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Had you been following the dirty yellow Gremlin, you'd have thought a canister of sarin gas had gone off inside. It veered insanely off the road and three people literally fell out, rolling on the ground, clutching their faces and gasping for air. One of them appeared to have bleeding lips.
That's when the cat got out of the car.
I was all for leaving it behind to play on the Interstate but the girlfriend's girlfriend was borderline psychotic so we played hide 'n' seek and keep-away with the cat for an hour and a quarter in a blinding snowstorm until it gave up and got back in the car all by itself.
"And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong,The rich and the poor ones, the road is so long..."
"Well, that'll sure be the high point of the trip," said the gf's gf. Told you she was stupid.
The highpoint came a few hours later... when traffic ground to a halt half an hour east of St. Louis. Nothing moved. Nothing moved. An hour later, nothing moved.
The newsflash said there was a traffic jam. Well, duh. It said the traffic jam started in Chicago and nothing was moving for the 250 miles between there and where we were. Visibility was zero, over 500 cars had smashed into each other and no cop in his right mind would speculate as to how long it would take to unravel the mess.
When we got tired of sitting, we wandered outside. So did other drivers. We met, chatted, swapped what we had to eat, drink and smoke and before you knew it, we had a block party going. Car radios blasted, snow angels were made, kids played in the snow and, in those days when drinking and driving was only wrong, not morally bankrupt, we had one of the best Christmas parties I've ever attended. People were almost sad when, six hours later, traffic began crawling again.
It was midnight when I finally dropped my girlfriend, her girlfriend and the cat off in Chicago, quarter to three when I was forced to ring the doorbell and wake my folks.
"Merry Christmas," I said, when my teary-eyed mother opened the door.
"We thought you'd never make it," she said. "We heard there was the biggest traffic jam ever south of Chicago. We're you in it?"
"Naw, we just stopped for a party and lost track of time."
The story about how the Gremlin blew its engine in the middle of the night on the way back to Albuquerque is, of course, another story.
"A very merry Christmas and a happy New YearLet's hope it's a good one without any fear."