Saturday, September 16, 2006

unexpected countdown

5:15 p.m. : This week Shabbat started with an unexpected adventure I really could have done without.
I had plans to spend Shabbat in the country. I didn’t get the directions until a few minutes before I took the road but I assumed it would take about 45 min to an hour to get there. I knew Shabbat started around 7:00/7:15 and I figured leaving at 5:15 would give me sufficient time to arrive. I knew I was in a bit of a rush, but I never expected that I might not make it. Those things just don’t happen – at least not outside of Hannoch Teller books. I took the road, not anticipating the intensity of the Friday afternoon, peak-hour traffic congestion I found myself trapped in.

6:04 p.m.: Inching along the traffic, by 6:04 I was just getting on the bridge – the bridge that's barely 10 miles from my house. I was starting to get worried. I told myself I still had an hour before sunset, and I probably had another 35 minutes of driving. I’d make it, but it would be close. I did my makeup in the car; I got all my stuff ready , assuming I'd arrive at the last minute.

6:24 p.m.: Just a few miles past the bridge and still stuck in traffic. My panic was increasing exponentially. I don’t own a cell phone but thankfully my mom had convinced me to take one – just in case –. I called home, trying to sound calm and asked my dad if he thought I’d make it. I still didn’t think I wouldn’t, I just needed a little reassurance. I asked him to get onto mapquest and check exactly how far I was, and to tell me what time Shabbat started at exactly. I figured once I had facts and he’d tell me it was fine, I’d feel much better.
This is where I got the real shock.
He told me the complete trip was 76.53 miles and I was about 20.6 miles into the trip. I had approximately 56 miles left – and then he told me Shabbat started at 6:50, with the 18 minutes factored in, I had 38 minutes left.
38 minutes to drive 56 miles on a traffic jammed highway, in the middle of the country.
PANIC set in.
I felt my head spinning.. what.. do.. I .. do??? I yelled!
My dad was trying to stay calm; my mom was getting slightly hysterical in the background.
WHAT DO I DO?!!?! Will I make it?! Where do I go??
At this point he started to sound worried and told me there was no way I‘d make it. Even if I could do 56 miles in 38 minutes, there was NO way I’d make it with the traffic ahead. The car just wasn’t budging. By then I was hysterical, breaking into cold sweat, my head spinning, my mouth dry, my sense of clarity completely vanished.
Again I yelled: TELL ME WHAT TO DO, I’m really scared!!
My dad told me to just get off the highway and look for a sign back home and take it. But, even that didn’t make sense. It had taken me over an hour to drive those 20 miles; I’d never make it back home in half an hour. By then my mom grabbed the phone and just told me to get off the highway, wherever I was, and try my best to get back.

My dad is the calm, logical one, my mom is the more emotional one, but when push comes to shove, her panic transforms into faith, whereas my dad’s clear appraisal of the facts leads him to panic. She told me I’d make it, and not to worry and she’d stay on the phone with me until I did. I couldn’t think clear, I couldn’t see clear, I was just running on her faith. The fear wasn’t only not havnig where to spend shabbat, the fear was also of getting stuck all alone, in the middle of nowhere.
I took the first exit I saw and found myself driving into even more rural land. All I saw were empty fields, tractors and greenhouses.
Not a soul in sight.

6:30 p.m. : The tranquility and serenity of the sun setting on a Friday afternoon driving around farmland was in complete contradiction with the utter panic and anxiety I was feeling. My mom kept calm and just kept repeating, just look for a road out, you’ll be fine, you have time. I knew I didn’t, there was no way I had enough time, let alone time to get lost, but I had no choice but to believe her. I drove around a few more minutes and finally found myself back on the highway back home.

6:40 p.m.: Back on the road, in the right direction and only 20 miles from home; I could potentially make it...if I could fly over the traffic. At this point my mother’s faith was starting to seep in and I told myself I was out of the country, I was on my way back to city and worse case scenario, I’d leave my car and walk the 20 miles.

7:05 p.m.: I won’t hold you in suspense, thank G-d, I made it. I arrived at home a couple of minutes before shabbat started. I barely stopped the car and ran into the house.

