Foul Weather Commute Part 1: Into The Storm

The blue ribbon of warning crawls at the bottom of the television screen. “Flood Warning for the following counties…”  I don’t have to look any further. That’s us. With the deluge from last week still saturating the ground, there is no place for the forecasted three inches of precipitation. It will run off into storm drains, streams, rivers, and reservoirs.  We don’t have to worry though, our house is on high ground.

My Pontiac finally died this week, fuel pump killed it.  The car has been dying slowly, succumbing bit by bit to the terminal shut down of vital organs.  The transmission whined and jerked into gear, gas gauge registered empty when full, door lock switch no longer switched, coolant leaked by the quart, and the engine smelled hot half way up Ragged Mountain. Bruce is a mechanic by trade, but this car stretches his patience.  He has to take the motor out to replace parts, ‘mechanic’s nightmare, dealership’s dream’, he said. It’s been a good car, gotten me where I needed to go, and could plow snow on the way to the nursing home if needed. High water never scared the Pontiac.

After Tuesday night when the car went, “rrr, rrr, rrr” in the high school parking lot—and Bruce had to drag its body onto a trailer behind the pickup—I borrowed my parent’s car. It’s a Mercury, a luxury automobile with leather seats that heat and have lumbar support. Everything works and the sound system is concert good. Windshield wipers nest at the bottom of the glass, where they’re supposed to, and the parking brake works. By Wednesday evening, I considered moving out of the house and into my new “cruise liner.”

This morning, I step around the puddle of water at the end of our walkway. Rain falls hard and fast, but the Mercury travels through with no problem.  I park at work and pull my eight hours.

Darkness comes early on rainy days.  The telephone at work has kept me at my desk later than usual. The rain is still falling outside. I see a jagged flash of lightening out my office window before the thunder jolts me from my seat.  I grab my coat, purse, lunchbox, travel mug, and clock out for the day.

“I’m heading home,” I call to the kitchen employee, emptying the trashcan into the dumpster.

“Drive careful,” he says. “It’s really coming down.”

“I will,” I promise, “I’m in a land yacht.”

Nearing the car, I hear the click of the electric locks as I push the button on the little black keyring control.  The door opens, overhead lights illuminate the interior, and the seat belt surrounds me on its own accord. I start the engine and Stevie Nicks sings Landslide. The voice is clear.  I pull out of the parking lot with water pouring onto the windshield as fast as the wipers swoosh it away.

It’s dark and motoring is slow.  I reach to turn off the radio and pull my upper body closer to the windshield, trying to see beyond the bow.  Tail lights in front of me appear and then wash away with each swipe of the wiper. There is no white line at the side of the road. The rain drums relentlessly on the roof of my vessel.  My palms are wet on the leather steering wheel. My eyes squint. My speed reduces.

At the last moment, I see the green marker pointing toward home. I veer right, and now I’ve lost the set of running lights I was following.

I have traveled Rt. 250 West twice a day, five days a week for thirty years.  Today, it’s not an automatic experience.  I’ve lost my way.  I want to pull to shore, but I don’t remember what the shoulder looks like. I could slide right off the edge and flip over into a ditch or a creek out of its banks.

I slow to a crawl and still the rain covers the windshield faster.  My cell phone rings in my purse. I know it’s Bruce, but I can’t answer it.  I can’t take my eyes off the gray, wet expanse in front of me.  I can’t take my hands off the wheel.

“I’m alright,” I whisper, hoping he gets the message.  “I’m just trying to get back to port with the loaner.”


Foul Weather Commute © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Read Part 2: Steering For Home. Read more of M Dawn’s features and stories, click her tag.


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