Dec 12, 2013

Spring Break 1995

12/12/2013 — cori

Yep, that's us....a really, really, really long time ago.  We were just optimistic college kids ready to find our place in the world, looking forward to finally getting married and finding 'real' jobs.  We only had one more Spring Break to go before graduation.  Originally, we both thought we would have to work over Spring Break so we didn't make any plans.  However, we found out late that our on-campus jobs would be closing that week leaving us jobless.  Since we had no money and nowhere else to go, going home sounded like a good idea.  We thought we'd surprise my parents since they weren't expecting us.

Boy, did we ever surprise them.

I even made some banana bread to bring home with me as a gift for my parents.  It was fresh out of the oven when we left.  The smell of it wafting through the car made us hungry.  School was only a 3 1/2 hour drive from home.  We'd made this drive no less than a thousand times over the past 4 years.  We knew each small town we passed through like the back of our hand.

For those that don't know, Chuck and I both went to a small school in Nacogdoches called Stephen F. Austin State University.  We lovingly referred to it as 'Naca-no-where'.  We were in deep east Texas, the heart of the Piney Woods, good ol' boys and red clay dirt.  Lots of red necks lived that deep out in the woods.  We, being the studious college kids we were and the non-horse riding variety of Texan, did not consider ourselves 'rednecks'.  You could spot a redneck a mile away though...they usually wore overalls or wranglers, a cowboy hat or ball cap, a dirty white t-shirt and cowboy boots and a big buckle and spoke with a big drawl and twang.  We were surrounded by these types of people in our little hick-ville college town.

So there we were driving through the back roads of deep east Texas eagerly awaiting our one last reprieve from school before finally diving into the 'real world'.  We are about an hour and a half into our drive when the car makes a weird noise.  Uh-oh.  Not only does it make a weird noise, the gas pedal no longer works, nothing seems to work.  We just coast it over to the side of the highway until it stops.  We try the ignition...nothing.  Not good.  We are literally in the middle of nowhere.  The local people called that area the town of Jacksonville.  We still call it nowhere.   To be precise, we are actually 2 miles outside of nowhere.

Remember, these are the days prior to everyone and their dog having cell phones.  We had no way to reach my parents to tell them we had a teeny tiny problem with the car.  They had no idea we were even on our way home, nonetheless stranded on a remote highway 2 miles outside of town.  But being that we are optimistic about life and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, we start out walking in hopes of finding someone who can help us.

Not too far down the highway, set way back in the woods, we see a dirt path that looks like it could be a road.  We naively start walking down it.  The house (actually trailer) was set maybe 200 yards back. This was going to be a long walk.  As we neared the trailer we saw multiple skeletons hanging in the trees and amongst the fence post.  There were fish carcasses and heads, squirrel skeletons, maybe even a deer or two.  This was getting creepier and creepier the farther away from the main road we got.  We weren't really too anxious about all the dead things lining our path because we were too busy rehearsing what we were going to say once we got there.

At the end of the path, in front of the trailer and amongst the broken down pick-up truck littered front yard, lied a couple of card tables with many men sitting around them doing who knows what.  They were of the hick variety mentioned earlier.  They just stared at us.  Our two worlds don't often collide and when they do neither of us know exactly how to act around the other.  To say it was awkward would be an understatement.  But at least it wasn't dark out - yet.  Everything seems worse in the dark.

I don't remember whether it was Chuck or I that spoke up first, but we ended up saying something to the effect of, "Um...our car broke down back there and we were wondering if we could borrow your phone to get help."  One of the men motions towards the beat up trailer and tells us the phone is in there.  We both go in.  There is a lady barefoot and pregnant - no kidding - with the dirtiest little kid you've ever seen sitting in a high chair and a huge cauldron of something boiling on the filthy stove. Maybe she was cooking all the meat off those carcasses we saw hanging in the trees earlier.

I am able to reach my Dad and tell him we have a problem.  "Hi.  Surprise, we're on our way home to see you only our car broke down and now we don't know what to do."  I can't remember what the exact exchange of our conversation was but I know it had something to do with him encouraging us to try to get into town and they would come get us as soon as they could.  Unfortunately this was a bad day for car problems.  My Dad had just finished 18 months of taking college courses at night to finish up his degree and this just happened to be the day of his cumulative final exam.  The exam was supposed to take 3 hours.  He finished it in an hour and a half.

We come out of the trailer and one of the men offers us a ride into town.  How nice.  If only you could have seen him.  It would be akin to taking a ride with a serial killer.  These people were scary looking. We had no reason to trust them but we did.  Honestly, the only thing I can think of the whole time we're in the back of his car is "I hope my banana bread doesn't go bad." not "I sure hope he doesn't try to kill us or take us to an abandoned house somewhere."  See you should never judge a book by it's cover because he did in fact take us into town and dropped us off right in front of Walmart.  We were lucky (to be alive).

As we were walking into Walmart I happened to see a sign that said, "No Loitering" so of course I was paranoid we'd somehow get in trouble for staying in Walmart too long.  We roamed the aisles as long as humanly possible and then went out front to use the pay phone to call Mom and find out how much longer.  She said that Dad just left to go take his test and that it could be another 4 hours or more before they can come get us.

Finding a hotel was not an option for us.  We had no money.  We didn't know what to do.  And the last thing I wanted to do was get thrown in jail for loitering all over town.  Mom suggested we call the local police and ask them if they could give us a ride to their station and we could wait there.  At the time it sounded logical but as I'm calling and asking them to come get me it sounded all wrong.

Alas, a uniformed officer pulled up in his squad car.  There we are sitting on a bench in front of Walmart in Nowhere looking like two old people or two mental hospital escapees because we have nothing better to do that just sit and wait and smile at people, all while I have perfectly good banana bread we could be eating back at the car.  As the policeman walks up he radios into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder, "Affirmative, two caucasians in custody, one male, one female.  En route."

"Oh my gosh!!" I think to myself.  Did we ask to be arrested?  Is that what's happening?  I know we're novices in the 'real world' still but I didn't think that by calling them and asking for a ride you would be taken to jail!  As we are sitting in the back seat, we are answering questions from the officer behind the barred section that separates his part of the car from ours.  I feel like I did something wrong by just sitting in the back of the squad car.

Thank God he didn't book us.  He led us into the 8 x 10 waiting room and told us to "sit there".  It was the ugliest, smallest, darkest paneled room I've ever been in.  And we were there for over 4 hours. Waiting.  If one is going to loiter anywhere I guess the police station is the safest place to be.  I was half asleep sitting up in the 60's style chair they had adorning the miniscule place we took refuge in by time Mom and Dad finally pulled up.  Were we ever relieved to see them!

They drove us back to Nacogdoches where we all dispersed to our apartments and slept fitfully until early the next morning when we headed back out to Jacksonville to find a mechanic to tow and fix the car. Then we pressed on for the drive back to Dallas and spent the rest of the weekend sleeping.   We were at the mercy of my parents driving us around town on our last Spring Break because my car is now in a shop in the middle of nowhere.

Not the way most young adults spend Spring Break, is it?

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