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by Yemel
Rated: E · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2157051
Entry for prompt "Things are sweeter when they're lost" -

“Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone?
Pave Paradise, put up a parking lot.”

I sang along with Joni as I neared my turnoff, returning home from a February visit with my family. Unpaid days off are not my favorite, but the opportunity to spend more time with family is a treat. I am lucky that way, I realize.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” yet I was feeling pretty content, somewhat blissful even, as if I’d enjoyed a substantial and nourishing meal - which I had, in fact, literally and figuratively, as my sister-in-law’s cooking is delicious, and my visit with family for the February break had filled my homesick pores and enveloped me in the warmth of familiar and (mostly) accepting peeps.

One medium coffee and several water bottles had also been enjoyed while driving, and were announcing their predictable consequences; I’d timed the consumption well enough, however, to be reasonably compatible with the known rest stops along 287 through New York, and began keeping an eye out for my favorite. Set along the shoulder of a road weaving through green hills (now more brown, tinged here and there with white), it amused me – how often does one see a multi-level parking garage at a rest stop along the Interstate? In my experience, only when travelling this particular portion of this particular route. (“I love New York...” I do not, actually, but I make several exceptions, and this is one of them.) A faint thought might have occasionally visited me, along the lines of hoping this project was legit and not a rip-off for the taxpayers – I had never even explored the upper level of the garage, and pretty much only assumed it actually existed; the lower level met my needs, as the expressions goes, being sheltered, convenient to the necessary facilities, and capacious enough to accommodate my every trip thus far.

Drive through to park facing outward, to avoid necessity of backing up; lock the doors; in through the front doors; up the escalator (yes, escalator; if I seem a rube, amused at these seeming extravagances, then I am just glad yet again that I do not live in a heavily populated area – although, honestly, this area does not seem heavily populated either. I cannot say one way or the other what kind of traffic it receives in “normal” hours, since I usually try to avoid any likely peak hours – so who knows, maybe there is more traffic passing through here than I know); and into the clean multi-stalled restrooms to attend to business. Exit that unsung but most appreciated amenity; down the escalator (my least favorite part, possibly slightly worse than elevators, ever since the single experience, on new medication and attending an out-of-town conference, of a bit of vertigo on the escalator there. Ever since, I’ve never been 100% confident of my footing getting on and off the moving stairs); out the doors; over to the car; unlock the doors; put the jacket back on; start the car; clean the windshield. Smear. What’s that? Bummer. Squirt. Wipe again (the windshield, the windshield!). Windshield cleaned, I start to leave – but the windshield clouds over again. A snowstorm was imminent, per forecasts, and road salt was smearing my windows. A few more squirts from dispenser, a few more passes of the wiper blades, and I put the car in gear and drive off.

Less than 5 minutes later, the windshield was scrummed up again. Not good. Looks like deferred wiper blade replacement had caught up to me. Dangerous. Not too many options at this point, so I proceeded cautiously, depleting my windshield fluid all the way. Closer to home, I stopped at an auto store, and bought replacement blades to install at next daylit opportunity, additional windshield fluid, for which I could see well enough to add to under-hood reservoir, then a jug of water to pour over the headlight lenses to rinse off accumulated road salt. Having improved visibility as best I could, I continued the last 20 miles until safely in my driveway. Huge sigh of relief.

Next morning, warming up the car, I glanced at the heating controls, which were right where I had left them before my pit stop – heating my feet and hands. Readjusting it now to defrost window, it clicked – last evening’s salt scrum had actually been frozen windshield fluid, frequently and faithfully refreshed and refreezing en route. Had I adjusted the heater then, and not just now, I could have had as clear a view during my last few hours as I’d had before letting the interior cool down.

“If I only - had a brain…”

“Things are sweeter when they’re lost.”



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