The day of the Chili Fest dawned cold, snowy, and ungodly early. But before I could partake in any Chili Fest fun, I first had to get myself to Smyracuse, a cool sixty-some miles away, and be safe in my seat, registered and ready for test-taking, by 8:30 in the morning. I left my house at 6:45 a.m., which according to my calculations would get me there with roughly half an hour to spare. But before I had driven more than a few miles out of town, things started to go slightly...awry. You see, instead of driving the prescribed 65 mph on the highway, I found myself forced to drive much more slowly through unplowed snow, driving wind, and virtually zero visibility. And things only got worse from there.
At 7:15 I pulled over to call the school where the test would be held. Surely they couldn't expect people to drive more than sixty miles to take a test when the world was clearly ending? But, seeing as it was a Saturday, and blizzarding, there was no answer. With no other choice, I continued nervously on my way. At 7:30, and still not even halfway there, I pulled over again. There must be a way to figure out if the school is closed, before I die in a ditch trying to get there, I thought. The 411 lady connected me to the Smyracuse City School District, this time, which led me to yet another pre-recorded message inviting me to leave my name and number, if I so wished, but again, nothing about school closings or snow. I gritted my teeth and started out again, knowing that this time there was no turning back. I would get there if it killed me (and it was looking increasingly like it might). I kept my speed down and concentrated on staying inside of the quickly-fading tire tracks in front of me, which were the only signs that I was still on the road at all. But I soon realized that simply getting there might not be the issue. Having taken two of these certification tests before, I knew these people to be sticklers for punctuality. The test ticket "suggested" you arrive for registration at 7:45, which would be followed by testing beginning at 8:30 sharp, after which point no one else would be allowed in. At 7:45, I began calculating how many miles I had left to go. At 8:00, and still nowhere near the testing site, I started sweating. I pressed down on the accelerator and passed cars on the left. I clenched my hands on the steering wheel as I drove past slow-moving trucks in the right lane. I almost cheered when I finally reached my exit, and then sat through five whole miles of stoplights, and every one of them, I swear, red. I pulled into the parking lot of the high school and parked illegally at 8:25. I ran through the snow and ice to the front doors--victory! and pulled. Locked. I tried another door. Locked, too. A sign with an arrow pointed to the right--Please use side door, it said. Side door? What side door? I ran, slip-sliding through snow drifts in the direction indicated, halfway around the building now, trying less and less likely doors, and all of them were locked. Tears sprang to my eyes--no, not now! Not after all this! This can't be the way it ends! Peering through the next door I saw people sitting casually--oh, so casually!--around tables in what looked like a cafeteria. I pounded, trying to get their attention. One person saw me, and gestured, helpfully, towards the direction from which I had just come. I ran once again, frantic now, back towards the front doors of the building, and started pounding on the glass. I could see people inside, and not one of them looked up. I tried the door and--oh. It was...open. The only one I hadn't tried, apparently. I ran inside, flustered and out of breath from my circuit around the building, and threw my admission ticket and my driver's license at the woman inside. She hurried me upstairs, each person pointing me to the next down a series of long hallways, in a long relay race towards my assigned classroom. I collapsed in my seat at 8:30 on the dot, and then the test began.
By 10:45 I was done--mercifully, blessedly done--test taken and hopefully rocked. Take that, NY state French certification exam. My sense of relief was short-lived, however, as I still had to get back home, and conditions outside had not at all improved. In fact, if possible, they seemed even worse than before. But I had made it all the way here, I told myself, and now that I could take my time, getting home would be a breeze. Unfortunately, everyone else between points A and B seemed to be of the same take your time mindset, with some people seeing fit to drive between 5 and 15 mph in one, long, single lane of traffic, which would at times stop completely, as if the person at the front of the line had simply given up altogether. For sixty miles. I sighed and turned up the radio, and did my best not to gawk at the cars in ditches and emergency vehicles lining the road at more and more frequent intervals. "In other news, the Mythaca Chili Fest has been postponed due to snow and high winds," the dj said between songs. I sighed again. This day was turning out to be a complete waste.
Two hours later I pulled into my own driveway, safe and sound, and determined to never leave my house again, if at all possible. Or at least for the next few hours. But the boys...What to do about the boys? I pondered. I suspected that, just maybe, they had both given me their phone numbers thinking that I would contact the one I was most interested in. Well, three can play at that game, I thought, and then texted them both at the same time: No chili fest today! What is with this crazy weather? But who would reply? I wondered. Or would they both reply? I didn't have to wait long to find out. About a minute later, my phone beeped. Kevin! It was Kevin! I smiled to myself, and started typing out my reply.
To be continued...