Let me start by admitting that when it comes to driving, I am no Mario Andretti. If I had to make my living by driving a truck, school bus or Uber taxi, I would starve very quickly…always supposing I didn’t crash into a wall first.
Having said that, it may occur to you to ask some hard questions when I tell you that last week, I rented a car in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and drove, through some pretty interesting traffic, all the way through the Twins Cities and suburbs, and down the interstate before ending up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Let me assure you it was not by choice!
I was visiting with my children and getting to know the new baby, and leisurely enjoying my time there. My husband, Roy, was supposed to pick me up, but then I received a call informing me that my husband was not only not going to come and pick me up, he was going to be in a Sioux Falls hospital undergoing an emergency procedure and it was going to be up to me to get there!
Okay, so, telling myself I could do this, I had my son-in-law rent me a car so I could get myself on the road. Driving through Minneapolis traffic in a car unfamiliar to me had all the appeal of having a root canal done with no Novocain! And it was just about as much fun!
Straight down on I-35, I told myself: just get myself on I-35 and I will be fine. That’s easy for me to say, apparently; harder to do. For instance, I discovered that there were several times when I-35 South had exits going off in either direction, and I, driving in heavy traffic, was in the exit lane! So, at least three times, with an interesting blind spot in my tiny rental car, I had to find a way back into the traffic on I-35 before I was forced to exit with all the cars in my lane, who wanted to get off! Each time, I desperately put my blinker on, indicating I didn’t want to do the off-the-interstate dance and each time, sweating and cursing profusely I was able to cram myself back into the traffic headed down the interstate and eventually, out of the flow of inner-city traffic.
Surprised to find myself still standing at the southern end of the cities, I settled in for the long drive to Sioux Falls. While interstate traffic was heavy, it was not terrible and I felt my troubles were over. Then I noticed that my little car was developing a real shimmy. I pushed on, hoping it wouldn’t completely fall apart before I got to my destination. It was after the truck in front of me turned off and the shimmy stopped that I realized my car was small enough that it responded to the backdraft of a truck in front of me. I tested this theory by getting in behind other trucks and sure enough, the shimmy kept returning.
After diagnosing my car’s ills, I got back to the business of driving through heavy New Year’s Eve traffic towards my destination, while avoiding the myriad number of trucks out there. That’s when my car began expressing its concern for my welfare. After two hours of driving, the car was apparently automatically programed to start dinging with the message “Consider taking a break.” Shocked, I clicked it off. However, it returned every fifteen minutes from then until I finally parked it at the return rental in Sioux Falls.
By the time I reached Sioux Falls, I was not only yelling at the traffic on the road, I was arguing with a compact car with a “take a rest” fetish. “Get out of the way and signal the next time you change lanes!” I screamed at the cars in traffic, before testing my tonsils on the car, yelling, “If I want a break, I’ll decide that! You can consider shutting up!” I know, I know, it was an inanimate object, but it made me feel so much better to verbally abuse it.
I made it to the hospital, was relieved to see my husband doing well and then attempted to return the car to the rental service at the airport. I had friends to pick me up and I asked them (since it was dark and I’m not all that familiar with Sioux Falls), “Do I turn right or left to head to the airport?” Now, he said left and I heard right. Because of that, I ended up taking the nickel tour of the perimeter of Sioux Falls, no mean feat, if you are familiar with Sioux Falls, which I now am!
Long story short, I made it through the drive and got the car back to the return at the airport. I kicked the tire as I left, grunting, “Consider that, you annoying pile of metal,” and made my way back to the hospital, and ended up taking my husband home in time to ring in the new year in my own house.
As “Auld Lang Sine” played on the television, I raised my glass of Pepto-Bismal and all I could think of to say was, “Goodbye, 2020 and thanks for one final kick in the pants!” And it may interest you to know that I’ll be curtailing my driving for a while, since that little road trip was enough for the whole year.