I've never really considered myself the anxious type, although since giving birth to my daughter four-and-a-half years ago, I've certainly noticed my anxiety levels increase. Someone said that motherhood is like taking your heart out of your chest and letting it run around on its own, and I can relate to that. My daughter had a serious illness just after she turned three, and that, again, increases the anxiety quotient.
So anyway, I was driving home from work yesterday when it suddenly came into my head that my husband and daughter (and my brother-in-law who is staying with us) could have been in a car accident and all died. This happens on occasion (me getting thoughts that people have died that is, not people actually dying, although I guess that happens too) and so far I've always been wrong. Nevertheless, my heart sped up and my mind started racing through all the possible scenarios, and I knew I would have no peace of mind until I got home. I have a 45-minute commute, so I have plenty of time to mull, and by the time I was about 10 minutes from home, I had actually begun writing eulogies in my head. Yes, this is what my mind does.
Three kilometres from home I rounded a corner to see a fireman standing on the side of the road, waving people to slow down, and round the next corner was a road block with an ambulance, and police officer diverting traffic off the main road. Now, you might think at this point that I would have had a meltdown/nervous fit/etc, but instead I went completely calm. It was almost as if the world went silent and stopped. I followed the line of cars turning onto the small side road, pulled over into a bay when I could, and phoned home. Thankfully, Simon answered, and everyone was ok. I've never been so happy to be wrong!
I pulled back onto the road, and, potential crisis number one over, now realised there was potential crisis number two. The place we live is on the coast, and there's really only one way in and out. So, the diversion we were being sent on was significant.
The black line is the normal route - about 3 kms. The red line is the diversion - about 22kms of windy, dusty, dirt road (what we call 'metal roads' in New Zealand).
I've only had my car for three weeks, so I'm not yet totally familiar with how it handles, and, more importantly, how much petrol it has when the needle is on empty. Which it was. Yikes. I figured I'd go for it - the warning light hadn't come on yet so I was (almost) sure I would make it and it would add another 15 minutes onto an already extended journey if I were to go back to the last petrol stop. "Sure" is relative though, and the further we got along the road into the wilderness, the less sure I felt. I turned off the aircon to save a bit of fuel, but it was hot and muggy so I put the windows down a bit instead. With the dry weather we've had, and the unaccustomed heavy traffic on the dirt roads, the air both inside and outside of my car was soon thick with dust. I was trying to use my windscreen wash sparingly too, as I wasn't sure how much of that I had left either, but the early evening light streaming through the dust clouds formed practically opaque walls along and across the road and I could barely see a thing.
It felt a bit like "The Hunger Games" for a while as cars began falling by the wayside - overheated engines, shredded tires, cars just not coping with the conditions. There were very few places to pull off the road, so I was keeping everything crossed that my car wouldn't suddenly shudder to a halt. The petrol light hadn't even come on yet, but as I had never seen it come on I started to wonder whether the light actually worked at all. The further we got, the more the traffic increased in both directions, and these roads are really only wide enough for one.
After what seemed like an hour at least, we came to a road sign - 10kms to go. My petrol light still hadn't come on, and I calmed down a little, almost certain that if the light did come on, I would surely make it 10kms. That was possibly the longest 10kms I've ever driven, and the relief I felt when we emerged onto tarsealed road, at the top of a hill I recognised was definitely palpable. We limped back into civilisation, a rag-tag line of brown-coated beetles. I felt a sense of collegiality with my fellow survivors and was almost sad when we started peeling away to our different destinations.
My heart ached a little for those cars just embarking on their dusty journey, but the crash was severe enough that the road was closed for several hours and I imagine many people had no choice.
I arrived home forty minutes later than usual, hot, dusty and heart sore with imagined tragedies. A cold glass of crisp white wine has never tasted so good.