Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting Out of Dodge

We are heading down Route 85, about 50 miles north of Charlotte on the way to our overnight in Aiken, South Carolina. As is our habit when setting out on long driving trips, we left home today at the crack of noon. So instead of starting our adventure with a leisurely, scenic drive through Virginia’s wine country, we settled for four lanes of asphalt and exhaust fumes.

Almost immediately, we hit the permanent traffic backup on 95, south of D.C. This reminded me of a woman I talked to briefly at the U-Haul yesterday, where I went to have a trailer hitch for our bike rack installed on my sedan. Apparently it takes stripping a car down to the petticoats beneath its bumper to realize that a particular trailer hitch doesn’t work on a particular vehicle, which explains why we are driving to Florida with bike helmets and no bikes.

But standing there in that U-Haul store gave me the chance to hear this rather frantic woman say, when I inquired as to her plans, that they were “getting away from this!” Confused, I looked around the shop and said “From this?” She said, “Yes, from all of it!” I began to understand that she was talking about more than the U-Haul store, so I offered, “From the…traffic?” “From this whole place! The whole area! We’re getting out!” She was so agitated that I started to wonder if maybe another 9/11 had happened while I was sneaking free coffee at the Hampton Inn across the street.

Turns out her husband had been laid off from his government contracting job recently and, while driving through Florida (I don’t know why he was driving through Florida), noticed a large house on a large lot with a large swimming pool just outside of Orlando. It was for rent at $1800 a month – about half of his monthly pension from his 30 years with the federal government. He called her and asked if she’d like to move to Florida. She said, “Well, this is kind of sudden, isn’t it?” She didn’t tell me what he said next, but it must have been convincing because they decided to pack up and move…in two weeks. In two weeks, she’d put her house on the market, organized a massive garage sale, and, now, rented a 26 foot truck, trailer and car carrier for the one-way trip.

She yelled over her shoulder to the U-Haul clerk, “I’ll take all of these!,” pointing to a big pile of boxes and tape and packing peanuts. She paid and she left.

So, a few days from now, a nutty woman and her impulsive husband will be driving right by here with all their worldly goods (or what’s left after the garage sale), on their way to a brand new life in the warm, green, no-state-income-tax town of Ocoee, Florida. She’s my hero.

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