by Judith Allen
An adventure where one question defused the tension and saved the day.
If you are ever stuck in a hot car where the occupants of the backseat are two kids, who had to get up early and didn't really want to be there, sitting in bumper-to bumper traffic that is not moving an inch, and your exit is so close your tires are almost touching it you can understand the old cliche "you could cut the tension with a knife" It was probably a good thing none of us had any sharp objects that day.
It really seemed like a good idea. We had watched the race on television every year. Never missed it as a matter of fact. Wouldn't it be wonderful to take the girls to one of the iconic American events - the Indianapolis Five Hundred. The planning was fun. But, as so often happens the reality didn't quite stay on script. The morning started out well. It was a beautiful day and Indianapolis was an easy drive. We started early, knowing we would run into traffic but feeling sure it would just be a brief delay and we could easily find a place to park and have some time before the races to look around and maybe go to the museum and see some of the older race cars. After all, we had been to big events before. How much different could it be than an afternoon Ohio State football game at the 'shoe?
The girls were in fairly good spirits as we approached the city. It was all very exciting. They really were anticipating being part of it all. Or so we thought. There was a perceivable change of atmosphere in the car, a grumbling which threatened to build to a crescendo as we approached the city exits and the traffic became heavier and slower. My husband was trying to stay in the right lane for the Speedway exit, I was trying to placate the backseat with snacks, and the natives were becoming increasingly restless. The air conditioning began acting up, as in threatening a major shut down at any moment and open windows and moon-roof only let in hot air, but at least it was moving. The backseat was wilting and suffocating and dying of thirst and in spite of dry throats being very vocal about it.
To everybody's credit, there were no extreme outbursts. The driver stayed calm in the face of threatened mutiny from the backseat. The older daughter was declaring adamantly that she could get there on foot before any car moved. She would get out and walk and take her sister with her. Younger sister was almost in tears because she didn't want to walk and she didn't want to stay in the car either. Since we were at a dead standstill we were tempted to open the doors and say " see you all later".
Then a miracle happened. We became aware of gestures and attempts to get our attention from the car next to us. My husband thought they were trying to jump the line and get in front of us, and although he is an extremely polite person this did not sit well with him that particular day. But as we looked over we saw four rather frantic looking ladies obviously in dire need of assistance. They had lowered their windows and since ours were already lowered because of the cranky air conditioning we could hear that they were trying to ask us a question. The backseat became quiet as any distraction was welcome . Then the words were yelled in desperation. "Do you know how to find Nordstom's ?" And "what's going on? Is there a bad wreck somewhere?" After reassuring them that there was no wreck, and Nordstroms was miles behind us, and you are definitely in the wrong lane, and no, we don't know where you can turn around, we noticed emanating from the backseat was a giggle and then a suppressed laugh, followed by almost hysterical bursts of laughter that built and permeated the vehicle all the way to driver and front seat navigator. The ladies in the other car quickly raised their window, evidently their car was cool, and looked straight ahead. I'm sure they wanted to get away from the four occupants of the car next to them but there was no place to go.
We finally made the Speedway exit, we eventually found a place to park, got to our seats, sat in the hot Indiana sun and watched the cars go around and around and around. We would occasionally break into a smile as we wondered if the frantic ladies ever found Nordstrom's or were they still going around and around trying to find an exit. To this day, if things began to get tense one of us would say, " where's Nordstrom's " and we all laugh.