimist. Probably annoyingly so. I can always find the bright side, silver lining and see the glass as half full.

Okay, back to the story.

I returned home Monday night after a lovely long weekend visiting my dear parents in Myrtle Beach, SC. The least expensive flights were in and out of Manchester, NH so even though it is a good 3 hours from my home in Bennington, VT- the close proximity to my parents house and my younger sister's house meant that I had free lodging before and after each flight. I was due to arrive in Manchester at about 10:00 to 10:15pm. Thanks to some very militant flight attendants we boarded, stowed away our carry-ons and left Atlanta on time. And as luck would have it I was seated next to a very nice man who insisted on recounting his vacation of goose hunting to me, including the part where they were almost sprayed with pesticides by an irate crop duster.  He had a hearing aid in each ear, and clearly had no issues hearing himself as he spoke at a nice normal volume, but he couldn't hear anything I said so I had to yell over the sound of the plane much to the dismay of the passengers around me.

"Oh really? Goose-hunting?"
"A crop duster next to the decoys?"
"And after all that you didn't shoot any geese?" 

I'm not a big fan hunting for sport so I was happy to hear the geese survived his vacation, although how long they survive the pesticide is another story.

We touched down in NH at 10:05, taxied for a few minutes... and then sat. at. the. gate. for 45 minutes because something was wrong with the jetway. That should have been my first clue that the stars were not aligned. Though it probably wouldn't have mattered (see previous annoying optimism clause).

I left the airport knowing I would need to stop for gas at some point but all the re-routing they have done for entrance to and exit from the airport meant I didn't go by the anticipated gas stations-instead it dumped me right on to I-293. No worries, I thought, there would be an exit soon with an easy off/easy on access to the interstate. Except there wasn't.

Again, no problem because there is a wonderful exit off of I-89 in Warner, NH that has two gas stations, fast food, and a grocery store. It's my 'go-to' exit when I am traveling up and down that road. Two exits before my mecca my fuel light came on. In my old, lovable Ford Focus this usually meant I could drive for another 40 or 50 miles, but I learned the hard way that in my newer, still lovable but gas guzzling Ford Escape I didn't have that many miles before Big Blue became a true Ford, i.e. Found On Road Dead. The one time I ran out of gas with this car it was directly across from a gas station so I coasted into the lot and the nice men in the store pushed my car to the pumps, but I wasn't eager to repeat this somewhat embarrassing incident.

I pulled up to Exit 9 with relief, hit the off ramp knowing it would be a quick pit-stop and I could be in bed in less than an hour. As I turned down the road the lack of lights at both gas stations confused me. The Citgo on the left was clearly closed, but as I turned left into the Irving Station/McDonald's parking lot realizing that this gas station was also closed I became so momentarily disoriented that I ran over the divider and hit a sign. Nope, not kidding. Amongst the clatter of metal and the instant panic that I not only had an empty gas tank but possibly a flat tire/serious damage to my undercarriage I parked in the McDonald's lot. I hopped out and was relieved to find that there didn't appear to be any cause for concern. Except of course, that my gas tank was still almost empty.

I went through the drive-through at McDonald's, bought a Sprite and asked if they knew of any open gas stations. I was directed to a place with all night pumps, though the store would be closed. It was about 7 miles away. Weighing my options I drove off down the very dark, seemingly desolate road in search of fuel. The directions were great with the very large exception that there wasn't a gas station where there was supposed to be a gas station.

With the empty tank light on my dashboard glaring like a beacon of doom, I checked my cellphone...and no service. I used my GPS to find local gas stations, all of them a gamble now that it was 11:30pm. But I set off into the night, down an incredibly rural and winding road praying I made it to civilization and cell phone service before I ran out of gas. The alternative was to return to the interstate and see how long before my car came to a potentially damaging, screeching halt.

With high beams on and watching the "miles until destination" on my GPS, I drove as fast as the road would allow. As I came around a particularly sharp turn, out of the corner of my eye I saw of flash of black and white and before I could do anything to stop it, I heard the most unnatural thud, first on the front tires and then, stomach turning-ly, the rear tires.

Another thing you should know about me is I have an almost juvenile sensitivity to animals. I love all of them and know that they serve a purpose in the whole circle of life thing. Well, except for earwigs. I will catch and release any creature found in my home, right down to the common house fly.  Earwigs I will crush with a surprising amount of violence. But seriously, I do think all of the earth's creatures have a right to be here and I struggle with the arrogance of humans who think we have some kind of elevated status because we think we are smarter. I would think our advanced brains would lend themselves to more compassion and less superiority.

So...the inside of the car fills with the sweet stench of skunk and I know that I have committed vehicular slaughter. Fighting back the urge to vomit and cry at the same time I soldier on until I reach the first gas station on the list. Closed. I go another 4 or 5 miles to the next one. Closed. I head into New London, NH thinking that luck might be on my side as it is a college town. I found a Sunoco on the Main Street. Closed. I drove a bit further down the road and found Jake's. And wouldn't you know it? Closed.

At this point I feel like I have pushed the limits of my gas tank, with the needle on the gauge practically pointing straight down. Not daring to drive any further, I check my cell phone. I have service again, but now it is almost 1:00am and I can't think of anyone I feel comfortable disturbing at this hour. So even thought it is getting chillier (it's February, remember) I decide to hunker down in the back of my car and fill up first thing in the morning as soon as the store opens. I'm a hardy, self-reliant Vermonter, right?

Less than an hour later, the wind picks up and the temperatures drop sharply and it occurs to me that I made a terrible choice. "Hunkering down" is all well and good if you have appropriate hunkering down gear. I am FREEZING and clearly not going to sleep. The prospect of sitting there for up to four hours waiting for daylight motivates me to pick up the phone and call my dear friend Libby. She lives about 30 minutes away and is truly the only one I can think of to ask to come rescue me. Something I should have done an hour ago.

She thankfully answers her phone and without any question agrees to come get me. When she arrives, she has actually done me one better. She stopped at an all night truck stop and has brought me two full containers of gas. As we prepare to fill my tank it soon becomes apparent that the nozzle of said container is broken and every attempt to get the gas in the car results in it spilling out onto the ground. Libby, having attended Colby Sawyer College and knowing the lay of the land sets off to see if the police have anything that my help us. The Officer she speaks to has nothing to offer except to say that maybe I should call AAA. Libby candidly points out that if I had AAA, I probably wouldn't have felt the need to call her.

Back at the car we contemplate our next move. I am struck with what can only be called sleep deprived genius and announce that what we need is a funnel! We search the area for something fitting and once again, sleep deprived genius leads me to take the cup from the Sprite I bought at McDonald's, empty it, and tear out the bottom, roll it up and Voila! a funnel. It works like a charm and we fill the tank with the remaining fuel.

At 3:00am I embrace my friend, though we both reek of gasoline, and offer her my first born as a way of repaying her actions of the night. By 4:00am I arrive at my parents house, crawl into bed and think to myself:

On the bright side, I made it home safe and sound.
The silver lining is that I am once again reminded of what true friends will do for you and how grateful I am to have Libby as one of mine.
My glass isn't just half-full, it runneth over.

No comments:

Post a Comment