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How I Lost My Wife

Actually I lied in the title. Just wanted to get your attention. More correctly she was my former wife of a couple of months.

The word “former” comes into play because after a bit of a year as a married couple we determined that we were better apart and not married. Frequent quarrels abated with us as singles again, although they still popped up at times. This was one of those times.

A mutual friend in Everett had been transferred to Manassas, Virginia and needed someone to drive his car across the country - all expenses and return costs paid. The nature of my job working with the courts in Snohomish County made it possible to take some vacation time and drive the car. I asked my former wife if she would like to accompany me and she agreed.

The car was one of the first Chev hatchback coupes, where the barely functional rear seat folded down leaving a large space in the back. Large enough for an inflatable mattress (I think it was) and a poofy big Eddie Bauer sleeping bag. This was to be a no-motel no nonsense straight through drive across the nation and we would spell each other driving and sleep in the back of the car. I insisted on two rules: First, that if ever the car was left by both of us at the same time it was to be locked, second we would make no side trips.

The first kerfuffel came about in Nebraska where my companion wanted to get off the interstate and go to a museum. I was driving and despite a verbal exchange pressed on regardless. As were our natures, we lapsed into utter silence. The issue cooled down and conversation was resumed until Illinois, it may have been Moline, where I believe we agreed to get a motel. I have no idea what precipitated that battle, but it was extensive enough that she walked out of the room and took off down a dark sidewalk in a less than cozy part of town. We returned to the motel in utter silence.

We drove across Illinois, I don’t remember if this was still silent time, but when we crossed into West Virgina it certainly was. Outside Wheeling in Pennsylvania there was a Howard Johnson restaurant and rest stop. I needed coffee, it must have been around midnight or later. She was asleep in the back, but I shook the sleeping bag and asked if the wanted coffee or anything. I got an emphatic NO. Got my coffee and a danish and entering the car asked again if she wanted anything. Utter silence. What else was new.

I embarked across Pennsylvania on the Pennsy Turnpike toll road/interstate. Dark it was, and through the mountains the bottoms were fog pits where my speed was down to the 40s. Virtually no other vehicles in either direction. I am only guessing but it must have been at least two hundred miles when I turned off to the Breezewood exit to Washington DC. Barely on the ramp the red lights were blinking in the cop car behind me.

The Pennsylvania state policeman came up to the window and asked for my license, looked at it and handing it back asked if I knew why he had stopped me. I knew I was not speeding at any time so I answered that I must have a taillight out. He seemd to ignore my response and asked if I was travelling alone. “No, I’m with my wife. She’s in the back.” I’ll never forget his comeback, “Are you sure?” I reached back and shook the poofy sleeping bag, and asked “Hon, are you there.” I did not expect an answer, but neither did I expect the sleeping bag to gather in my hand.

The cop began laughing. “Mister, your wife is back at the rest area near Wheeling. They called us from there, and I’d suggest you head back. Good luck.”

Embarrassed, ashamed, pissed to the limit, it was quite an emotional cocktail. I crossed over the ‘pike and headed east again, stopping at the toll booth for the ultimate humiliation of the day. The toll taking lady said, “Oh, YOU must be the one,” and began laughing aloud. I confessed, shifted the car and she said, “Just a minute, I need the fifty cent toll.” “WHAAAT? I have to pay the toll after this?” She told me those were the rules.

I had to retrace my route, through the fog, over the hills and it was about 4 A.M. when I got to Ho-Jo’s. She was waiting inside the door. I got a welcoming hug, and she stepped back and wistfully said, “I’m sorry. I forgot to lock the car. I had to go to the bathroom.”

That melted me and I could not be angry. She told me a trucker had offered to take her as far as Pittsburgh and she had refused, knowing I would return.

Things were very fine after that. We went back, had breakfast in Hagerstown Maryland, delivered the car, visited one of my schoolmates in Virginia and did not have another fight until we were on the airplane headed home.


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