Lifestyles differ, especially when there is such an age gap. I had been invited to camp out on the boys' couch (which meant, staying up until they went to bed, far later than what my tiredness would have dictated were I at home...) rather than make an 80 mile one way trip back to Des Moines to attend the next write-in, which I'd discovered to be great fun and encouragement. A collection of talented, focused people is always a joy to be around.
After spending the afternoon in the Indianola library, the only open place in town with an internet connection available the day after Thanksgiving, then attending an evening write-in in Des Moines, I returned to the boys' apartment shortly after 10, thinking I was pretty burned out to start home. J. was still gone, so I waited. Eventually, he called, talking nonsense, instead of displaying his customary crisp intelligence. Normally not one to drink, still he had gone to a friend's and gotten too drunk to drive home. When he wound down around 1:30 a.m., I bit the bullet and left. Although I can go on a writing binge until the wee hours of the morning and frequently do, my life, and those of others who happened to share the highway with me is NOT then at risk, with the bed just a short walk away... not the same thing at all. I'll just pull off for a bit if I need to. I still have the polly pad and sleeping bag in the trunk, I thought.
So around 1:30 or so, I left town, or tried to, anyway. I got on Highway 92 (one block from the apartment complex) heading east with no problem. It went downhill from there.
At the first stop light, I turned south, intending to take Highway 69/65 south to 34 then turn west to Chariton... I signaled, made the turn, and glanced at my gas gage. That's my dad's training kicking in. Especially during winter, keep the tank on the full side, was his rule of thumb. Around home, where a gas station is NOT found on every corner, I never get below 1/4 tank, but in big cities, I let that slide a bit, as gas stations are generally readily available. I'd already discovered at the Ames write-in that a tank pushing E, upon the addition of one gallon of high priced fuel, can go 59.6 miles without running the reserve quite dry. The resulting fill is more than the stated capacity of the tank... and a totally foolish risk to take, in town or out. (This really is NOT a gripe. The car's gas mileage is quite good, but the gas tank is not bottomless, all optimism aside.)
I clicked the blinker on, turned into a business driveway on the east side of the road, came out on 92 again for a few feet leading up to the traffic light, then headed north, to Wal Mart, which boasted the cheapest gas when I had come through just before 10.
Two or three blocks on, I did not recognize a thing. The lights were globes, and the familiar businesses were all missing. I seemed to be on the east side of a square that reminded me of Traer, Iowa, if I remember correctly. I became highly confused.
Before I decided on a course of action, I saw the dread flashing lights in the rear view mirror. I pulled over, extremely puzzled. I had NOT been speeding; my head and tail lights were working; I was wearing my seat belt; I was not driving recklessly -- in fact the patrol cruiser was the only vehicle I'd seen since turning off highway 92.
I rolled down my window, and the officer did the routine "Please show me your driver's license, car registration and proof of insurance. Since my billfold was in my purse in the back seat, I undid my seat belt and got out of the car to a lot of joint creaking, but was a bit unsteady on my feet as my knees decided if they were going to function normally after a several block trip. Opening the back door, I grabbed my billfold out of my purse.
The interior lights clearly showed clothing and books covering the seat, along with my computer. Suspicious stuff, right?
I opened the wallet and tipped it toward the officer. "Please remove your license from your billfold."
I had not taken it out for a while, and found that the plastic was stuck to the surface of the license. I had to work it loose before it would slide out.
"Have you been drinking?" asked the officer.
When I'd turned to the back seat, he could readily smell my breath, so when I answered, "No, I don't drink." he dropped that line of questioning. I thought about telling him I was Rice Crispies, but decided to hold my tongue. He didn't seem like the kind to joke with about the snap, crackle and pop of joints in the middle of the night.
"What were you trying to do?"
"I was going home, but decided I'd better go out to Wal Mart to fill the tank, as their gas was the cheapest and they're open all night."
He looked confused. It had seemed a perfectly logical thing to do to me.
"You're about three blocks off the mark," he responded cryptically. "Where were you coming from?"
"An apartment complex just off Highway 92 to the west."
"I pulled you over because you are going the wrong way on a one way street."
Say what? A one way? My confusion must have showed on my face.
"Wal mart's gas station is closed. There are three stations open, all owned by the same guy, and all the prices are the same. There's one on the east end, one on the north side, and one on the west, but nothing open to the south."
He took my license and went back to the cruiser to run it.
Soon he was back. "You're a stranger in town. You got confused about where you were."
I agreed. I did not mention the funny lights.
"What do you plan to do?"
I decided to go back west to that gas station, as I knew the lay of that land. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
He had me do a U'ee right there in the street and told me how to get back to Highway 92.
At the light, I turned west and was soon heading out of town. I spied a Phillips 66 station, with a cruiser out front. The officer was inside, chatting up the clerk.
"Just wait until you get back to your patrol car and hear about wrong way Corrigan," I thought as I paid.
He'd pulled out by the time I got outside. As I again turned east on 92, I saw the stop sign that said, "Business district". It was the corner I'd mistaken for the junction of 92 and 65/69. I never did spot the "one way" signs.
Sure enough, three blocks further, another light marked the familiar intersection. I safely turned south and left town... at nearly 2:30 a.m.
I needed to pull off, drape my night gown over my legs, recline the seat, and sleep behind a dump truck in a construction site in Lacona until the car cooled down, getting home about 5 a.m.
(Done: I need to check the date and move this to the proper day... a week ago Friday...)