Janet Sheridan: Road worries
When I can’t sleep, it’s usually because I’m entertaining mind-boggling concerns: What if I my doctor tells me the bump on my big toe looks cancerous? I tried to call Barbara three times, and her line was busy; someone must have died. I’d like to walk to my meeting tomorrow; but if I do, I might be late; and if I’m late, everyone will look at me, and if they look at me, I’ll be sweaty and red-faced from walking.
When young, my siblings called me a worrywart in the scathing tones only they could muster; and I haven’t outgrown the tendency: I gnaw on worrisome possibilities as incessantly and unattractively as a slobbering cow chewing on its cud.
My what-if scenarios run rampant on road trips: We’ve been lucky so far — no breakdowns, no wrecks, no divorce — but our luck has to end sometime; and this trip could be it. What if Joel gambles on finding cheaper gas down the road once too often, and we run dry in the middle of nowhere, and we left our cell phones in the motel? What if we’re in a wreck and only a thief stops, and he steals our phones, cash, credit cards and lunch?
When we drive from Craig to Illinois to visit our grandchildren, I clutch my armrest, tense my jaw, and scan the sky for snowflakes as we approach Rabbit Ears Pass. In my opinion, any traveler in any month who doesn’t worry about spinning out in an unforeseen blizzard on Rabbit Ears is mentally deficient.
I suffer my second travel-trauma when I-70 pulls us down from the mountains and forces us into the chaos of four lanes of traffic where speeding drivers on cell phones maneuver like they’re inside a pinball machine. On any trip, my initial contact with big city traffic fills me with a sense of impending doom. I blame this reaction on Craig, where a traffic jam is two cars meeting at an intersection.
Eventually, as hours and miles flow by, I relax: lulled by the rhythm of the drive, soothed rather than startled by the swish of passing cars, and amused rather than annoyed by the crazed drivers we meet.
A few years ago, as we drove I-70 across Kansas, a small lady with gray hair and grim determination, who clutched the wheel with both hands and peered above her steering wheel, amused us for miles. She evidently thought the shoulder of the freeway was another lane and believed erratic speeds would save fuel. She’d come out of nowhere on the shoulder, pass us in a cloud of dust, then, minutes later, slow to a crawl and fade away behind us. Ten minutes later, she’d come racing by again. This happened again and again until Ms. Andretti found her exit. Though I felt safer with her disappearance, I appreciated the distraction she provided for 60 Kansas miles.
Sometimes the driver who annoys me is my husband, who doesn’t hesitate to interrupt my nap, ranting about drivers who creep along in the fast lane while texting. He also spouts interesting and unusual descriptions of truckers who try to pass one another on hills while cars pile up behind them into infinity. Though bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, I’m always astounded by the creativity of his tirades.
My anxiety ebbs and wanes as we travel to our destination and does the same as we drive home. The worrywart within me subsides only when we reach the protective mountains, far-reaching skies, and vivid colors of the Yampa Valley; and my peace of mind surges when I see our home: The lawn drifted with red and yellow leaves; the nasturtium still in bloom; everything intact.
Only then do I quit chewing my cud.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.
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