Monday, December 19, 2011
It's Just Eleven More Miles
“About the time we hit I-40, I’ll be ready for a break. Get some sleep and then you can drive for a while.”
On the road again, we were traveling the old fashioned way—by car, anti-TSA style. It’s how our pioneer forefathers did it, but we have more horses in our horse power. After a hectic week of preparations, we were off to spend our first Christmas with our son and daughter-in-law since they had a baby. Kentucky or Bust.
My husband does most of the driving, but sometimes I spell him a little so he can nap. I did my part on the first leg this morning and snored all the way to Gallup, New Mexico, where we stopped for gas and bathrooms. Still a little groggy, I bought some caffeine, switched seats with Rob, and we took off.
With Rob snoozing now in the passenger seat, I put in a Christmas CD, nibbled on homemade cookies, and admired the snowy prairie landscape while I drove. It all felt so holiday-ish. Every so often, Rob would slip out of his coma and ask how I was doing, which is partly code for "need a restroom?"
“Doin’ fine,” I’d tell him. I didn’t drink all my Pepsi. I’m a big girl—I could hold it. I just knew I could wait til Albuquerque for a pit stop.
I don’t know what happened. One minute I was fine. The next, I felt like a water balloon about to bust. I needed a bathroom now. Sensing a storm, Rob woke up. “Still doing ok?” he asked, rubbing his eyes and adjusting his seat.
“Yeah, I…I’ll be fine til Albuquerque and then I’ll need a restroom.”
He pulled out the map. “That’ll be in about forty miles,” he said.
Nature nudged my bladder and an exit magically appeared on the horizon. I squinted.
“There’s something over there,” I began, edging toward it like a hound on a hunt. “Maybe I’ll go ahead and stop now.”
“Well, it’s just a plain gas station,” Rob said, “but there’s a big intersection coming up in eleven miles. I think I remember a big travel plaza there.”
He’s almost always right. Ninety-five per cent of the time he’s right, and when we’re driving, his average shoots up another twelve points. So I turned off the blinker and kept driving. He encouraged me as I began shifting in my seat. “It’s only eleven more miles,” he said.
“Here it comes, exit 126, but . . . um . . .” His average began to falter. “There aren’t any buildings at that exit,” he ended.
“What?!!” I said, swerving a little on the road. “You said exit 114 had a whole bunch of bathrooms. Where are they?”
“Now the sign says exit 140 has the bathrooms. And I never said exit 114 had a bunch of bathrooms.”
“You sure did! Back where that dumpy gas station was you said in eleven miles there’d be a bunch of bathrooms!”
“No, I said there was a big intersection at exit 126, but there aren’t any buildings there. I said that while we were at exit 114.” I ignored my number confusion and cut to the chase.
“So you just assumed there were bathrooms at exit 140 because the map showed a big intersection?”
Silence. Silence and pain. Silence and plots of pain. But mostly, silence.
Then came the cheerful chatter. From the guy who never has to go to the bathroom because God gave him a bladder that can hold three cans of Diet Coke and four cups of coffee all at once. He can’t even spell diuretic. I could spell it when I was three.
“Look at that sign over there,” he began, and then tried to distract me with reports of wind velocity and antelope descriptions. I didn’t answer him. I was too busy holding my breath so I wouldn’t create any bladder vibrations.
Finally, I looked at him. “Just for the record,” I began, “this faux pas of yours more than makes up for that unfortunate Battle Creek, Michigan, detour I took us on in ’94.” He began to snicker.
“You’ll be fine,” he said. "It’s only eleven more miles.”
As we crested the last hill before exit 140, a distant mirage of buildings refused to evaporate. It was the Promised Land. I edged out two semi’s who, recognizing the look of desperation on the face of the woman in their side view mirrors, stayed in the right lane where they belonged. I blew into the parking lot where there was no available parking, drove to the front door, threw it in "P" and yelled over my shoulder as I ran inside, “You’re in charge here!”
A few minutes later I was a new woman, celebrating life, liberty and my new-found happiness. I walked outside without a care in the world, hiked across the parking lot towards our Tahoe, and gave a friendly knock on the locked door to . . . no one. There I stood in 45 degree weather without a coat or key or husband. I lay my forehead against the driver’s window and cursed the Pepsi-Cola company.
A few minutes later, reunited with Rob and with him in the driver’s seat, we got back onto I-40.
“You realize,” I warned, “this is so going on my blog. When I said Kentucky or Bust, I was using it figuratively!”
He acted like he hadn’t heard a word I said. Just sat there staring straight ahead, looking like he was busy concentrating on speed limits and work zone warnings. But those shaking shoulders gave it away.
It was the best laugh he’d had all month.