There's nothing like a little hazardous material to ruin the best-laid plans.
My parents and I hit the road early Friday morning, with the oh-so-good intentions of driving northeast for 3 hours to visit my son on his birthday. He turned the oh-so-scary age of 21 on Friday, and we were going to take him out for lunch.
About an hour into the trip, we're moving right along down the highway, when - all of a sudden - SCREECH! STOP THE CAR! The traffic in front of us is at a complete stand still. On a highway.
Hmmm....interesting. With nothing better to do at the moment, we break into the oh-so-fun game of, "Let's all speculate, out loud, on why the highway has become a parking lot." Various theories are thrown out there - road construction? Jack-knived tractor trailer? Chain reaction traffic accident? Who knows?
At first, it was amusing. But, when 45 minutes had gone by, and we had not moved AN INCH, it was no longer amusing. Mom takes matters into her own hands and calls the Missouri Highway Patrol. "Hazardous material on the road ahead," we're told. "Evacuations are in progress."
We look around at hundreds of cars, sitting in the hot, baking sunshine, going nowhere - and we wonder, "Evacuations? We aren't seeing 'em." Where are these magical evacuations happening? Why aren't WE getting evacuated??!!
We sat there for a total of two hours...parked. By now, Mom and I were busily texting on our iPhones, while Dad took a nap at the wheel. When he wasn't snoring, he was talking under his breath. I learned a lot about my Dad that day. I learned he has a whole new vocabulary that I had never heard before. It made me glad I hadn't brought my kids in the car.
(You have to appreciate the small things in life when you have nothing better to do than to sit in the back seat of a hot minivan with your elderly parents in the sun, cursing all of the Diet Dr. Pepper you had gulped down before you realized - TOO LATE - that you would not have bathroom privileges for God knows how long.....)
At some point, I was checking Facebook on my iPhone, as I had texted an SOS message to the local news station. I had said, "I'm stuck on I-35. How long will we be stuck here? Any info appreciated! Help me, please!!!!"
Imagine my alarm when the man behind the curtain at the news station texted back, "Drama Queen...you'd best do whatever you have to do to get out of there. They're now saying it could be 7 hours before they re-open that stretch of highway. Oh - but send us some photos first."
Well. They ARE a news station, after all. They WOULD care about photos first before caring about my sanity. And my bladder.
I told my Dad what the text message said, and my Dad's face turned even redder than it had been before. I really didn't know that was possible...but as I said, I was learning LOTS of things about my Dad that day. I also learned he doesn't have a sense of humor when I jokingly told him about the traffic jam in China last month that had lasted for nine days. He really didn't find that funny.
Dad mumbled something that sounded like, "That's it. We're making a break for it." And then I think he said, "Hold on and hold on tight. When I hit the gas, I'm not slowing down."
It was hard to hear all this, because as he was mumbling it, he does indeed hit the gas, as hard as he can, as he wheels the car off the shoulder - down a steep, muddy embankment - through the median - and then back up the other side of the embankment.
Next thing I know, we're heading back the way we had come, passing eight miles of cars (that's not an exaggeration - that is, unfortunately, the truth) that are still stuck in this Nightmare Traffic Jam from Hell.
I was amazed. Again - something ELSE I learned about my Dad...that he could go four-wheelin' through the mud and dirt, in a minivan. With Mom and me in the car. Wow. Mom and I were bounced into a state of stunned silence.
All Dad wanted to do now, was to get back home. Asap. After I had recovered from the shock of our wild adventure of tearing through the median, I calmly asked, "Can we stop at a gas station so I can...ahem...use the facilities?"
"I'm DONE!" Dad says..."We're going HOME."
I calmly replied, "You're going to learn something new about me, very soon, if you don't stop this car at the next gas station. And that is, so help me, I WILL pee in your car."
And so much for taking my son out for his birthday. Maybe next time.
And in case you think I exaggerate (who, moi?), click HERE for a link to the news station's story on the event. Every word I said in this blog post was the truth. I kid thee not. Even all that stuff about my Dad. True.