I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.
Okay. Those aren’t my words. I just read them in this book, The Martian. But still that’s how I feel. Moreover, I just started that novel, but, now, I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to finish it. My phone is almost dead. My book is on my phone. I even had to delete that book app, and pretty soon I could be stuck in the mucking fother boondocks, shoulder deep in mud. No food. No water. No Google. No book. I very well may be doomed. Just like that guy in that novel who was left alone there on Mars for a while.
Well, maybe not that bad. But pretty close.
A couple weeks earlier than this potential disaster, my sister and I made a deal that I would go up to visit her. She comes down to visit quite often. I hadn’t been up there forever, plus, I missed a very important birthday. So I owe her one, if not, two or three or even ten visits, maybe. Overriding my guilt, though, is my excitement to spend some time with her. But still the guilt holds me even stronger to our plan. Plus, her husband will be out of town so this very well may be a Girls Gone Wild weekend. This could be fun.
This is our plan:
A meet up for lunch at her office at 12.
A pick up from her office at 4.
A happy hour for a lemon drop.
A sushi place with one more lemon drop (to compare)
A lemon drop just down the street (to compare)
A homemade lemon drop back home (to compare)
A long morning bike ride through the countryside
A brunch at a French Bistro in town
A long bike ride back through the countryside
A nap – A chat – A dinner at home
A ladies late night out
It’s Friday morning and I plan to leave by 8 am. Lunch is at noon and my sister’s office is a bit over 3 hours away. I have a one hour window for traffic, not an uncommon window to leave open for anywhere in the state of California. But because the teenage mobile is growing old, I’ve picked myself up a rental car. I have it insured.
As I finish my packing and get closer to completing my typical “I have no clothes” panic, I hear my text-machine sound.
(Please note: I abstain from taking responsibility for texts lost in translation)
Just like that I gather up my stuff, throw it in the back of the car, and climb into the seat behind the wheel.
I leave my imaginary boyfriend at home.
I have that rental car on the road no later than 5 minutes before my 8 o’clock departure time, and even better, I notice that Google says THE 5 is now open. So it’s going to be a take THE 101 to THE 170 to THE 5 and head straight up the state. The usual trip.
And then I see the sign:
THE 5 – CLOSED. TAKE THE 14 TO BAKERSFIELD.
“Google is God,” I think to myself. “They forgot to turn the sign off,” I reason. “It’s not like that’s not happened before,” I’m in denial. So I ignore the sign and continue the drive up THE 5.
The other cars do not.
No more than 10 miles up…
THE NORTH 5 – CLOSED.
Translation to the above: Nevermind, the Googler was incorrect, wrong, so I’m turning around to go back to THE 14 but at least I didn’t get too far so, I don’t know, still check the text machine. Looking a little bit grim, but who knows? Okay bye. Will not make it. See you at 4:30.
Turning right back around, I drive past another sign:
TAKE THE 126 TO THE 101 TO GO TO SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY. NORTH 5 – CLOSED. (Something like that)
Just as I notice the sign, my mother calls, “You should turn around. Your brother is stuck on THE 101. There’s no other way to get to your sister’s.”
“I gotta try,” I tell her.
But what about THE 14 to THE 58?
Google says take THE 14 to THE 58. Google is God. I take it. I pass THE 126.
The other cars do not.
Losing, now, just a smidge of faith, I start searching for a radio station with a traffic report, and since it’s “The Bottom of The Hour,” I come across one station that has a traffic report for me.
THE 5 – CLOSED. THE 126 – PACKED. THE 101 – STANDSTILL.
What about THE 14 to THE 58?
Google still says take THE 14 to THE 58. I take THE 14.
After miles and miles and miles of driving THE 14, and far after my favorite radio station is off its map, Google says “In a half a mile, take the Backus off-ramp.”
Google is God so I get off at Backus. But my faith in Google has diminished just a little bit more and I question the directions. Is this a shortcut? I pull over my vehicle. First, I notice the healthy 96 % charge to my text machine that I started with has now dwindled down to 13%. Since it’s clear that the Backus route is Google’s “shortcut,” I’ll need at least an extra 50% charge to get me through this next route because of the twisty turnies I see all over Google maps in order to reach my first destination. The destination I must reach before I’m able to continue up to my sister.
But I don’t have a car charger.
So I start deleting apps to save charge.
Snapchat. Gone. Repost. Gone. Uber. Gone. WordPress. Gone. Kindle – my books. Gone. From Google, I write down the directions. Just in case.
Feeling a bit more comfortable, I get back on the road but 10 miles later…
Backus – CLOSED.
What’s next? Google tells me: take THE 58. I get to and drive about 10 miles down THE 58 then…
THE 58 – CLOSED.
Now at a only 7% charge, Google is telling me that THE 58 is my last option. Meanwhile, dark clouds are looming and the local radio station has been threatening floods for the past hour. I have nowhere to go but forward but, most likely, not in the direction where I need to go, or I can go back where I came from. But I’m not going back. I’m getting there whether it’s through hell or high waters. Well, It’s looking like it may be the latter, because I’ve been getting noontime flood warning alerts for the past hour. It’s now 10:30 am and I still don’t know how I will be getting through that flood warning area.
Arriving at the junction of THE 14 and THE 58, I look for somewhere to stop so I can figure this out before Google’s death by natural causes happens. I see nothing but a small gas station and a big empty building that looks like it was once a bank, but now boarded up with an empty adjacent parking lot, except for a couple of big trucks parked there. I see no people action there. Regardless, I pull into the parking lot and to get away from the large trucks I drive deep into the parking lot, behind the bank building. Just as I am beginning to feel a little creeped out by an empty parking lot behind a boarded up building with no sign of people action, I see I’m headed straight and head-on up to…
…a Radio Shack.
