so chad and i decide saturday is a lovely day for a lovely drive in the lovely country, and we hop in the jeep and take off down lucas valley road, a twisty-turny creature that wombles through redwoods and farmland and residential neighborhoods in turns. it’s gorgeous. we are having a good time, i think.
and then chad makes a sudden left turn.
well, it wasn’t really that sudden. he did signal and come to a stop first. and announce, “i want to go down this road.”
and this is where it all goes horrifyingly wrong.
we bump off the nice, paved road and onto something muddily and deeply routed into the earth in huge bigfoot-tired tracks. of course i start screaming my head off; i always scream my head off in the face of death. (i tell chad later that i refuse to die with dignity.) chad, ears filled with my siren-pitched alarm, slows down.
and thus, we get stuck.
we’re not talking “a little stuck” – which i have been many, many times, having grown up in the snow belt that is northwestern pennsylvania. no, this was something so much worse. it was the kind of stuck that makes only two wheels spin at all, and those wheels are spinning in chasms of wet mud. we sit crazily askew and i keep asking if we are going to tip over.
we do not tip over. we do, however, start laughing. and soon after that the berating starts, good-natured berating of course.
after a while of pushing, pulling, jumping onto, shaking, forwarding and reversing, neutraling, laughing and berating, we decide to call our friend j.d. to come haul us out of the goddamn mud already. he obliges, as he lives just down the road and has a largish toyota trucklike entity, but he has no chains. so the two of them go off to buy chains and i lock all the doors and sit and wait.
two minutes after they leave, the largest, brightest-white dualie i have ever seen pulls up onto the mud track of doom from the opposite direction. it obviously has no problem with the “road” – its wheels are bigger than our jeep. a middle-aged, well-coiffed man hops out and jauntily approaches the jeep. i roll my window down only a little and eye him warily. a twelve-year old boy sits in the front seat, baseball capped, looking cheerful. i eye him warily too, for good measure.
“want me to pull you out?” the man smiles. dental work, i see, and lots of it. i also note his billion-dollar sunglasses and slight affectation to his speech. i am confused. my brain is flipping through the stereotype flashcards madly, trying to figure out which Type this person is. he is wearing a “sports illustrated” sweatshirt. he looks like he has never seen a spot of mud in his life.
i stare. “my husband and our friend are coming back with chains,” i offer.
“honey, i’ve done this a thousand times,” he replies, and starts to head back to the dualie.
i have a few moments of “this is the part where he gets the chloroform out of his glove compartment and kidnaps me and i am never heard from again and chad spends the rest of his life wreaking vengeance for my disappearance” but i don’t have time to escape anyway so i sit there and watch the man attach a length of chain that is thicker than my head to the front of the jeep and to the front of his truck.
wondering what the hell is supposed to happen next, since i’ve only ever dealt with stuck things with a snow-shovel and cat litter, i chirp, “i’ve, uh, never done this before!”
“that’s okay. you don’t have to do anything. just make sure it’s in neutral and the parking brake is off.”
i look. check, and check. “okay!”
“are you sure?”
“yes, i’m sure!”
“all right. sit tight, then.” he climbs back into the dualie and tries to back out. it doesn’t do much. we both sit there. a few seconds later, he does something from the interior of his immense vehicle and all of a sudden the jeep springs to life like a puppy waking up from a nap, hey there what’s going on i was just sleeping is it time to play what’s with the big truck and all the mud ooo let’s play in the mud this is fun where are we going?
i, of course, start screaming again. and hanging on for dear life. (i never said i was brave. in fact, for the record, i am a total fucking wimp.) part of me is having a good time, the part that forgets i am mortal and that these jeep things flip over and stuff. thanks, dad, for implanting that paranoia in my subconscious!
anyway, it is all over in just a few seconds more, and the man is removing the chains and suspiciously not suffocating me and dragging me off into the woods, and he’s even offering to wait until i drive the jeep the rest of the way out of the muddy parts and when the hell did human beings get so nice? when i wasn’t looking? i thought we were all about “survivor” and crap like that. ah well. nice it is, then.
i very carefully navigate the jeep out of the mud, park it, wave to the good samaritan and his son/nephew/young friend, and wait for chad and j.d. to get back with chains. a few minutes later, they pull up and the expression on their faces is so priceless i can’t help but smile lazily from the driver’s seat and say, “never let a man do a woman’s job.”
ah, if only. instead, i come clean. but i have that brief moment of imagining how cool it would have been if i had driven through all that mud and crap myself, and made it through without getting stuck, or if i had unstuck it once it became stuck, how empowering that must feel.
chad tells the story later to chris. the muddy off-road road becomes “the hole” and chad says things like “i will not be beaten by the hole” and vows to return to try it again. is it pride or testosterone or something altogether dorkier that makes me add, “not without me you won’t.”
we shall meet again, mister hole, in a place without knights in shining dualies. and this time, it’s personal.