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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Gotta Be Careful With That Last Guy, You Know

I’d been concentrating for well over an hour, my eyes focused on the road ahead of me. I am afraid to blink for fear of missing something, and they are beginning to burn a bit.

“You’re doing great,” he says.

We are in the middle of what many Minnesotans find themselves in the middle of: road construction.

The ’74 Ford LTD, a car built to hold you and six of your closest friends, hurls itself in a powerful but lumbering fashion between the orange construction cones.

We are going Up North, as all right-thinking Minnesotans do in the summer.

When we had started the sun had been out, but hours later, we are in the coal-black darkness of the outskirts of Duluth.

And this is where the orange construction cones appear.

Confined to one lane, cones on both sides, the sun has gone down and the headlights have come on. Mile after mile stretches before me, the first in a conga line of cars trapped on a one-lane road with a soft shoulder, orange dots and dashes on either side of the massive, lane-wide car. Akin to the optical illusion of driving into an illuminated funnel or being brought in for a landing at an unfamiliar airport, I blink hard, fight to maintain my sanity.

He reassures me from the passenger’s seat. “You’re doing great.”

I swallow. “I really want to pull over.”

He turns around, looks behind us. “There’s a line of about 400 cars behind you.”

I tear my eyes from the miles of dark road ahead of me, look in the rearview mirror.

“OK. Twenty,” he says, smiling.

I want to weep.

The orange cones loom.

We pass a sign informing us that the next 27 miles is under construction.

I grip the wheel.

The car has no stereo, just a radio that has devolved into call-in shows, people talking about aliens and what our government doesn’t want us to know about them.

“You want to listen to this?”

I shake my head, eyes glued to the middle of the road. He turns the radio off. We stare at the road, hypnotized.

“Tell me a story,” I say.

He stares straight ahead.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl who found herself trapped in a video game. She didn’t want to be, but there was nothing she could do about it. Worse yet, it was a driving game, and she had never been fond of those. And to make matters even worse than a game she didn’t want to play, she was down to her last guy. So she kept her eyes on the road, her wits about her, and she made it all the way to the end without dying. The end.”

I shake my head again. Man, I think. When you’re right, you’re right.

Twenty-seven miles later, the road goes back to an expansive two lanes wide.

And that last guy?

I’ve still got that last guy left.

46 comments:

Argent said...

Cooool!

Pearl said...

It's been quite a few years now, but my eyes are still burning. :-)

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

You keep the ones you can count on. Drive on.

Doubting Thomas said...

It's amazing how much better of a player you are when down to the last guy! I can make a little Galaga spaceship go FOREVER... kinda like when you're down to the last quarter... :)

Joyful Things said...

I could feel my hands cramping! So.....other than the car ride what did you do in Duluth? If you had gone a bit more Up North my sister would have made you dinner!

Hilary said...

That last guy is certainly a keeper.

Camille said...

Awwww, I'm kerflempt. He's a keeper.

Symdaddy said...

There is something about girlie drivers that can be terrifying!

Reading that made me want to hide behind the sofa.

A girlie driver in a construction area?

A sofa wouldn't have been enough!!!

Glen said...

He failed the man test there - what kind of hastily made up story doesn't involve the heroine accidentally getting undressed.

I'm not sure he thought it through

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Yeah he failed the man test. He should have been offering to drive!

Pearl said...

It was too late to change drivers, what with no shoulder... But I am digging the fact that he messed up on teh story by not making someone get undressed. Or better yet HE could've gotten undressed while TELLING the story. It was DUluth, after all...

And where did we go? Silver Bay, baby, home of tiny houses and enormous northern lights...

vanilla said...

Loved my LTD. They don't make 'em like that anymore. Nice job with the funneling, notwithstanding the white knuckles!

Kristy said...

Glen - ha ha!

Pearl said...

Vanilla, it was a great car. What an engine on that thing!

Kristy, Glen's a funny guy. :-)

lisleman said...

wow I wanted to shout "are we there yet?" in the middle of the post.
Hey it would be an honor to have you link one of your many many funny posts to my collection. Please stop by and check out LLL.
thanks

Leenie said...

I think "road construction" is really some skin infection on the earth. Warm weather makes it worse. Early signs of onset are orange barrels and oozing cracks in pavement. Just before the Winter Olympics in 2002, Utah got a real bad case of it. Not long after that it started spreading to Idaho. Driving to SLC was hell. There were even concrete barriers to narrow the clogged highway to a luge run. Glad you made it and didn't die.

