* where I try to write a dramatic piece.

** contains mention of bodily functions.

It started off like a usual weekend. The 4 hour drive down to see the spouse had been uneventful- the roads were clean, temperature in the 30s, the sun out with enough force for me to wear my favorite open toed red shoes instead of boots. We had a wonderful time.

My car’s service engine light came on, and I decided to get it checked out before heading back home. At the dealership, I ogled the Juke while listening to the weather forecast about rain and possible snow. ‘I better make it home before it  gets too cold.’

We had crepes for lunch. Then I visited folks at my residency program. By the time I left, the clouds were gathering.

The drive between the two cities is almost all interstate, going up and down and around the hills. I drove right at the speed limit, trying to make the most of remaining daylight. It was raining hard and visibility was poor, but I felt fine, covering the first 150 miles without any problems. By then, it was dark.

Suddenly, I noticed several cars in the right lane, all with their hazard lights on, moving slowly. My lane was completely empty. I slowed down to a crawl, and then moved in behind them. There was a pile-up on the shoulder. No one seemed to have been hurt. Leading our column of blinking cars, there was large vehicle with flashing yellow lights. I looked around for an explanation, and the car in front of me skidded neatly to the right, almost hitting one of the parked cars.

‘Crap.’ The rain had changed into ice pellets. I slowed down further, increasing the distance from the car in front. We rolled along for a while. There were several police cars and other vehicles parked along the interstate.

Lanes were no longer visible. Traffic was divided into three- our column of slow moving cars, cars parked/stuck in the snow on the right, and the occasional daredevil who would go speeding by in the left lane, spraying us all with flying ice before skidding off in some odd direction.

The exit to the parkway never seemed so welcome.  By this time, I was trailing a large cargo truck. There was an SUV behind me. We crawled on to the exit, and promptly got stuck. I waited. And waited. The guy in front of me turned off his lights. The guy behind me got out and started cleaning his windshield. I watched the snow accumulate around us. I tweeted. Then I stuck my head out the window to yell at him.



‘Do you know what’s going on?’

‘Well, there are two semis blocking the exit. The trucks are trying to move them, but its not working. They ran out of salt. I don’t know how long its gonna take.’

‘Alright. Thanks.’

Then I felt the one sensation you hope never to feel when you’re stuck on an interstate exit with nowhere to go- an urge to pee. The first thing that came to mind was diapers. (Working in Geriatrics will do that.) Of course, I had no diapers.

‘Crap Crap Crap.’

The spouse was on the speaker phone with me constantly now. I charged my phone. I heated the car, then turned it off.  Wait ten minutes, repeat. I moved the car back and forth a few feet, trying to keep it from getting stuck. Then I ate a piece of string cheese. Then I waited some more.

If you’re ever stuck in a car with an urge to pee and nowhere to go, you can totally pee in an empty coffee cup.

A small white car came skidding down in the snow and went down all the way to where the semis were. Then it got stuck, too.

The guy in the car behind me went down to talk to the plough-trucks, then trudged back up. I rolled my window down.

‘If you see those cars down there go through, give it a shot. Remember, go slow, go steady, and don’t stop.’

I may owe him my life.

After about an hour, they moved one of the semis. One by one, we drove through. I saw more pile-ups, police cars, rescue vehicles and stranded cars that I ever have. Driving at a determined pace of 10 miles per hour, I made it into the city.

Navigating the ramp up the driveway to my apartment was impossible. I parked my car on the street, grabbed the essentials and walked around the block in twelve inches of snow, feeling a little sorry for my shoes. A student was trying to park her car, wheels spinning in the snow, about to run into the metal fence. I told her to leave it there until the morning. Then I went home.


About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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26 Responses to Stuck.

  1. zottavox says:

    Wow! What a story!!!

  2. I’m so relieved that you made it home safely.

    Even in the UK we don’t undertake a long car journey without ‘just in case’ supplies that include juice, snacks, survival blankets etc. It must have been beyond odd to have travelled for part of your journey in blazing sunshine and then to have hit those conditions.

    • purplesque says:

      Thanks, EM.

      I was lucky to be carrying food/water/phone, and even a full sack of just washed laundry. Now, however, I’m going to create an emergency bag for both our cars.

      • Lakshmi says:

        Emergency bag MUST carry extra-large styrofoam cups. (However, at the risk of being a doomsday-sayer..umm..mmm…what do you do when you are stuck, have to pee AND have aunt flo visiting?)
        Glad you are ok.

  3. rlbates says:

    Ditto what EvidenceMatters said!

  4. The weather has been so bizarre this winter, I’ve been making wisecracks about the coming of the apocalypse. When things like what you described happen however, it is really scary. Especially when you’re stuck in a car on a freeway, which is basically a concrete canyon with no place else to move but forward. (Well, I’ve seen people in California do things like drive backwards on the shoulder, but that’s just us. 😉 )

    But, um, so you relieved yourself in a coffee cup? Since I’m usually in jeans or pants when I’m on the road and I don’t have the equipment men possess to pee out of a discreetly-opened zipper, I’d find that awkward. Then again, it beats pulling over and trying to find a private spot in the bushes. I tried that a while back, and my bladder was so overcome with shyness it refused to relax. Ouch.

