Saturday, June 20, 2009

Really officer, I swear I wasn't drinking!

We presented our final class projects this morning yesterday morning, they were graded and ready to pick up by mid-afternoon, and around 6 pm I hit the road headed for North Carolina. More about the projects later - no pictures right now. To quote Jenn, I can't brain today, I have the dumb.

I have a GPS navigator thingie on loan for this summer, and aside from being rather annoying and load, it has been quite helpful. Before I left, I loaded directions from Akron to Penland on it, and checked online to make sure that they seemed accurate. Well, they weren't. About 15 miles from my actual destination, one of the satellites above decided it had had enough of my travels, and announced that I had reached my final destination. On a winding mountain road across from a ramshackle house with a road sign reading "Pumpkin Patch Lane". It didn't look quite right, so I pulled over to look at the map and try to reload the directions, but it was convinced that the intersection of Fire Mountain Lane and Pumpkin Patch Lane was where I should be. I was certainly out in the middle of nowhere, but other than that, I wasn't really sure of anything. I then noticed that my gas gauge had dropped from a quarter of a tank to the empty light while I had been sitting. I turned around, headed back the way I had come, to see if I had missed a recent turn. I hadn't, and as I went to turn around again to go find gas (and civilization), I backed off the edge of the very narrow road and promptly got my rear wheels wedged between a hidden fence and the 8-inch drop-off from the road. And could not get out. With the front end of my car sticking out most of the way into the traffic lane, where people wouldn't be able to see my car until they came around the corner and slammed into it.

So I look up "help" on the GPS, find the nearest police station, and attempt to call. Of course, since I am in BFE, I have absolutely no signal. I contemplate walking the 3 miles to the station for all of about 3 seconds, and decide the best thing to do is put on my hazards and take a nap until it gets lighter and I can try to flag someone down for help. So, I pull out my blanket and get cozy. (This was around 2:45am). Around 4:30, I wake up to hear someone drive up and then pull over and stop. I'm hoping it's cops, and not someone scary. It is indeed 2 police officers, and I roll down the window to tell them that I'm their stupid tourist story for the weekend - lost, stuck, and nearly out of gas. They give a once-over to the car, wedged in place and stuffed to the gills with boxes and suitcases, and me wrapped up in a blanket, and immediately ask how much I've had to drink. I start laughing, realizing just how ridiculous I must really look. This doesn't help my case. Next up is a game of twenty questions, with me still in the car. "How much have you had to drink tonight?" "Nothing." "Really?" "Yes, really." "Your eyes look really bloodshot." "I'm sure, my contacts are killing me." I explain where I'm going, and the older police officer's eyes get wide and he starts to laugh when I tell him I'm heading to Penland. "Well, ma'am, you're right, this isn't Penland!" They finally seem satisfied that I'm not drunk, and one of them sits on the front of my car so I can get some traction and get out of the ditch. The older one informs me that since I'm such a crappy navigator, they'll escort me to Penland, and we can stop at a gas station first. The younger one is just kind of standing there, shaking his head in amazement at the whole situation. While I'm getting gas, they radio for directions, which turn out to be quite involved from where we are. I then follow them for about 10 miles, through crazy narrow winding roads, and can't help but think that if I really had been drunk, there was no way I would have been able to successfully navigate them without killing myself or at least totaling my car. Random aside, there is abundant wildlife in the area, but the deer here are far less skittish than they are in Michigan. They just kind of lazily look at you as you drive by; none of this crazy darting into the road into oncoming traffic business that they do back home.

We finally get to Penland, and of course it is silent and no one answers the phone. The police officers really don't want to just leave me there, despite my insistence that I will take another nap in my car and be fine. So we walk around and discover that the main building is open, and it has the room assignments and restrooms in it. We chat for a little while longer, and they decide that I will be fine and they can get back to all of the excitement inherent in policing small-town America. I thank them profusely, and tell them I hope they at least get a good story out of this. The older one laughs, the younger one is still shaking his head in amazement. (The ceramic planter sitting on the ledge that looks like the bottom half of a torso, legs hanging over the side, is not helping.) The older cop explains that the younger one is new on the job, and is still getting used to all of the random craziness they see on the job. They wish me luck and head off. I wander around in the dark a little bit, checking out some of the nearby open buildings. It's eerily quite and completely secluded, and I love that everything is just left open, come-as-you-are, use-what-you-need. I can't figure out which spaces in the dorm are unoccupied in the dark, and don't want to wake anyone up, so I go back to my car. I turn on my laptop, discover that I have a faint wi-fi signal, and decide I might as well blog about this craziness.

The Bakersville cops were extremely nice and helpful! They didn't even give me a breathalizer test, but I did wonder what a field sobriety test would be like. I'm betting this was the most excitement they'd had in weeks.

Here's hoping that the rest of my day goes a little more smoothly.


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