Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Well, almost. It was actually automobile, walking, train, and more walking. Also known as, “How I spent my Memorial Day.”

It was my first day off from work, and I planned to spend the weekend with my family celebrating my mom’s birthday, and then driving myself up on Monday. I was looking forward to having my car on-hand for weekend trips away from the hustling city – driving with the windows down and singing along as my favorite songs blared from the speakers. But as so many good ideas often turn out, this one was a bit of a disaster.

I set out at 10:30am to drive to Connecticut, a bit rushed, nervous about hitting afternoon holiday traffic. My mom practically begged me to let her drive with me – she was willing to give up half her week to be my car companion – but being stubborn, I insisted on driving myself. It wouldn’t be a big deal, I thought, the time would fly by. At around noon, I pulled into my first rest stop. It was crowded and I thought, “Are these people all going where I’m going? That can’t be good.” Back on the highway, I hit the first patch of traffic, but it passed quickly enough and before not too long, it was back to gleeful open road driving. An hour later, somewhere in New Jersey, another wave of traffic hit. This one lasted longer, and set back my good time. I pulled into a rest stop for a bathroom break and some lunch. It ate up an hour to pee and get a sandwich, so put my normal rule of no eating in the car aside in the essence of time. I still had a ways to go.

Creeping along at 10-miles-per-hour, the phone rang. It was my boyfriend – he and his family had been awaiting my arrival, and pondering my situation. To save me from driving to Connecticut only to turn right around and take the train back to the city, they offered for me to park my car at another family member’s house in suburban New York. Another good idea. But like I said earlier about good ideas…

The GW Bridge was mighty congested and a bear to get through, but it put a smile on my face when I saw the Manhattan skyline appear before me. I thought for a split second as I drove by my exit, to just turn and take it, and try my luck with finding street parking. But I couldn’t do it; I was locked in to the plan, and couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

An hour later, lost in the middle of nowhere, I screamed aloud as my cell phone took it’s last breath. I pulled off the highway and to my surprise, 10 minutes into the city, there was no city. The only sign of capitalism was a lonely little gas station, so I pulled in. I pleaded with the cashier to allow me borrow an outlet to charge my phone so I could call for directions – I felt at the very least he would take pity on my situation of being lost on a holiday. At the end of my story, he replied, “We don’t do that.” I couldn’t comprehend that he’d actually say no, so I repeated that I was asking only to borrow the outlet – I had my own phone and charger. He stared blankly at me. So then I implored if there was a Starbucks nearby, and to that, he commenced with a story about how they were going to build a Starbucks, but the people of the “village” didn’t want a big business to come in, and yadda yadda. At the end of his story, crestfallen, I began to turn to leave, when I saw him silently point to the wall, to an outlet. I thanked him, and awkwardly placed my call. I got lost a couple more times along the way, and when I finally pulled into the gravel driveway, relief was still beyond my grasp. Before I could get home, I faced the challenge of lugging my suitcase down a winding, curb-less road (of death) to the train station. I lived to tell the story, needless to say. But barely.

I’d left mom’s house that morning declining her driving with me, citing her writing club meeting she would miss the next day, and what would she do while I was at work all day, and that I wanted to play music for the whole trip, and all kinds of nonsense that if I could’ve rewound time, I’d have taken all back just to have a familiar and trusted face next to me when I was in the middle of nowhere, by myself. And I guess that realization was the silver lining of the whole fiasco, because on a day where I set out to be independent, without the kindness of others, I’d not have made it. And as taxing as the day was, it’s nice to know that I’m truly not alone, and never lost for too long.

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One thought on “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

  1. Very well written and a fine lesson learned. Sorry for the difficulty you had to go through that day Shima. Love you

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