Life is hard.
Especially when you have an overactive imagination.
What should be a routine thing quickly devolves into an epic mental adventure when your crazy brain kicks into overdrive.
For instance: a recent trip to Flagstaff.
On paper, for a normal person, this is 4 hours and roughly 265 uneventful miles that call for little more than a stop for gas and maybe one or two stops to pee.
I packed two wool blankets, gloves, six packets of disposable toe warmers, lots of snacks, extra water, a flashlight, a red bag in case we got stuck in snow and needed to be visible to emergency personnel and … a flame thrower. Because I’m not just envisioning a scenario in which the Subaru slides off the road and gets stuck but one where it slides off the road, gets stuck in a snowbank and zombies attack (thanks, “The Last of Us”).
I was at DEFCON 1.7 because No. 1 texted us last week as she was getting ready for her normal 17-minute commute home from Beaverton, Ore., to Portland amid a winter storm warning.
It took her almost six hours. SIX HOURS. AND she had to pee. Trees toppled onto the interstate, cars skidded off roads, it was snowmageddon. Luckily, she wasn’t too freaked out because she had a ton of friends also hunkered down on the highway whom she was in contact with, well, except for one who’d gotten stuck down a hill and then went radio silent. He popped up on the text thread hours later with a photo of snow piled high on his head after he’d run the 6 miles home with 20 percent battery left on his cell phone.
All this — plus the latest episode of “The Last of Us” — was fresh on my mind as I packed the car for our college visit to Northern Arizona University. The day we were headed out appeared to be clear, but we’d be racing a winter storm on the way back.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” No. 3 said, confidently. “If push comes to shove, I can push the car. I’m pretty strong.”
No doubt he was flexing his biceps beneath his fleecy Nike hoodie when he said that.
It was warm and sunny until about half an hour outside Flag, when drifts of white appeared all around us, and crazy people were zooming through them.
“Look at that! Jet skis for snow!”
What can I say? I mostly grew up in the desert. I couldn’t even think what to call them.
“Uh, I think those are snowmobiles. Is that right? That sounds wrong,” said No. 3, who’s never lived anywhere but the desert. “I’m going to Google it. Yup, snowmobiles.”
While I’d spent a fair amount of time investigating what to do if your car skids on ice and how to use your floor mats for traction should you happen to get stuck in the snow, I failed to look up how to actually walk around safely and gracefully in icy conditions. After I slipped (OK and maybe screamed just a wee bit) 30 seconds into our campus tour, our student ambassador informed us he had to call his supervisor if anyone wiped out. I felt very betrayed by Sorel, maker of the snow sneaker-boot hybrids I was wearing.
As soon as our two-hour, 30-degree visit was over, No. 3 plopped into the front seat, turned on the seat heaters and cranked the temperature to 80. He kept it there for a good couple hours.
So, you can imagine his delight when he woke up Thursday morning and looked out our back door at this:
“Oh my God,” he said. “It’s back.”
But thankfully, still no sign of zombies. Phew.