Stranded – My Road Trip With Complete Strangers

I sure wish I had a proper photo of this one, but I was already pressing my luck.

After a full day of travel that wrapped up a whirlwind adventure through western Colorado, I was keen to get home. For as much I love being on the road, there’s something to be said for being homeward bound.  Do you ever get that feeling?  Not homesick, just that relentless need to get there, regardless of good sense. I think it’s the tea – it’s nearly impossible to get a proper cuppa while you’re on the road.  There is simply nothing more satisfying after a long trip (or a trip around the corner…)

So it could be understood, that after nearly 12 hours of travel with the end in sight and the tea twitches firmly in place, I was horrified to learn that my final flight from Cleveland to Buffalo was cancelled due to weather.  And I get it – I’m not an easy flyer, so if the pros don’t want to take a metal box up into the sky while there’s a light show going on up there, who am I to argue? But still, a night sleeping on an airport floor with oodles of other stranded passengers had very little appeal. I stood in a giant line up of frustrated fellow travelers as we waited to hear our Plan B  from the airline folks. I could hear snippets of doom. “You’ll have to find your own accommodation.” “We can’t get you on another flight until tomorrow night.”  “Nothing is flying out tonight.” “I don’t know.”

Suddenly another voice was heard above the crowd of murmured complaints – offering a solution. “Hey, is anyone going to Buffalo? I just Googled it, it’s only a 3 hour drive from here!” This guy was rounding up other cast offs who also seemed to be solution oriented. The collection of men, all strangers at this point, chatted about it and agreed that they were up for a road trip.

I saw my chance. Normally when I need something, I am deeply ashamed to admit, I have been known to bat my eyelashes, shrug up my right shoulder and look helpless. Maybe even show a little cleavage. I know. I’m sorry.  I am a strong, independent, capable woman, but sometimes it’s just easier this way. However, I had been roaming through rocky desert canyons for days, I looked rather dilapidated – trying to be cute would likely just frighten them off.  Besides, sometimes it’s best to look like you’ve got your shit together. Or at least fake it really well. So, I pulled up my big girl pants and dove into the conversation.

“Are you guys driving to Buffalo? Any chance I could get in on that?” I think they took pity on me, all scruffy and bedraggled, and agreed to make room.   The posse of road trippers vanished into the night, aiming for the rental car area.  Being a girl who hasn’t mastered packing lightly,  I had a checked bag buried somewhere in the belly of the airport that I needed to find first.  I took my chances, abandoned the giant line up, and chased down a woman who just wrapped her shift behind the counter. I stalked her until she told me where to go – thankfully in a very nice way. I descended into the dungeons of the airport, pestered people in polyester until someone rescued my pack from a mystery room. I was now lost somewhere the Cleveland airport madly needing to find a bunch of strangers so I could ride off into the night with them. It made total sense.

A word about communications – WiFi at  Cleveland Airport completely sucks. This was my 7th airport in about 4 days, and I only had a glimpse of their free WiFi, as if only to mock me. Brian, the ringleader, and I had swapped contact info but it would be useless without precious WiFi. Of course, the sensible thing would be to treat my iPhone like a normal phone, but I have only heard nightmares of ginormous bills for those silly souls who dared to turn their phone on while outside of Canada. And, logic wasn’t my specialty at this point. My tea situation was getting desperate. Withdrawal symptoms mess with things like good sense and personal safety. I scurried out of the airport following the signs for the rental cars, clambered onto a shuttle bus and said a hopeful prayer – that I would find these guys, and that they wouldn’t leave me in a shallow grave somewhere.

And this is where it begins – the absolute kindness of strangers that fills me up while I wander about this planet. It enforces my belief that at the core, we are all good people and given the opportunity to lend a hand, the vast majority of us will jump in.  I begged a kind soul to text Brian for me. He and Brian swapped messages until Brian realized that it’s handy to actually have a real conversation sometimes. The kind soul handed the phone to me and Brian explained he was already loading up the rental car but if I promised to be bunny quick, I could still tag along.

I was let off the shuttle first, people made way for the madwoman as I dashed off into the night. Brian had lost much of his posse along the way, now it was just him and one other guy.  Yep, me, alone in a dimly lit parking lot, late at night in a city I’ve never been to, with a couple of complete strangers.  This was the one time I’ve wandered off without my trusty knife/bear spray combo. Not so clever. But, there was simply no time for this “logic” thing that I have heard rumours of; that little nagging part of my brain (which I suspect is the collective psyche of my friends and family who lecture me regularly about personal safety) simply didn’t have a chance to speak up until we were well on our way.

In the end, it worked out wonderfully. We swapped stories about our travels, family challenges, our destinations. Chris was visiting a lady who he described as “a ray of sunlight entering the room”. Brian was sneaking home to surprise his dad on his 60th birthday. I simply needed a good cup of tea.  The three and a half hour drive was full of chatter, football talk, and country tunes. Far better than screaming babies on a plane.

So – I don’t necessarily recommend wandering off with strange men in the darkness of night. (If only to avoid the endless lectures I’ve received since my return.) However, I do recommend taking a chance sometimes, to trust the decency in people rather than leading with mistrust, speculation and fear.  But the absolute most important thing to carry with you at all times is your spidey sense. Listen to that little voice inside that says either “Sure, go for it,” or “Get the hell out of here. Right now.” It hasn’t led me astray yet. I simply felt like this was going to be ok, and who am I to mess with my instincts?

All the same, my mom is going to kick my ass if she finds out…

How about you, have you lucked out trusting complete strangers?



2 Responses

  1. Chris
    | Reply

    Glad you made it ok 🙂

    • Michelle Holmes
      | Reply

      Thanks! People have been lecturing me endlessly, but I’m glad I went for it. Hey is this Chris our driver?

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