Fear and Loathing on the Side of the Highway

I stopped entering blog posts in the middle of my trip this past November. I was overwhelmed. The Brampton entry received a lot of attention and I couldn’t emotionally keep up, but I continued to record my thoughts in a word document. I wrote this entry at a road-side motel in Napanee, Ontario.

This past week has been interesting. After my visit to Orillia and Barrie (blog posts pending) I flew to Ottawa to teach nonfiction lectures in grade 12 classrooms. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past five days. Three to four lectures a day on the ethics of nonfiction writing.

I left Ottawa on Wednesday to do a stint in Lakefield, then Kingston. My journey to Lakefield was an interesting one. A half hour outside Ottawa the median disappeared and highway 7 became a single lane highway. A half hour after that all traces of civilization disappeared. I was alone in the dead of night, bumping along a remote country highway. That’s when the snow started.

“That’s awesome,” I thought. “Budget couldn’t give me winter tires. I WOULD find myself in the middle of a blizzard.” I reduced speed, gripping the steering wheel for dear life. My GPS, Virgil, glowed like a candle against the darkness, guiding me through the storm. I named him Virgil after the character who led Dante through hell and purgatory in the book The Divine Comedy.

“In 500 meters, turn left,” he said.

“I can’t see my turnoff Virgil and I can’t see if there are cars coming in the left lane. I don’t want to turn onto another remote highway,” I protested.

I reluctantly followed Virgil’s instructions because I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t know where I was. I was going to have to trust that Virgil would deliver me safely (and quickly) to my hotel.

I had been praying for a rest stop. I needed to pee so bad my back teeth were floating. I had Virgil do a search for a gas station but he couldn’t locate anything near by. According to his calculations, all stations were at least 45 km away.

“You’re going to have to pull over and pee on the side of the highway,” I told myself as my situation became dire. “You can’t do this anymore.”

I was nervous as I pulled over to the shoulder. I needed to make sure the car was off the road but I didn’t want to get stuck in a ditch. I took my chances and it worked out. The car remained on solid ground. I flipped on my four-way flashers and opened the passenger side door to light my path into the woods.

Taking a few steps, I quickly founds myself in knee-deep snow. My feet were wet by the time I reached my destination. I didn’t venture very far in. I was in white out conditions and could barley see the car. I decided no one would see me from the highway.

I could only pull my pants down to my knees. I stomped around for a moment, trying to flatten the snow a little. I suspect I looked a little like a cat looking for the perfect place to pee in a litter box. Crouching down, my bare butt made contact with the cold snow. I jumped up for a minute, rethinking my squat. I needed to hover a little higher to avoid contact. Leaning my back against a tree for support, I adjusted my position then did a dummy check.

“Pants are out of the way? Check. Coat lifted? Check.”

I knew my stream needed to be clean and direct. My margin for error was small. I couldn’t afford to spray. My pants were too close to the scene of the crime. Baring down, I produced a solid jet. If I were in the pee Olympics the judges would have given me scores of ten.

That’s when the deer showed up. I didn’t see him at first. I was too busy concentrating on my task. As I looked around for a good toilet paper substitution I found him standing to my immediate left. He was so close I could have touched him.  I got the sense that he didn’t know I was there. He seemed to be staring at my car. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

So I did nothing.

Crouching quietly with my bare butt hovering inching above my own business in the snow, I waited for the deer to move on. He didn’t. He stayed where he was for what seemed like eternity. My legs were starting to fall asleep. The cold was creeping up my backside. I decided I couldn’t stay like that for much longer. I was going to have to do something.

So I coughed.

You’d swear I set off a bomb. Bambi began thrashing around like a lunatic. Startled, I fell arse first into my own pee puddle as Bambi ran off into the night, leaving me alone to deal with my shame.

I needed to get away from the yellow slushie I’d made. I crawled forward on my hands and knees, bare bum to the sky. My pants were filled with snow but I didn’t care. I made a snow ball and quickly used it to clean my butt cheeks.

Clearing the snow out of my pants, I pulled them up and returned to the car. I turned on the butt warmer and directed the heat to my feet to dry them. I was approximately an hour away from my destination. I was soggy but my bladder was empty so I felt better.

Ten minutes later I passed a gas station.

“There was a washroom ten minutes away and you couldn’t find it!” I screamed, ready to toss my GPS out the window. “You’re an asshole, Virgil. We’re in a fight.”