It finally happened.
Yesterday was the day. He left me.
Shows what you know—he’ll be back in a few days. But I still had to drive his ass to the airport, didn’t I?
We’ll get there in a minute but first, let’s go back. Waaaaay back… to Saturday night.
ME: Baby I’ve got to get to bed. What time is it?
HIM: 11:30. But you haven’t helped me pack yet!
HIM: I won’t have time to pack in the morning.
ME: What time do we need to leave tomorrow?
HIM: (checks flight info) Like 6?
ME: (nods) Let me lay this out for you. I have a migraine. I’m exhausted. And you need me to be safe to drive in like six and a half hours.
ME: I’m going to bed.
ME: You do you, but I’m going to bed. You can pack around me.
And, to his credit, he did.
He talked himself through it—out loud, which meant I had to correct him on a few points because I don’t care if it’s a fun geek conference with more than just engineers there, you need outfit options besides jeans and tees—so he doesn’t get full marks, but I award partial credit because otherwise no one would ever get a passing grade in my class.
So I set an alarm for 5:30 and we got out the door almost exactly on time in spite of the dogs staging a mini-rebellion when I tried to let them out (my being upright at that hour was such a departure from the schedule they can be forgiven for assuming it was all a dream.)
ME: Do you want to give directions or should I use my phone?
HIM: I’ll give directions.
ME: Good; that’ll be quicker than trying to explain to my phone which terminal you need.
HIM: And also—turn left here.
ME: Yeah, hang on! Holy fuck, what is going on here?
ME: I’ve got rain literally freezing to my windshield as it falls.
HIM: That’s… cold. And the rain must be super chilled in order for that to happen.
HIM: So… you’ll want to turn right here, then—
ME: (snappish) Yeah, I’ll get right on that as soon as I creep up there. But you notice how slow we’re going? That’s because I’m driving on a sheet of solid ice.
HIM: (huffs) Okay, okay…
Side note: if you are not the driver/pilot of whatever contraption you’re riding in, your only option is to agree with the operator of said vehicle about the current conditions. I don’t care if it’s a clear blue day and you’re blasting the AC—if they say the roads are shit or it’s windy or whatever, you believe them.
It wasn’t until we got to the highway—which was lined with cars that had spun out doing the same careful 10-20mph creep I was doing—that he finally believed just how bad conditions were and stopped fidgeting about missing his flight.
ME: (attempting upward sloping ramp) Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.
HIM: (prays silently)
ME: Nope! (lets car come to rest before crashing into stuck truck)
STRANGER: (yells something unintelligible)
HIM: (presses door lock, because he’s never worked out where the window controls are on this car)
ME: (rolls down window, praying this distraction doesn’t cause a backslide) Yeah?
STRANGER: Turn back! You’ll never make it. (gestures to self and TRUCK GUY) We’ve got 4-wheel drive and we slid off!
ME: We’ve got a flight to catch!
STRANGER: Me too! But… (gestures at vehicular mess)
HIM: (quietly) Shit.
ME: (nods) (rolls up window) (cranks wheel hard)
HIM: What are you—
ME: We’re not getting up. Can you find another way?
HIM: Yeah… just let me… (pulls out phone)
ME: Don’t… don’t look at the road.
With a cop literally cleaning up the wreck at the bottom of that ramp, I turned my ass around, barely skated past the rear vehicle stuck on our ramp, and slid down—using that moment where I slid partway off the slick road for a bit of much appreciated traction—facing the wrong way. Honestly, I almost waved at the police cars when I swooshed past them, but that would have required taking a hand off the wheel and both of my hands were more or less permanently claw-shaped at that point. Then I casually looped back onto the highway (facing the right way—you know, just to try that for a while) and set out again. It was the second most badass thing I did on the way to the airport yesterday.
ME: (approaching long uphill on surface road, this one absolutely packed with cars that got stuck on the ice) Ohshitohshitohshitohshit…
HIM: You’ve got this.*
ME: (nods) (downshifts)
HIM: You’re doing great… (tries not to panic as we slip, slide, and weave between abandoned cars)
CAR: (executes particularly mean-spirited sideways slide) (stops dead)
ME: (realizes we are now totally blocking this road) (has tiny, silent meltdown)
HIM: You’re fine. You can do this.
ME: (nods) Okay. (takes automatic bullshit transmission all the way down to first)** (to car) We’re just gonna rock our way up, okay?
CAR: (objects to literally everything)
ME: Yeah, you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. C’mon.
Have you ever been stuck in mud? Alone? That’s how I got us up that fucking hill—little forward, little back, cracking the ice (seriously, Michelle Kwan could have done a full 4-minute program on any street or highway in St. Louis at that point) and inching my way up in diagonals. I honestly don’t know if anyone was in those other cars or if they’d been straight-up abandoned, but I kind of hope there were people around who saw that, because they got a show.
Also, there was a lesson in that 50 yards of hell: never stop trying. Seriously. I had a lot of time to think about how this philosophy applies to any endeavor while I was inching my way back and forth up that damned hill, frantically spinning my wheel trying not to hit anything.
HIM: So about a mile and a half—
ME: Yeah, I can’t think past getting to the top of this hill.
ME: … and then to the bottom. Because…
But we made it to the airport! And—wonder of wonders, we made it before his flight! I mean, I took a wrong turn (okay, I slid the wrong way at a cross street and went with it… same diff!) and ended up at a shuttle stop instead of his terminal, but I got him to a part of the airport!
SHUTTLE LADY: Hiii! If you’re just unloading, you’ll actually find it’s easier to do that upstairs.
ME: (so over it) Yeah, about upstairs. Actually, about up—the whole concept of up.
SHUTTLE LADY: (suddenly nervous)
ME: (stalking forward as though I-70 and everything about it are her fault) I just finished the most harrowing drive of my life—
SHUTTLE LADY: (confused and nervous) I’m… sorry?
ME: Have you been out there?
SHUTTLE LADY: (worried) No, actually… I’m just about to get off and—
HIM: Every road is pure ice.
ME: And inclines? (shakes head) Any road with a slope leads to Fuckoffachussets. The highway is lined with cars that spun out and everyone’s so busy with that they haven’t salted anything.
SHUTTLE LADY: (on my side now) Oh great. That’ll be fun.
HIM: So can I just take this shuttle to my terminal?
SHUTTLE LADY: Yup, that one right there.
ME: And where can I park to wait until they salt those goddamned roads?
SHUTTLE LADY: (points) that way and turn right. Cell phone parking lot is free, just stay in your car.
ME: (stops self from hugging stranger) I love you!
And that, my darlings, is the story of how I managed to get my husband through a frozen post-apocalyptic hellscape to the airport on time.
For a flight that got cancelled because his flight crew was in an accident. Out on the ice.***
** Yup, this is the moment you realize I’m a fucking car snob. But seriously, automatic transmissions are the work of the devil and I can’t believe we own one and I hate it and it’s making me a lazier and worse driver every day. Plus, it’s absolute crap in situations like this. Drive a manual or ride the bus, says I.
*** He still left, just on a much later flight. He actually got a better flight than the Make-A-Wish kid in front of him in the line of angry travelers, so he came away with a story too. Not as good as mine about how some asshole hit his brakes on the downslope of a flyover, causing me to brake and I crashed into one of the many abandoned cars on my way home with no way of stopping, only to get home and find that the thick layer of ice had protected my car from any damage.