I remember seeing the sign, “Welcome to Oklahoma.” But with all the fun to be had inside the car, I just wasn’t paying attention to the whole “where are we going” thing. Like I said before, I had driven this route a millions times – in rain, sleet, snow, wind, the dead of night. No big thing, right?
But when you’re distracted, things can happen. About roughly 20 minutes later it dawns on me.
“Wasn’t that a sign for Oklahoma back there?”
If you’re familiar with Texas and Oklahoma highways, at this point you know we were kind of stuck driving 80 miles an hour looking for the next exit ramp. Let me tell you, they’re few and far between in certain parts of both states. They get you on the freeway, and they intend on keeping you there.
About 5 miles later, we finally come to an exit ramp where we can see a tiny shack on the top of the hill with a gas station sign. Okay. Sounds good. I’m a woman so there’s no problem at all in stopping to ask for directions.
At this point you’ll have to forgive my stereotyping. What happened next could have literally happened anywhere. But the chain of events afterwards lends voice to my reasons.
So, we stop and I get out of the car and sheepishly enter the tiny shack with two gas pumps and 5 beat up pickup trucks in the parking lot. What could possibly go wrong?
I walk in the door and hear the standard “dingaling ding ding” of the bells hanging across the entryway. Okay. So far so good.
I was happily surprised to see a female behind the counter because there were at least 10 sweaty farmer-types sitting around and wandering about. Better to ask her. Women are always the voice of reason when it comes to directions.
I’ll have to paraphrase here, but this is pretty much the way it went down:
“Honey. You really screwed up didn’t you? Okay, so this is what you want to do.”
When a Southern woman says “honey,” you know she means business.
“You’re never going to be able to double back. The construction is totally screwed back in Wichita [Falls]. You’ll wind up back in Dallas before you know it.”
She smacks her gum a few times, gives me a big grin, and commences to doling out the directions.
“Lookie here,” she says pointing out the window towards the overpass. “What you need to do is shave some time off and make it easier on yourself. What you want to do is go over and get back on the freeway. Then you want to take the next exit ramp and go right.”
Oh goodie. Back to searching for exit ramps.
Then she continues, pointing her finger South:
“Once you get there, take that right. Now I know it looks deserted, but trust me, this will get you where you need to be quicker than a dog with the squirts.”
I wanted to burst out with laughter, but I was a good girl. She really did sound like someone I could have some fun with, but I was in a hurry.
“Now, once you take that right, you’ll see miles and miles of some corn. Keep driving through all that. There’s a flashing light at an intersection about 6 miles down. Just keep driving. Don’t stop because sheriff So-and-so doesn’t like that.”
“Once you pass that place, you’ll see some more corn. Don’t worry. It’s just corn. After about 15 more miles, the road dead-ends into another road,” she continued after smacking her gum thoughtfully a few more times. “I believe you take that left. [Aside: Hank, it’s a left turn at that damn intersection, right?] So honey, once you go left, eventually you’ll see a sign showing you the freeway you want is ahead. I think that sign is still there. Should be.”
Oh gee, lady. Thanks.
And now we’re back on the road. I must say that following those directions was one of the creepiest and yet most hilarious times in my life. She was right about the corn. She was right about the intersection. She was right about the dead-end. And she was partially right about the highway marker sign being there.
We did eventually make it. As with any journey, the getting there is sometimes just as sweet and memorable about the arrival.