I cross-post my blog entries on my local newspaper’s blog section. Another blogger, in an attempt to get more entries from the public, challenged us all to a scary story contest for Halloween. I have been totally lost as to what to write about until last night. Now, I am ready to go.
She didn’t think anything of the trip home. As a mother, she knew that the drive would eventually become second nature, if it hadn’t already. On top of that, the westbound lanes had less construction than the eastbound lanes. The trip would be easy and quick.
As soon as she left the college campus, she knew it would be an adventure to get home. She thought she recalled the way her son had taken her when he had driven home over his long weekend a month ago. She was going to try that way to get to the interstate, as opposed to the tried and true way that took her back through town. This was her first mistake.
She didn’t find the on ramp she was looking for off Main Street. She was almost to the point of trying to figure out if the GPS could be programmed to find the interstate without any actual address for it. She had not used it much but was intrigued to see if the little machine could help her as the housing was looking more and more dilapidated and she had no idea where she was. Thankfully, just as she was about to pull over and try the GPS, she saw a sign for the interstate. She was going in the right direction. Still, how had she missed the on ramp for exit 14?
Finally on the interstate, she set her cruise control for 70 and settled into a CD that she loved. She was singing along at the top of her lungs when the first construction zone came upon her. She had to turn off the cruise and slow to 55 as the traffic was all on one side of the highway. Once this was finished, the interstate would be a wonderful place to drive but until then, this was scary.
A lot of tractor trailers traverse the east-west route between Binghamton and Albany. There were tons of them on the road that night. She was sure that these large 18 wheelers were not going 55 as the small posts between the two lanes were moving in the vacuum created as they drove past. Each successive tractor trailer seemed to be getting closer to the middle of the lanes. Her car was getting harder and harder to control as the wind from the large trucks sucked her in along with the posts between the lanes.
Finally, that stretch of seven miles was done. She was back to two lanes heading west and home.
So far, so good. The trip was going as well as planned, with the exception of that beginning of not being quite where she expected. The next segment of construction was only on the eastbound lanes. She was excited as this meant new pavement westbound and the driving speed picked up in all the vehicles traveling west. She did the same. No need to crawl home if the going speed was more than she was doing.
A third construction zone put her back in the eastbound lanes. The tractor trailer travel seemed to have lessened considerably. This short bit of highway, less than five miles in her memory of the trip east, went by with much less drama than the first bit of two lane driving. Soon, she was back in highway travel and the car in front of her was going rather slow.
She had, once leaving the last construction zone, put her cruise back on at 70. She was not truly going all that fast but she was about to pass the car in front of her. As was her practice, she put her signal on with plenty of room between her and the slower vehicle and pulled into the left lane. The road had a slight curve in it but she swore she saw a car in that passing lane and it was driving towards her. She looked again to be sure it was not just headlights from the eastbound lanes of the interstate.
Quickly, she signaled and pulled back in behind the slow car, braked and slowed down. She wanted to be able to react, when this car going the wrong direction, got to where the traffic was. She did not want to see this incident have the same ending that the one downstate had had earlier this year where a mother, allegedly under the influence of drugs and alcohol, entered an interstate going in the wrong direction and killed several people, including children. She was going to be able to get out of this idiot’s way without incident if need be.
Brake lights started coming on in front of her as the other drivers realized a car was approaching them, in the westbound lanes but going east. Cars started driving on the shoulder slightly. This oncoming car was not slowing. This oncoming car was not wavering or weaving. This oncoming car’s driver seemed to think that he or she was in the right lane. This oncoming car was going the speed limit of 65.
The car passed the small group of vehicles she was in. She could not remember the last exit. She knew it had come just at the end of the last construction zone but had no idea how far away it was. She pulled to the side of the road near the next mile marker and picked up her mobile phone. She did not have a hands-free set as she seldom used her phone while driving. She also pulled over so she could give emergency services a mile marker, some idea of where this idiot was headed.
Emergency services was very calming. The panicked feeling in the pit of her stomach did not lessen, though. She told the operator everything she could and was just about to exit her vehicle to read the mile marker to him as she saw flashing lights in her rearview mirror. She asked if she needed to get out of the car. The operator asked her to hold on for a moment. He indicated that police had caught up with the car and was attempting to stop the vehicle. He asked for her name and confirmed her phone number. They both hung up.
She was sitting in the car trying to get her bearings when a car pulled onto the shoulder in front of her. An elderly man exited the passenger side of the car and headed toward her vehicle. She didn’t want him to get hit. Even with headlights on, the sky was cloudy and the night very dark. She looked carefully behind her to be sure she was not taking any chances getting out of her car on the driver’s side. With the flashing lights in the distance, traffic was sparse. She met the elderly man and his traveling partner half way between the two cars. They were afraid she was injured and stopped to help. She assured them she had just wanted to be near a mile marker to call the police.
As she quickly walked back to her vehicle, a car pulled off the road behind hers. She was beginning to regret having called 911. This vehicle, along with the one who stopped in the lane, just wanted to make sure everyone was all right.
All the stopped vehicles pulled back onto the interstate. Traffic was flowing again as if there had been no problems. Strangely, she was still fighting her stomach which suddenly did not like the pesto and fettuccine she had had for dinner. She merged into the driving lane and continued home.