CarrieBoo said...

Nerve wrecking. For a quick moment there, I read: "...I blink hard, fart to maintain my sanity." It made sense.

Diane said...

He's a keeper!

fishducky said...

I like CARRIEBOO's version.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Oh...the tension!!!

Glad you still have your last guy!

They're invaluable.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

That was very sweet! Now I feel if I say something sarcastic or witty or...me....I will just lower the tone. So I'll stick with sweet. :)

Joshua said...

That was pure poetry. I think after 27 miles you'd have found a 1UP somewhere.

NYEMT said...

My grandfather had a '77 Ford LTD! It was dark green, and it was closely related to a whale somewhere in its bloodline. I remember them towing their popup camper to Florida and back every winter with it, and twice they drove it to Minneapolis to see us. They kept all their cars 10 years, and in 1987 they traded the LTD in on a (then brand-new) Aerostar van. Thanks for the smile...and the memory. :)

Shelly said...

Ohhhh- I've been in a couple of situations just like you described so well. Shiverssss!

Audubon Ron said...

Cute.

Pearl said...

Lisleman, I would be honored!

Leenie, like boils or something?! :-)

CarrieBoo, :-D That pretty much says it all.

fishducky, she's a funny one!

Susan, he was/is.

VA, that is NOT what we pay you for. Oh, wait...

Joshua, :-) Where are the mushrooms when you need them?!

NYEMT, you know, I can't find you, dammit! Every time I try to go back to see you/your blog, it's not available! Send me your link, man!

Pearl said...

Shelly, what I really wanted to do was freak out, but it just wasn't practical...

Audubon, why thank you. :-)

Pat said...

You are very brave and he knew how to keep you going. Ideally he would have driven but nobody's perfect.

Simply Suthern said...

At least he revealed the end of the story early so you knew you would survive.

The Elephant's Child said...

Love it. Thanks.

Pearl said...

Pat, well I must admit that I LOVE to drive, so can't fault him on not being the driver at the time. :-)

Simply, I wish I'd worked that into the post. :-)

Pearl said...

The Elephant's Child, :-) Thank you.

Kara said...

I've been there. Well...not THERE. But, you know what I mean - driving through an eternity of construction on those northern roads that never end. Some fun.

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

So...I'm facing a 2.5 hr. drive thru the mountains next week. I'll be watching for ice, snow, deer, moose and drunk drivers--in the dark! I'm already freaking out and your post didn't help at all. Do you have any more "last guys" out there to go with me?????
Rosemary

My Journey With Candida said...

He sounds like a keeper to me.

Do you notice that when they do construction they put those orange cones up for miles. They can't work on that many miles in a day or two..... it takes them weeks. So why mess up that many miles with the cones? Whats up with that anyway

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Ah, the LTD. So much like my Flaming Ford Fairmont of Death.
Sounds like orange cones are your driving kryptonite. Mine are bridges. Oh how I hate long, high bridges. *shiver*

Linda Myers said...

Even with my poor night vision I'd be better driving the cone-strewn route. My husband would be talking to the drivers and the workers the entire time - and not in friendly terms.

Gigi said...

I especially loved your comment about wanting to freak out; but it wasn't practical!

I have to remind myself of that often!

Nosmo King said...

This may be the wrong comment in the wrong place, likely at the wrong time (I'm so slow) but have you thought about publishing your book at amazon (i.e. Kindle). I have never done it, obviously, but I believe it's free to publish. Anyhow, blah. When this poor college student gets some dough I'll buy that thing. :) God bless.

Dr. Cynicism said...

Next time, look for the secret spot in traffic where you can gain infinite lives!

jenny_o said...

It's hard being at the front of the line of traffic in the dark - all those headlights behind, glaring in all the mirrors - gah.

Ya done good. And so did he :)

Bodacious Boomer said...

That's quite a story kiddo. I liked it.

Kelley said...

So sweet & funny! Not sweet & funny? That alien radio show. My husband listens to it sometimes just to be entertained by the craziness. Ha!

River said...

Always hold on to that last guy!

Tempo said...

A friend of mine only just sold his 74 silver LTD, still in mint condition and with a working radio. (audible gasp from the crowd) A nice car but I wouldn't want one. Too big, too heavy.

Lisa said...

Wow! Now that was a great story! It left me smiling. Love your blog! I'm joining in.