    • jaklumen says:

      It’s not easy, but I have been informed by my wife that it can be done (and she did so recently in an emergency situation). I think it is easier when said styrofoam/paper cup is uh, fairly large, or it was in her case.

      I’m not sure where this was– I think it was back on VOX– someone had mentioned a product made in… Germany, I think, that you just peed into and some material at the bottom turned into a gel, and then you were supposed to throw it away.

      • While I was browsing in some travel magazine I saw an article about a funnel-like object called a GoGirl: it was designed for female travelers who didn’t want to sit on less-than-sanitary public toilets or were confronted by those lovely squat toilets you still see in places like Japan. (A modern industrial nation, and they still have bathrooms with something that resembles a cross between an urinal and a floor drain: agh!) I don’t know how well it would work in a car with just a coffee cup, but it looks better than the alternative, bushes or, when my kids were small anyway, a rolled-up beach towel used for a diaper.

        I’ll just have to remember like Homebody to keep a wide-mouthed paper cup in the car. A couple of years ago I got trapped in a snowstorm on a highway, with traffic moving an inch an hour. Luckily I remembered to go before getting in the car: but I saw some poor older woman sitting by the side of the road, looking miserable as she tried to keep her coat wrapped around her while she completed her too-obvious business. It made me realize men have one major advantage that we women can’t ever overcome. 😉

        • purplesque says:

          I was wearing jeans, too, HG. It was very awkward, and definitely not discreet- but the freaking blizzard outside helped. The good old bush option (one I’m familiar with from my childhood) wouldn’t have worked, because of the snow and because we were on an exit, with nowhere to move my car. If there is something like GoGirl or the magic gel Jak mentioned, I’m getting it!

      • purplesque says:

        I’m so, so, so relieved to hear I have company in this strange matter. Also, I’d pay good money for that product.

  5. homebody says:

    I’m so glad you made it safely back, and will remember to always travel with an empty coffee cup.

  6. leendadll says:

    eegads! glad you’re okay!

  7. phantomxii says:

    Well, I’ve told you this once today already, but here it is again: Glad you are OK!

    A college roommate and I were nearly stranded in the snow driving home for Christmas break—it wasn’t too far from your neck of the woods. No peeing in cups occurred, however.

    • purplesque says:

      Thank you, Scott. I’m glad to be Oll Korrect, too.

      Men do seem to have more luck than women in the bladder department. Or maybe they do pee in strange places; they just don’t write blog posts about it.

  8. Aussie Emjay says:

    Wow Purple what a nasty experience – I can imagine how tense I would’ve been in the same situation – lucky you had a phone charger! When we had a storm last month where people were stuck in their cars for up to 8 hours I was told by a woman that she just opened the front and back car doors and “went” between them. She had trousers on but figured any flesh would be hidden by the doors. When you’ve got to go, you just do what works best.

    I get myself worked up on the metro if a train stops in a tunnel for more than 5 minutes – even though I go before I leave the office. Fearing that I will be trapped in the train is an emotional trigger to my bladder LOL…. And I *have* thought about what I would do if I really, really had to go but I still haven’t figured out how it could be done in a train full of people! 🙂

  9. robpixaday says:


    Wonderfully told suspense story; I’m so sorry that you had to go through it!
    So you’re having to travel 4hrs one way to visit him? Wow.

    You’ve already gotten lots of cool advice above. And since it happened nearly a month ago you’ve probably made plans for other items and adjustments in your car supplies. I commuted over dreadful tiny twisting and turning roads for 24 years in nasty weather (ice!) and have lots of experience with this stuff, would be happy to share some stories if you want. My smartest move, ever, was to keep a can of spaghetti and a manual can opener in the car. You can heat a can of food on the engine block even after the car croaks, if you have to. And melt snow to drink it (if you’re very brave and very thirsty). There are emergency “blankets” made of foam on one side and metallic sheeting on the other. They fold up into the size of a deck of cards and unfold to cover an adult person…keeping her VERY earm for hours. And they’re reflective, so you twinkle in the moonlight if you’re trying to be found. LOTS of cool, small things to keep you safe.

    Anyway…I’m soooooooooooo glad you had that phone!! Being isolated in a situation like that makes it much more scary.

    Too bad about the shoes. And your cold wet toes?


    • purplesque says:


      The twinkly blankets sound like exactly what an emergency supply box should hold- I’m definitely going to get those. And yes, some canned food and a can opener. I’ve been bad and don’t have much in the way of emergency supplies yet, using the warmer weather as an excuse. No more! I’d love to hear your stories of traveling in nasty weather..only if you don’t mind sharing.

      My toes survived; as importantly, so did the shoes. 🙂

  10. robpixaday says:

    You did GREAT!
    Congrats for getting home OK. Not everyone would have.

  11. robpixaday says:

    These are GREAT:
    They’re good at home if the power goes out and super in the car, in case of problems.

    These too:

    I don’t think the hand warmers should be left in the car in summer heat, though. And having separate supplies for summer and winter makes sense anyway.

    There are small collapsible snow shovels that are super.

    For being stuck on the road in heat: Batter operated fans, so the A/C can be shut off.

    That’s just a few for now…LOL

  12. robpixaday says:

    Uh, oh. I forgot that WP doesn’t like comments with too many links. I guess it’s in your spam folder. Sorry.

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