Country Hospitality - 01.05.98|
This little story took place about three years ago during the last day of my Christmas vaction. I was attending college in the Midwest, but I had driven north to visit my dad over the holiday break. During the days previous to my leaving, the news had been predicting a big front to come through on the evening that I was to arrive back at school. Just to play it safe, I packed up my things and left a couple hours early so I could avoid any weather that may come my way. As I was pulling out of the gas station before getting on the interstate, I looked up at the sky. It was very overcast, but it was one of those days that it was still too bright to be driving without sunglasses.
I pulled out onto the interstate and was locked into cruise control before I knew it. Traffic was moving along nicely and I had a sugar-loaded beverage and some good tunes to keep me hopping. After about 15 minutes of driving, the first few flakes started falling from the sky. The precipitation was so light that it would instantly melt once it had touched the windshield.
After another half of an hour, my luck had totally changed. The snow was now coming down very hard and the wind was starting to pick up. I could see some accumilation starting on the ground and I was getting some slushy build-up on the bottom of my windshield where my wipers came to rest after their endless passes. The overall pace of traffic had slowed a bit to compensate for the heavy snow and wind.
By the time I was almost three hours into my five hour trip, snow was starting to build up on the road. My car needed some gas and I needed some more soda to keep myself alert as possible. It was going to be a long final 2 hours back to school (if I made it in that). After filling up and grabbing a few things to eat, I headed back out onto the interstate. After driving for awhile, I took my exit and hopped onto the highway route (which was actually much shorter in distance). After driving for several miles, I started getting a bit of anxiety about when my turn was coming up. I had driven the route several times, but it had always been during nice weather. Now, there were several inches of snow on the ground, plus driving wind and more in the air. To make matters worse, I always had a passenger with me, pointing which turns to make. I had to hope that my memory served me well.
After a couple more miles, things were looking more and more bleak. I went through a small town that I totally didn't recognize and was no longer seeing signs that I needed to. I decided that I had missed my turn and started focusing my attention on somewhere that I could turn my car around. I slowed my car down to about 40 miles an hour and went by several driveways that were completely plowed under with snow. I was waiting for one that looked at least partially clear, so I could swing my car around and head back in the other direction.
Finally I spotted a driveway just ahead on my left. It was by no means clear, but it didn't look nearly as bad as some that I had passed by. I slowed my car down quite a bit and took it easy as I pulled my car to the left and into the driveway. I was almost there when I realized that my car wasn't reacting. I was turning the wheel, but I was no longer going left. I kept sliding forwards, barely missing a mailbox, and slid into the shallow ditch. After letting out a barrage of swear words, I decided to see if I could find any help. I put on my stocking cap and some gloves and stepped out the door.
In the ditch, the snow was almost up to my knee and I could feel it seeping into my sneakers. I hopped out of it and up onto the driveway that I had just slid by. There were no cars in sight either way on the highway, so I started trudging up to the big farmhouse that was about a quarter of a mile off. Once I got to the house, my spirits faded even more. It was completely dark and it didn't look like anyone was around at all. Still hopeful, I walked up to the back door and knocked. I waited for about 5 minutes and nobody answered. The cold was setting in and my feet were starting to feel numb. In a strange sort of instinctual move, I reached inside the screen door and tried the doorknob. To my surprise, it turned rather easily and the door popped open almost invitingly.
Feeling rather guilty, I pulled it back closed and waited for something to happen. I was expecting a dog to bark or someone to finally come to the door and start yelling at me, but nothing happened. After a few more minutes, I decided that it wouldn't hurt anything if I just warmed up a bit and stepped into the house. Although it wasn't really warm in the house, it was a break from the wind and I started feeling a bit better.
I was standing on a welcome rug in what looked like a living room. There was a television off to the left in front of me and a fireplace straight to my left. Through a doorway in front of me was what looked like a kitchen. After making sure my feet were clean, I stepped off the mat and started looking around a bit. Above the fireplace was a shelf and a row of pictures. I checked out the group picture and thought that they typified the classic happy family. There was Dad and Mom smiling as they stood in front of their teenage daughter and even younger son.
I was definitely starting to warm up, but felt my stomach growl loudly as I turned around and started back toward their door. Just as I made the welcome mat, I turned around and headed back toward the kitchen. After opening a couple cupboards, I found a box of toaster pastries, pulled them out, and started munching on them. I finished off the remaining two packages and threw the box in the garbage.
I still had the problem of my car to attend to. Looking for something of use, I opened up the coat closet that was on my right as I had come in. After moving some things out of the way, I found a curved handle that led me to a rather large snow shovel. I grabbed it, bundled up my coat, and ran out into the snow in my sneakers (the boots in the closet were all too small). I made it out to where my car was and saw that there was now a good layer of snow on the car. I began digging and found that the snow was a lot lighter than I thought.
A couple times while digging, cars crept by me, but I made sure to keep my back to them and continued on my mission. After about a half an hour, I hopped back in the car and managed to get it rocking back and forth. After a few moments, the tires took hold and I burst out of the ditch and onto the road. Very cautiously, I crept into the driveway and again turned my car off and ran the shovel back up to the house.
After putting the shovel back in the closet, I remembered the pastries I had eaten. I pulled my wallet out and carefully removed a five-dollar bill and layed it on the counter in the kitchen. After making sure I hadn't tracked any mud onto the carpet, I loudly said 'goodbye' and closed the door behind me.
Within moments I was on the road, driving cautiously back to the exit that I had missed over an hour earlier. The snow had let up, but the road conditions were still fairly bad, and I wasn't going to take any chances. I met a couple 4x4 vehicles with chains on their tires making their way through the snow fairly easily, but there weren't really any cars to speak of. Just as I was slowing down to make my turn, I met my first car since I had gotten back onto the road. Since I was sitting and waiting to turn, I sat and watched the occupants as they carefully drove by me. I'm glad I looked around their house a bit, otherwise I would have never even known who they were.