Try explaining to someone who doesn’t keep Shabbat how excruciatingly frightening it is to be stuck too far from home, trapped on a highway, in the middle of the country, minutes before sunset on a Friday. Forget challah and wine, forget kosher food, forget good company – how does one not panic not knowing where they will sleep or remain for the next 24 hours. Do you knock at the farmer’s house and ask him to spend the night there? The farmer who’s probably never met a Jew and wont understand why you’re there? Never mind the dangers involved! Do you keep driving and break Shabbat? Do you stop the car on the highway and walk.. and walk.. and walk.. on a rural highway? It's amazing to think that something so abstract and intangible as shabbat could cause such intense emotions. The fear and anxiety I felt was SO real and so palpable, it blows my mind.

I break into a cold sweat trying to imagine what would have happened if I had kept driving, or gotten lost on the way. I honestly don’t know what I would have done. I always thought that if G-d forbid I found myself in such a situation, I would simply park the car and walk to the closest place I could spend Shabbat. I’ll be honest though, when all I could see were greenhouses, tractors, and traffic in all directions, I couldn’t imagine stopping.
I couldn’t imagine driving and I couldn’t imagine stopping.
What would you have done?


At Sunday, September 17, 2006 2:26:00 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

so glad you managed to make it home in time.
an adventure but not always one you want to have!

if i was on my own i'd be more panicky and definitely worried about stopping in the middle of nowhere or having to walk but if with someone else then it'd feel a little safer. if there was no way to get home in time, then finding some sort of accommodation would be the first thing to do, like a motel or something or even just a gas station somewhere because people who work there would be able to point you in the right direction.

but i guess a lesson learned... always leave an hour or two earlier than you think you need!

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 4:06:00 AM, Blogger Dovid said...

holy moly!
I'd walk (it's happened before), but I was in a better situation than that! Thank G-d you made it in the end.

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 1:06:00 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Wow I felt the pressure just reading your words! Thank g-d you made it back! BH I never had to experience this, I certainly would have turned back. Nothing else to do!

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 2:21:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

You had my heart racing there...
I had a similar story a few years ago on my way to Monsey..stuck in traffic not moving..cold sweat...
I just went on the shoulder and went 90 mph...the whole way....and just made it..

I've learnt my lesson though..always leave enough time for any possibilty

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 7:14:00 PM, Blogger A Chasidic Buchar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 9:10:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Scary this has happened to me, glad you made it. Very suspenseful post:).

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 9:37:00 PM, Blogger Duby said...

Thank G-D for the Mom (and Pop's)!

and... great analysis of the (ironic?) mode your parents shift into when faced with a crisis.

and.... this comment was written while under the influence of a certain e-mail received from a NOT so anony(mous) source earlier today.

At Monday, September 18, 2006 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

I've been in this situation. My brother and I had to pull over and park his car in the city and walk to brooklyn. of course I was about 15 and crying the whole time. lol It was so hot and i just wanted to be home. I know the difference between walking from manhattan and the coutry is a huge one but it was still awful!

At Monday, September 18, 2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

What a nerve-wracking experience, so glad you made it back on time.
It sort of happened to me once, I thought I'd be late for Shabbes and got home a few minutes before when I looked at the calendar and saw that I actually had another hour and two minutes.

To save myself from such panic I try to avoid driving anywhere up to two hours before Shabbes.

At Monday, September 18, 2006 12:06:00 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

Oy, that must have been sooooo nervewracking. If I'd been in that situation I probably would have called my rabbi and asked him what I should do...but I hope I never have to.

At Monday, September 18, 2006 1:46:00 PM, Blogger Nemo said...

I assume that you're not from the Upper West side... cause I can't imagine farms within twenty miles of the GWB.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 1:20:00 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I know the feeling.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 8:44:00 AM, Blogger Jez said...

I am not frum about this but I recall you have an hour (a Shabbos hour, say 45 mins) to finish your journey. If after an hour there is danger in stopping you have as long as it takes to get somewhere safe, although that is not necessarily your original destination.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 9:04:00 AM, Blogger Miri said...

my Mom works downtown, a good fifteen to twenty miles from our house, and she never leves work on time. it's pretty regular and almost expected for her to walk in the door ten minutes before Shabbat starts. and it has happened on several occasions that she's had to park, leave her car somewhere and walk. of course, it was all along lighted and mostly busy streets, so it wasn't as dangerous as a deserted country road...but yeah, sometimes it happens.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

lighting candles on the dashboard is a bad idea

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

Jez what my family keeps is 18 minutes not 45 or an hour.

