With the kids are away at camp Husband and I headed out of town and out of the heat up to the cool pine country.
I've lived in Arizona since I was 13-years-old and the odd thing is that there are still some things around here that still haven't changed since I was 13-years-old. Like there are grizzled cowboys running around with bolo ties and ten-gallon cowboy hats and who don't know that Jews still exist. They say, "Like in the Bible?" And I say, "Yes, like in the Bible." There are still pick-up trucks on the road that belong in museums, and we still just have one main Interstate going up north, I-17.
You know how sometimes you hear about some horrible thing that happens on a highway that backs traffic up for hours? I always think about the people in the cars, like what did they do out there? Did they have water? What if they had to go to the bathroom?
Well, now I know, because this happened to Husband and I as we were heading up to Flagstaff for a romantic three-day sojourn. When we were passing through one of the carved out mountains - half a mountain on one side, half on the other and a roadway in between - traffic suddenly stopped. It stayed stopped for two hours with no notice from anyone - no Highway Patrol coming by to talk to us, no Red Cross bringing us bottles or, something we could have used more, Porta-Potties. This is all we knew: there was black billowing smoke up ahead; there was a helicopter with a long swinging bucket pouring water on that black billowing smoke up ahead; and behind us, there was a 50-mile back-up of cars. Oh, and a bad sign: there were news helicopters in the air above us.
Here's what people do when this happens. First they stayed in their cars with their air conditioning on, after all, we weren't very far from Phoenix and it was 100 degrees. Then, after a while, people started getting out of their cars, walking around and talking to each other. A few cars up ahead, some cowboys started having an impromptu hoe-down with the occupants of another vehicle nearby. Women and men started making for the hilly roadside for some kind of brush cover for necessities. People got out of their cars to smoke and Husband and I watched their lit cigarettes nervously, waiting for one of them to ignite another brush fire on the side of the road.
Husband was busy mulling over in his mind exactly whose fault it was that we got stuck in this. Had I taken too long to get ready, as usual? Did I just have to go exercise that morning? Should he have filled the car with gas the night before? Had he armed too many fake sirens for our empty house or had he hooked up too many vacation plugs for our lamps so our lights would go on and off while we were gone? Maybe it was overkill to go inside the house and then lock the garage from the inside and come out a side door?
I'm not a pessimist, but I figured we'd be spending the whole three days of our trip right there, at mile marker 249. I magnanimously agreed to save Husband's life by sharing my water bottles with him when I saw that he had brought only Diet Dr. Pepper for himself. I was about to call the hotel in Flagstaff to cancel our reservation when my mother called. She lives in Flagstaff each summer so she was waiting for us at her cabin. I told her what happened. Did she give me soothing words of comfort? Ideas of how to fill my time? No. She said, "You should have left the house earlier!" Thanks mom.
Finally Husband chased down a highway employee who told us it would be a few more hours. Of course, right after that we began to move. The people who were out of their cars began running to get back to them. We slowly rounded the curve by the fire and saw the ground scorched on both sides of the roadway with the firefighters standing by the roadside in their gear.
I waved as we drove past.