I can’t believe it! My faith in Google is restored. Google has lead me to the only thing I need from life right now. A car charger.
“Greetings!”a guy named Jim at Radio Shack calls out to me. The guy named Jim asked if I was lost too. Nearby stands a cute little Vietnamese man and a middle-aged couple. I tell the guy named Jim I didn’t think so, I just need a car charger for my phone. I don’t call it a text machine. He doesn’t know me. The Vietnamese man is lost too but he’s bubbling with excitement. I feel like he’s looking at these road closures as some kind of big adventure. I can’t help but take on his enthusiasm, and I, too, am getting a little more excited – it starts stirring life up inside of me. As I look over the little man’s shoulder, the butterflies start to tickle more in my belly as the guy named Jim now starts giving us both directions, wondering out loud if we’ll beat the floods. This very well could be an adventure.
Out from left field, actually right field from where I was standing, a guy named Frank, the middle-aged man portion of the couple, steps forward stating with more than just a hint of drama,
“Way, way, way out of your way… you’ll be going waaaayyy out of your way. You’ll want to turn back.”
I think he’s concerned I’ll be stuck in a flood with some mud. But it’s not that.
“You’ll be stuck in A LOT of traffic!”
“There are only two lanes. A passing car may hit you! Not two lanes each way. Two lanes period. One going West and one going East.”
“You may drive off the cliff while driving through the canyon!”
“You have to be very careful. People are whacko out there!”
There are a bunch of shoulds and shouldn’ts somewhere in there too, but because of his condescending tone, I’m too busy feeling like a 17 year old kid to really hear him anymore.
I quickly revert back to my big-girl status and brush him off a bit.
“I’m not worried about it,” I say.
“No, problem,” I continue.
“How bad could it be?” I tell him (not ask) with a bit of a dismissive tone.
I ask his wife if she thinks I’ll hit the floods and what it would look like for me if I do. As she stands there, I determine she’s the reasonable one. She tells me that there are several people still stuck in mud from a couple days ago, and there are a bunch of french people stuck in a gym at some school somewhere out here who don’t speak a word of English.
I think for a moment, hmmm. Am I doing the right thing?
“You can try” she says with far less of a dramatic tone than her husband, but in the same breath she tells me,”We’re looking forward to the high school football game tonight.” My head cocks in confusion, for a second while thinking was my assumption correct that she’s the most reasonable one? Regardless, she doesn’t seem to be phased by all this, so I go with her take. Right now, I just need the right kind of fuel for security that will get me up to my sister. She gives to me.
Finally after I get the directions and pick out the charger, I purchase some nuts and waters at a store close by and prepare my text machine to charge a bit before I text my sister.
I get on THE 14 to head up to THE 178.
I turn on the radio and all I get is an oldies but goodies station. As I listen, I notice that each song that plays represents a different and specific stage in my life, from childhood to adulthood. I’m emotionally attached to each song. Each brings back specific memories, smells and thoughts throughout my many years of life. Is this what they mean by your life flashing before you before you die? Am I going to die? Hit head on? Drive off a cliff? Stuck in mud? Caught in a flood and float away faster than a kangaroo can out-hop a fox?
Did I not take heed to the warning signs of my death?
I think back.
Brother-in law: “Won’t come.” Sister: “Don’t come.” Mother:” Turn back.” The Guy Named Frank: “Be careful.” Google: Not God.
I scramble through the radio stations trying to find a weather report. It’s getting closer to noon, and I’m heading into darker, lower looming clouds, right where, I’m predicting, the flash floods will take place shortly. Noontime is quickly approaching and I need to know where I stand with all this. I can’t find a weather report, and my text machine is not buzzing with flood alerts. I’ve had to endure a plethora of alerts this past week when I was more than 75 miles away. Why is it not giving me any warnings now? Surely, I’m close.
My imagination starts brewing up scenarios in my head.
I’ve tumbled into a canyon, surrounded by too much brush for a rescue team to be able to spot me. My leg is lodged between two rocks. I have no tool to cut it off. I die of starvation and no books.
I’ve crawled on top of my car. Rain pouring down on me. No one on the road. I’m a lone survivor. Everyone else – Dead. I die of starvation and no books.
I’m stuck in mud with the company of others. I suddenly get a surge of super sonic strength and save all the people. I’m the hero for the day. The next day I’m randomly hit by a big rig while crossing the street. Dead. Because that’s how life is. Ironic.
Regardless of these stories I’m telling myself, I keep driving.
However, in the middle of all that bad scenario nonsense looping in my brain, I hear a loud buzz from my text machine. I come to. The flood alert is now for 3:15 pm, and I notice that the long and winding road is now changing direction. It’s moving away from those darker, lower looming clouds ahead of me. I can, actually, see a bit of sunshine…and then I see more.
I hit no traffic. Don’t fall off a cliff. No flood escape is necessary. And any sort of mud adventures my imagination persuaded my mind to ponder never come to fruition. Once I make it to Bakerfield, I find a radio station with some of my favorite current hit tunes, and by 4:12 pm, I’m sitting in the parking lot of my sister’s place of employment waiting to pick her up for our 4:30 date.
Then 20 minutes later, I have a lemon drop in my hand.
Ciao for now,