I just had to leave another comment on this post to stick my tongue out an anony :P. What's the typing of a sound for sticking your tounge out anyway? Would it be something like "pdddddddddd"?

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 5:12:00 PM, Blogger Chasidishe Shaigitz said...

Sounds like quite a story, not one which I'd like to be in however, I'd probably start driving to the best of my NY driving abilities (which is something I try not to do to often as it upsets many people, especially those country people) and pray there are no cops along the road...

Reminds me of a story 2 years ago erev Yum Kippur we took a drive up to a shliach to help out for YK, and what should have been a 2 hour drive must have taken around 6 hours! Even worse was that we left pretty late in the day… then we got stuck in terrible traffic and all I remember thinking was My G-d there is no way I'm going to start Yum Kippur without having the meal first... B"h we made it there on time (within the 28 minutes ;) I’m telling you, you have never seen food disappear so fast, think about it 5 guys charging into the shliachs house with only minutes/seconds to spare, and practically wolfing down the entire table, table legs included.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Erica said...

That was the most unbelievably riveting story ... my heart was pounding, my goodness!

Like many of your commenters, I also had a similar experience, my very first time in Monsey ...

I had just taken the Monsey bus from Borough Park for a Shabbaton and had NO IDEA how I would get to my host family's house from where I was in the little time I had to spare before Shabbos, and a nice girl - total stranger, I might add - from the bus did a mitzvah and ot her sister to drive me to where I needed to go.

I think when Hashem pulls the strings, there's always bound to be a fruitful ending ... somehow I think deep down we always know things work out for the best, and maybe He gives us these challenges to keep us on our toes.

Who knows?

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 11:42:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

there was no motel or gas station anywhere in the vicinity, and the more I think about it and the more I realize I was so scared cuz I was alone, if I had been with someone else im sure we would have figured something out, but being stuck all alone was really scary.

id walk too.. if I had any idea where to walk to :)

the scary thing was that even turning back didn’t seem like an option at one glad I did tho!

I actually thought of doing something like that but I kept thinking if I get stopped by the police then im forsure never gonna make it out of here!

socialworker/frustrated mom
I tried to write it in a way to express the fear and suspense I felt.. glad it came across.

that email was sent under the influence of a certain comment received on my last post, from a not so anonymous source :)

Sara with no h:
id freak out too :) its not the walking itself, its just the thought of being stuck and feeling like this is SO not where you should be or what you should be doing..

I think im gonna have to start a similar policy, im never puttng myself in that situation again, thats for sure!

which is why I need to get myself a rabbi..
got a spare one for me? :)

I wonder what led you to make that assumption :)
and no.. im not from there..

jack's shack
apparently so do plenty of others :)

well I didn’t know this but a few poele have told me that theres some more time after the 18 minutes, and especially if youre in danger, its good to know but I hope I never need to use it!

That’s nuts.. why not just leave a half an hour earlier??

unless u got challah and wine, a blanket, and a friend to cuddle up with for the next 25 hours, I agree!

sara with no h
i think jez means in case of danger.. a few poele told me u have about 45 min longer in case u need..
and.. huh about sticking out your tongue? :)

chasidishe shaigitz
you don’t play around with YK, whats wrong with you !?

well that’s what ive always counted on.. but im not sure it’s a good idea to expect that kind of string pulling.. you never know..

At Wednesday, September 20, 2006 7:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sheesh! u had my heart racing there... its kinda like the orverb that u onyl appreciate what u got when its taken away,. doesnt fit perfectly but u get the kesher.//\\

At Wednesday, September 20, 2006 9:27:00 AM, Blogger Rafi G said...

what a story! I have no idea what I would have done. It is frightening to think about.. It should prompt you to always leave very early for any trip on erev shabbos or holiday...

At Sunday, September 24, 2006 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

quick comment the tongue comment even though it doesn't sound right typed out, was because of the ewww tongue comment on also a chussids page. lol hope you had a nice yom tov

At Monday, September 25, 2006 10:08:00 PM, Blogger trixies86 said...

some people always travel with challa grapejuice and candles on friday. the closest I ever had to this sich, I had to take my bro across town to his rebbi's house, and on the way back I was stuck in gridlock by a traffic light for half an hour. the guy in front of me wouldn't turn to cut in and the guys from the other direction kept going into the intersection. I got home about 2 minutes before licht benchen. worst case I could have walked, it would have taken me 40 minutes maybe


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