This past weekend, I had a plan to drive from Minneapolis to Chicago because my college roommate Alison, who now lives in Hawaii, was going to be in the city. I hadn’t seen her for a year and a half, and hadn’t even been able to go to her wedding because I’d been in Washington state. Now we were just six and a half hours away from each other. I planned to drive down Friday after work and come back late Sunday morning. I’ve driven across the country by myself. My routine drives from home to college took fifteen hours. This was nothing.
Yet everyone I mentioned this to said, “You’re driving by yourself?” as if it was not only unheard of, but downright dangerous. “Yeah,” I’d respond, with a shrug. “I like long drives.” Even my boss, after letting me leave work early, said, “You better be careful out there! Have you checked the weather?” Of course I’d checked the weather: clear skies in Chicago. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I had a printed set of directions and a working GPS. I was looking forward to watching the hills and fields of the Midwest stream by me while I sang along to the mix CDs I’d made for the occasion.
As I merged into the 3:30 rush-hour traffic, I was already rehearsing how I’d tell my friend about how uptight everyone had seemed about my roadtrip. I was both bemused and frustrated by the reactions. When I’d lived in Spokane, people had a tendency to say things like “That store is all the way out in the Valley,” which in reality meant it was a twenty-minute drive, at most. Maybe this was a similar problem: not driving a route often enough to see how manageable it actually was. I looked forward to telling them all what a great time I’d had come Monday.
After nearly two hours of driving through fog, blowing snow, and quickly deepening dark, I pulled off the highway in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and checked into a hotel. I was unbearably embarrassed. I had not checked the weather in Wisconsin, even though approximately 70% of my trip involved driving through the state. I thought about waiting to see if the snow would let up, but I still had five hours to go, and I’d spent the last thirty minutes gripping the steering wheel in semi-terror, unable to see the road signs, just trying to stay in the tracks the car ahead of me was cutting through the thin snow.
Still, I told everyone, including Alison, that I would leave early and see them on Saturday. I am a person who holds loyalty and friendship in high regard and goddamnit, if she was in Chicago, I was going to see her. This was the girl who lived with me for four years of college, proofread all my French assignments, and once ran and jumped into my arms just because I was curious if I’d be able to catch her. If I didn’t make it to Chicago, I didn’t know when we’d be able to see each other next.
By the time I checked the weather at 6:00 the next morning, it was clear I would not be making it to Chicago at all.