Or … Not Driving Miss Daisy
For more years than I can remember, I’ve been attending the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, CO. At the beginning I simply soaked up information, made friends, worked up the courage to call myself a writer, and acquainted myself with the bartender who pulls Guinness for me. Later, I began volunteering as a moderator and one year I was even the Pitch Witch, kicking folks out of the pitch room when time was up.
But this year I was honored with a phone call from the Transportation Chairperson asking if I’d like to pick up an esteemed member of the faculty from the airport.
Would I! It would give me a chance to pick the brain of an über-smart industry professional, do some serious networking, and have a reason to clean my car, which my husband had recently pronounced “funky.” And not in a good way. Thank goodness for Febreze.
I received much ribbing from my conference peeps when I confessed to a practice airport run, but I like to be prepared, especially when comparisons to the Popemobile were made.
I awoke chipper on Driving Day and looked out the hotel window to find … what’s that? I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but that sure looked like six inches of snow. I looked again, this time wearing my glasses. Silly me! That wasn’t six inches of snow. It was at least eight with more coming down. Sideways.
But let’s jump ahead in the story, past the hyperventilation, the frantic booting of the computer to see if the flight was on time, the harried conversations with transportation veterans and the conundrum of what to wear now.
Cramming my purse with flight schedules, instructions, and my airport sign with the faculty name printed bolder than I felt, I headed out the lobby doors.
In case you don’t know, spring snowflakes in Colorado each weigh about four pounds. They’re as big as your head and can drown a kitten. So you won’t be surprised when I tell you I was drenched before I even saw my car.
The wind and four pound snowflakes pummeled me. My conference nametag caromed around my neck and face, finally mashing against my glasses, dropping my limited visibility even lower. In wrangling it, the string unhooked and it danced and bounced across the parking lot. Normally I’d let something like that go, but in this case I panicked and gave chase because I stored all my meal tickets in it. Girl’s gotta eat!
Zigging and zagging, peering through splotchy glasses, I finally outwitted my adventurous nametag. As I stuffed it into my purse, the wind mocked yet again, this time blowing my skirt up over my head. I know this because I was temporarily blinded by ecru muslin. I don’t want to say anything more about this. I’m saving it for my therapist. My one consolation was that I figured no one would have seen. (But if you did, I hope you found some Lysol for your eyes.)
Mind you, I wasn’t even at my car yet.
When I finally reached it, I found that the dimwit driver next to me parked their ginormous SUV so close that I couldn’t open my driver side door. I popped my trunk, grabbed my fleece jacket and heavy-duty snow scraper. Those are two separate things, btw.
I threw the jacket in the car and started pushing eight inches of cement snow off my car. You can imagine I was in a bit of a hurry and when I hurry, I’m not as careful as I should be. And did I mention the idiot who parked next to me? Yeah. As I tried to clear the snow, I planted my entire ecru muslin butt up against the ginormous SUV.
Here’s a funny image for you. Picture me soaked, Ed Grimley hair shellacked on my head, twirling around like a dog chasing her ecru muslin tail to see if there was a big mud stain on it. You’re welcome.
I cleared my car everywhere I could reach then hopped in the passenger side, breathless with exertion and anxiety. I’m not sure if it was my huffing and puffing or that I hadn’t lived a righteous enough life, but the car fogged up immediately and completely. At this point I realized I’d probably be late to the airport and my esteemed passenger would have to wait. Not good. I assessed my situation. I sat shrouded in fog, finally able to muster empathy with the Golden Gate Bridge. Outside, half the car remained blanketed in eight inches of cement snow. Snowmelt dripped off every inch of me, soaking the future seat of my esteemed passenger. I glanced in the mirror. I’m not looking quite as good as Ed Grimley.
Accepting I couldn’t drive from the passenger seat, I began the wiggle that I hoped would eventually propel me into the driver’s seat. My legs are short so I drive with my seat pretty close to the steering wheel, thus, it took a lot of wiggling. When I finally got there, I turned the key. How funny would it be if it didn’t start?
Fooled you. It’s a Toyota. Starts every time. So I blasted the defogger and started the wipers, which I immediately turned off. I mean, c’mon! It’s a Toyota, not a pile driver. Bent wipers would not help my situation.
By now I felt quite claustrophobic. I know … I’ll roll down the window to clear the snow so I can see. You’re smarter than I am, so you already know that I spent the next few minutes brushing an avalanche off my lap.
I drove to some empty parking spots where I could finally open the door and clear the rest of my car. I don’t like to close my door while my car is running — probably some childhood trauma perpetuated upon me by older siblings — so, again, you already know what I wasn’t able to foresee at the time. A seatful of snow.
Trouper that I am, I drove the thirty minutes to the airport in a blinding sideways snow. (At this point — since I couldn’t see any road signs — I knew my practice run was an inspired decision so “pfftt” to all who mocked me.) I parked, readied my umbrella, and stepped from the car. Immediately it was yanked from my grip. I’m a multi-tasker, though, so I restrained my billowing skirt while chasing the umbrella across the parking lot like some demented, hunchbacked Mary Poppins. I caught it, flung it in the trunk, tied my jacket around my waist and lurched across the parking lot like a soggy tumbleweed, embattled but not defeated.
Imagine my surprise when I made it to the proscribed meeting place where the arrival board told me I was right on time! My left hand held my sign while my right finger-combed my dripping hair just as travelers began to empty off the escalator to baggage claim. I practiced nonchalance to limit guilt at my near-drowning. I rehearsed my witty responses. I smiled. I searched the faces for my esteemed passenger. And searched. And searched.
This is a small airport and soon the escalators were empty and all the luggage from carousel two was gone. I stood with three other people near the escalators — one was vacuuming, one was a bored security guard, and the other was a teenager sneaking incredulous glances at me, presumably wondering if my caregiver would show up soon.
Several airport pages and frantic phone calls to the conference were made. I was told a connecting flight was missed and I could come on back to the hotel. Mission aborted.
The moral of this story? Heck, I don’t know. But clearly there’s a link between Febreze and blizzards. I won’t make that mistake again.
Do you have any embarrassing conference moments? Any good blizzard stories? Is your car clean?