By Christine Stuart
Maddie slowed as the semi-truck in front of her pulled to a stop. They had both changed lanes to avoid some semis that were stopped in the far lane, but now it looked like that had been a futile effort to avoid what was to come. She tried to contain her impatience as it became clear nothing was moving. Although she couldn’t see much through the snow that was being blown sideways across the road, she guessed this standstill might be more permanent.
She pulled out her cellphone. Luckily, she had service, despite being in the middle of the plains of Wyoming. A quick check on the Internet showed that the wait was going to add two hours to her journey.
After a quick phone call to the hotel to update them, she found herself doing her best to be patient as she watched the snow start to form drifts around her car. With any luck, in two hours she would be moving again. She saw that her sister had called earlier in her drive, so she returned the call, letting her know where she was. After she hung up with her sister, she got a call from her mother. No doubt her sister had let her mother know what was going on.
“I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, sweetie,” her mom said over the phone.
“It’s okay, Mom. There’s nothing I can do about it at the moment.”
“I know, but I feel bad. You might want to get the wool blanket out of your trunk. Do you have enough water?” Maddie did her best to keep from rolling her eyes.
“I’m fine, Mom—I’ve got a coat and an extra jacket in my bag if I need it. As for water I’m doing okay, but if worse comes to worst I can always collect and melt snow, since there’s plenty of that.”
They talked for a little longer before she hung up. She was surprised to see one of the truckers out and walking about in the weather. It was twenty degrees out there without the windchill. Ice was building up on her windshield, making her wiper blades ineffective. With resignation, she put her hoodie back on to go outside and clear them. The trucker spotted her as she was out there working on them and clearing the snow from the windows.
“There’s an accident up ahead. They’re saying it won’t be cleared till morning.”
Morning! she thought to herself.
“Did they say what time in the morning?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Nah, just in the morning.” She could already feel her body shivering. She couldn’t wait to get into her warm car again. “I’ve got some de-icing spray if you want,” he offered.
“Yeah?” she asked. That would make things easier, but she was still trying to figure out what to do if they weren’t going to get the roads cleared until the morning. Would she be able to get to her work conference in time? And even if she did, surely she would be in no condition to absorb what they were teaching.
“I’ll go get some,” he said, heading back to his truck. She returned to her car, still shivering as she tried to warm up. She pulled out her phone, trying to figure out what she should do. The websites hadn’t really updated with the conditions of the roads yet. The trucker came with his can of de-icing spray.
“You just spray it on your windshield and windows and it works like a charm. You can even spray it on your tires.”
“Oh really? I had no idea.”
He handed her the can. “There’s not much left in that one, but I have another in my truck, so you can keep it.”
“Thank you so much,” she said, and meant every word.
“I’m Michael, by the way.”
“Maddie,” she replied.
“You need any water or anything else? I’ve got some spring water in my truck.”
“No, I should be good, thank you.”
Michael nodded then waved as he walked past her car to the semi-truck pulled up behind her. She updated her family and the hotel before curling up to get what sleep she could.
Tapping on her window woke her up. She glanced at the clock to see that it was 2:30 in the morning. She was groggy, her brain not quite fully engaged. There was a gentleman she didn’t recognize in a yellow reflective jacket outside her driver’s side window. She sat up, blinking to try to wake up. The snow outside was still blowing sideways, but she cracked her window.
“I need you to pull ahead, take exit 139 at Red Hill Road, and turn around to go back to Rock Springs.”
“What?” she asked. She had understood the words he was speaking, but her brain was having difficulty understanding their meaning.
“Take the next exit and head back to Rock Springs. Go slow, and avoid the snowdrifts.” All her brain could manage was drive ahead, so she did. In the darkness with snow flying everywhere, she couldn’t really see what was and wasn’t a snowdrift versus the road. She ended up driving right into one and getting stuck. Her car was very fuel efficient, but not good for driving in inclement weather like this. The man came up to her window again.
“I told you to avoid the snowdrifts,” he said, half exasperated, half joking.
“Sorry,” she replied. Fortunately, he was able to push her out of the snowdrift. When he came back to her window, she rolled it down a little bit once more.
“I’d really rather get towed if that’s okay,” she said.
“Are you sure?” he asked. Maddie’s brain tried to warn her that that should mean something, but in her tired state she couldn’t quite figure it out. Instead, she nodded.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“All right, pull over there so I can get the others out around you.” She followed his directions, then curled up again to sleep. She didn’t want to have driven off and ended up stuck in the snow somewhere else where they weren’t looking for her. Satisfied she’d made the right decision, she drifted into sleep.
Once again, she was awakened by tapping on her window. This time the clock read 4:30 AM. It was the same man in the yellow jacket. Maddie sat up and rolled down her window.
“I’m gonna have you pull up over there behind that semi. I’ve called a tow truck to come and get you, but I don’t know when they’ll get here.” She nodded her understanding.
“Thank you so much,” she replied. Once more she moved her car, then settled in for what rest she could get. She watched him drive away in a highway patrol car. She was awakened a few hours later by her bladder. She hadn’t been able to go to the bathroom since her last refueling stop yesterday. Outside the wind had died down, and the sky was just starting to turn gray with predawn light. Well, if she had to go, now was as good a time as any. Plus, she hoped that most of the truckers around her would still be asleep.
Maddie climbed out of her car and walked to the best spot she could see to relieve herself. She had to be careful because the road was a sheet of black ice covered with a dusting of snow. With that finished, she took some time to clear off her windows again and refill her water bottle with snow. After that she got settled back in to wait. Surely the tow truck would be along soon. But her hands thawed and still no sign. The sun rose higher, which she knew only because some of the clouds had thinned enough for her to see a small white disc among the field of gray.
As the morning progressed, the clouds thickened once again, snow began to be blown sideways once more, and she started having difficulty seeing much more than twenty to thirty feet past her car. The lack of anything that wasn’t white, gray, or the red of the semi-truck’s cab next to her was becoming difficult to bear. She wished she could see other colors. The blue of the sky or even the yellow of the dead grass along the side of the road.
Occasionally she would catch a glimpse of the small brown songbirds that littered the side of the road. The crazy little things were trying to fly into the fierce wind, but they were having no luck.
In some ways she felt like those birds, desperately trying to fly against the wind and getting absolutely nowhere. Her mother and sister called her, and she spoke with them for a while, doing her best to keep her spirits up and hold back her tears. Water was a precious resource, and the last thing she wanted to do was waste it on pointless crying. The hours dragged on. She dozed.
Finally, in frustration, she called her mother again. She couldn’t understand why she had felt so strongly about coming via car instead of flying if this was all that was going to happen. “Why is this happening? What am I supposed to learn from this?”
“Patience in suffering?” came the optimistic reply.
While the answer wasn’t exactly comforting, it was an answer. Was this really so hard for her? She had warmth. She could talk to her family any time she wanted with her cell phone. She had food and water. What more could she ask for? The rest of the day was a waiting game for Maddie, but she had a new perspective on it.
Dispatch came around two in the afternoon and asked her how she was doing on gas and if she needed food or water. Fortunately, she was good on all of those things. The snowplow came by around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Then when the same highway patrol officer came back in his reflective jacket, she couldn’t help but smile.
“How long have you been out here?” he asked.
“Twenty-two hours,” she replied, still smiling. He shook his head. He directed her to turn around and head through the median to the other side of the road. The blockage ahead was still in the way and wouldn’t allow her to pass. She drove back to the nearest city and spent the night, grateful for everything she had in her life, and the new perspective she had been given on it.
Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com
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