"Mrs. Sherman, I really can't talk to you right now," I said urgently into my cell phone.
"Was it something I said?" she asked, her voice sounding hurt through the phone. She is my favorite driving customer, but she calls me frequently and this was very bad timing.
"No ma'am, always happy to talk to you, glad when you call me. But I'm driving in some pretty hazardous conditions, so I need both hands on the wheel."
"Oh Bill, you should never call me on your cell phone, especially not when driving in poor road conditions."
I paused. She had called me, as usual. "Talk to you soon, Mrs. Sherman." I hung up and dropped my phone in my lap. I was driving through Massachusetts on my way to New Hampshire to deliver a car. It was a tiny car, the first SMART car I had ever driven. But this one had two scooters attached to the back of it, the kind of motorized carts that elderly people ride around on. The scooters were rather precariously attached by a trailer hitch that was little more than an aluminum tray, and they wobbled like crazy.
The worst thing was the weather I was dealing with. Here it is near the end of March, and I thought all the bad winter weather was over with. But the storm I was driving through now was by far the most terrible weather I had ever had the displeasure to drive through in my life. It made the drive I made in Ohio back in January seem like a day in the park, a comparatively simple task. There was at least four feet of snow on the ground, the roads were iced over, the snow was coming down like a blizzard, and the winds were blowing 70 mph. Each time a good gust hit the car, it would begin to slip and slide on the ice. And the two heavy scooters on back made the tiny vehicle I was driving extremely unstable.
My cell phone rang again, and I looked down to identify the number calling. It was the lady I was going to see, Mrs. O'Halloran. She had been calling me once an hour ever since I left New Orleans, asking where I was and when I'd get there. I was less than an hour from her house, and I was not going to pick up the phone again for anything.
It was just over an hour later when I pulled into her driveway. She came out of the garage, pointing her finger at me and speaking in a scolding voice. She had a lot of spunk for an old woman. "Where have you been? Why didn't you answer my phone call?"
"Hello, Mrs. O'Halloran. I was driving in some seriously bad weather, and felt it would be unsafe to talk on the phone. But I'm here, and your car is here, all safe and sound."
"Well." She let out a sigh. "Well, OK, you're right. The car is here, that's the important thing. But where is the tarp I had covering the scooters?"
"I don't think you had it tied down very well. It blew off about 100 miles ago."
"Oh, that's a shame. Well, come on in the house for a cup of coffee."
"No thanks, I just need you to sign the paperwork here."
She stared at me long and hard. "I asked you to come into my kitchen for a cup of coffee."
"I really do appreciate the offer, but I have to get moving to catch my bus to the airport."
She put her hands on her hips, looking disgusted. "Listen to me, if you want me to sign your paperwork then you will come in and be gracious enough to accept a cup of coffee. Otherwise, I'm not signing anything."
I had no choice at this point but to follow her inside. No customer signature, no paycheck for me. The fact is that coffee can sometimes play fast and loose with my stomach, so I was trying to think of a way out of it. "Mrs. O'Halloran, I wonder if I might just have a glass of water. I've had so much coffee today that I'm feeling a bit wired."
"Sure, sure, I can get you water. And help yourself to a finger sandwich." She dropped three large freezer bags on the kitchen table in front of me, then went about getting me a glass of water. I looked at the three bags, each one packed full of small sandwiches cut into rectangles. She stepped back over to me and handed me the glass of water, then pointed to each bag. "This one is roast beef, these are seafood salad, and the last one is... well, let me see... oh yes, watercress and cucumber."
"That's a lot of sandwiches."
"I got them at the funeral today."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear."
"Hear what?" she asked.
"About your loss. Was it a friend or family member?"
She smiled. "None of the above. There are a lot of old folks around here and they die pretty regularly, at least one per week I'd say. I go to all of their funerals and load up on food. Just take some storage bags in my purse and fill them up, then I don't have to cook all week."
I nodded. "I'd say that's pretty frugal."
I reached into the bag with roast beef sandwiches and took one. It was very dry. "Delicious."
"Yes, isn't it? Now I want you to know, I have no intention of driving you to the bus station."
"No problem, I ordered a taxi."
"I'm putting my foot down here, I will not take you. Is that understood?" I heard a honk outside and jumped up.
"Not necessary. If you could just sign here?"
She signed the paperwork, and I gave her a copy. "So you're just going to eat and run?"
"Afraid so. Have a great day, and thanks for the sandwich."
"I can't spare any food for you to take to go."
"Not a problem. Have a good day." I walked back out to the snow and to the waiting taxi. I hoped the driver of the taxi, and then the bus driver, and then the plane pilot, would all be more secure driving in this mess than I had been. Guess I'm just a driving fool not built for bad weather driving.