July 1, 2005
My Eventful Drive
Hatchling and I drove back from Little Rock yesterday. When we left the Rock, I intended to get cheap gas at Sam's. However, due to driver error, I managed to get myself into gridlock traffic and decided that Alma, 45- minutes from home, would be a good place to fill up and stretch our legs. Sounds like a reasonable plan, doesn't it?

Along the way, I stopped at Russelville to use the restroom and get some Arby's, but I didn't get gas because I still thought Alma would be a better place to do so. I don't know why, other than to say that I HATE buying gas (to the point that I usually contrive for my husband to be driving my car when it needs to be filled up, and he graciously takes care of it for me).

As I neared Alma, the little orange stick that points to how much gas is actually in your tank was dangerously close to the 'E'. I pulled off of the interstate and headed to a station that, though they had no price posted for their gas, must have been having a good deal because there were cars EVERYWHERE in their parking lot. As I eased out onto the highway I noticed that people seemed to have forgotten how to drive in Alma. They were all going about 10 MPH (I kid you not) and stopping to let people pull out, regardless of how much traffic they might be backing up in doing so. Weird, I muttered as I whipped up to the tanks.

That's when I saw the plastic bags on the ends of the hoses, and the boards on the windows, and the creepy guys hanging out in the garage portion of the gas station. Apparently, this was no gas station at all. This was the meth lab supplying all of the I-40 drug busts I hear about on the news every night.

Smiling sheepishly, I checked to see that my doors were locked and cruised out of the meth lab and across the street to the REAL gas station, which had no cars at its pumps. I got out, put my card in the reader, and waited for something happen. Nothing. I pushed 'pay inside', removed the nozzle, and waited for something to happen. NOTHING.

Looking around in bewilderment, I saw a man gesticulating wildly from inside the station. Looking around to be certain those gesticulations were aimed at me, I started towards him. We met half way across the lot, which was when he told me, a bit wildly, that the whole town was experiencing a power outage. Fabulous.

I got back in my car, whispered a prayer that we would make it to Mountainburg, turned off the air, and got back on the highway. Have you driven in 100 degree heat recently with your windows up (because the noise makes the baby cry) and just the vents on? It is much like what I imagine being in a convection oven would be like. MISERABLE.

As the gas gauge continued descending, I took the exit for Mountainburg and pulled into the BP. No lights. Bad. Very bad. I went into the station, full of locals missing an extraordinary amount of teeth, and asked the lady behind the counter if they knew when the power would be restored. Before she could open her mouth to answer, a man we will call Billy Bob turned to me with an earnest face and said, "Power's out in half of Arkansas. Don't know why. Don't know when it's comin back on. Could be the War of the Worlds."

REALLY? I stared at Billy in fascination, unsure of a response, while several of the other patrons loudly voiced their opinions that if, indeed, this was NOT an alien invasion, it was at the very least the beginning of the tribulation. They were sure that somewhere in the Bible it mentions no one being able to get gas and people everywhere being stranded in small towns with creepy locals. Uh- huh... that's what my Bible says too...

I decided to take a chance and got back on the road, this time really praying. Given my options, I thought Hatchling and I would stand a better chance on the side of the interstate than this small town. God was merciful, and we made it to West Fork without incident. As I was filling up my car, a girl from Texas who pulled in beside me said, "Did you stop at the last town? Those people were talking about how to protect themselves from some alien invasion. I wasn't sure I could make it to the next town, but I was too scared to stay there!"

My feelings exactly.