On one of my early trips across country, not long after our daughter was born…six weeks to be precise…we moved from Newport News, Virginia back home to Albuquerque where baby and I would remain until after my husband’s first patrol. After that, the boat changed home ports and so we would leave Albuquerque for yet another home in another city. It was about six days before Christmas and cold outside. The car was loaded with the requisite luggage and baby paraphernalia, cat, baby and me. We waited for the other requisite…the resident husband…outside the shipyard gate and then we would leave town. Wouldn’t you know? The plot thickened. A very officious gate guard sauntered over to inform me that I couldn’t wait there, that I had to move my car which would be in a location where my dear husband would have no idea how to find—this being in the days prior to cell phones smaller than baby elephants. I explained my position to the fellow but he was completely unaffected. I had to move the car. To top it off, the guard wanted me to step out of my car for whatever reason that escapes me now. I stepped out of the car and unthinkingly pushed the lock down—he had me rattled by this time…and my hair was starting to flame. As the door clicked shut I realized the problem and then I got angry. Still insisting that I had to move the car I gave him a glare worthy of a steely-eyed killer of the deep and wordlessly pointed toward the door lock. Baby and cat stared back at him while all I could see was my keys—dangling in the ignition switch, so near and yet so far. Then I lit into the poor hapless man with blistering commands. Don’t screw with a redhead is all I can say. One untwisted coat hanger from the guard shack later, the lock popped open and here comes my hero. I’m ready to leave now and I’m certain the guard is glad to see me go.
On another trip, this time from Austin, Texas to Newport, Rhode Island I got lost in New Jersey. It would have been so simple just to follow directions but I chose to be creative. One should NEVER be creative while making a seat of the pants decision about routes! We ate breakfast and then departed Roanoke, Virginia early that morning: same cat, same daughter and me. Husband had already arrived in Newport with our newest acquisition, the Labrador retriever, rented a house that he described as “filled with antiques” and moved our belongings into it.
Sailing up I-80, we arrived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and turned east onto I-78 with plans to intersect I-95 North. It turned out not to be quite that easy. Somewhere after entering New Jersey, the road split and I chose to turn northward rather than follow the road sign directions . BIG MISTAKE! Have you ever been lost in New Jersey on a village street? Like the Energizer Bunny, the road just kept going and going and going…but it was now a two lane road rather than an eight lane interstate. Nearly out of gas, I stopped at a gas station, hopeful that someone would know where the Tappan Zee Bridge was. No luck. Zilch. Nada.
Wouldn’t you begin to think by then that the quicker plan might be to turn around and backtrack? Not I! Nope. I forged ahead. I failed to mention that I’m the “glass is half full” girl. I was positive I’d manage to find a way to get where I was determined to go. By this time it was mid-afternoon and my six year old daughter was getting just a tad hungry. But rather than stop for food I forged ahead, sure I’d find a McDonalds or something at all recognizable as fast food. Nary a one appeared.
Finally, around 1630 hours (4:30 p.m. for all you who have never been military—or a spouse—or a nurse), I stopped at a union hall in Somewhere, New Jersey looking frantically at a map, not even sure where I actually was. Oh yes, I failed to mention that it was early January and it was getting a little dusky by then. A very nice man came out of the union hall and must have spotted the look of wild-eyed frenzy in my eyes and asked if he could help. Bless that man… Not only did he know where the Tappan Zee Bridge was, I was just a few blocks from it! Hurray! He gave me a set of rather complicated verbal directions that I planted firmly in my brain. Ignoring the child’s increasingly strident demands for a bathroom and food, I struck out toward my goal. I did it! I got there. We crossed the Tappan Zee and headed northwest toward New London, Connecticut and the second set of directions I had to follow. By this time, the sun has set, mind you, and we still hadn’t stopped for food…or bathroom.
After passing through the city of New London and getting off onto the back road toward Newport I heaved a huge sigh of relief and began hunting for sustenance for us and the car. It was NOT quite that simple, I discovered. I finally located a gas station but the lady behind the desk wasn’t about to permit us use of the facilities. Remember the red hair? “Lady,” I state flatly, another steely glare in my eyes—I’m pretty good at them—“we have been driving since 0830 this morning, have driven through six states, have been lost for hours in New Jersey now we are here and we are starving. That doesn’t even begin to include the need for a restroom. It is below freezing outside and we need a restroom. There will be no drop and squat maneuver by the side of the road for us. Do you get my meaning? It’s either here or the restroom and I don’t much care which at this point. Sometimes you simply have to state your case succinctly to people to get your needs fulfilled. Albeit reluctantly, she provided the requisite bathroom key.
I thanked her for her help and purchased gasoline and a couple of candy bars to further demonstrate my gratitude. Two needs down and the third with a bandaid on it to staunch the hemorrhage, we finally struck forth toward Newport. We crossed this scary narrow two-lane bridge, that has since been closed and finally crossed the big bridge into Newport. Somehow or other, sans map, I found my way to the main gate of Newport Navy Base but another civilian gate guard refused to permit use of the phone to call my husband to scream for help. Helpfully, however, he pointed me around and gave me even more complicated verbal directions to Burger King where he was certain they would allow use of the phone. It was 1930 hours when we arrived—seemed like midnight—and husband found us happily munching our Super-Duper Double deluxe burgers and fries. Well, the house was warm and our dog and belongings were in it. If old and ugly qualifies as antiques, though, then it was full of ‘em! But it was Home Sweet Home for the next 5 months so I was determined to make the best of it. The important parts (familiy, dog and cat) were there and we were all safe and sound. God watches over idiots and small children as they say…