Spaghetti Bowl on a Dark, Rainy Night
I'm writing this "Happening" in July when it doesn't begin to get dark until 8:30 p.m. I love this timing! However, this "Happening" occurred on the night of February 17, when darkness falls at 6:00 p.m. Tonight, at 8:00, I must pick Dexter up at the Intercontinental Airport.
You know those freeway junctions called "spaghetti bowls?" I travel under two of them in my area, both on Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway): one on I-10 at Town & Country going to Katy, Texas and sister Cora's house; the other out I-45 towards Dallas and Garden Ridge Pottery.
I often ask my passenger, "How in the world would you ever get back to where you were going if you took a wrong turn on that spaghetti bowl?" It was on a dark and stormy night" (pause -- for laughter from all my writer friends) when I made that mistake.
Traveling north on I-45 to go to the airport is one of the most confusing trips you can take in this town. You are in the lane where the sign above says Bush Intercontinental Airport. . Suddenly you realize this lane goes to Dallas and you must exit quickly to the next right lane. Just as suddenly you realize this lane takes you to the very top of the spaghetti bowl, and you quickly get over in the new left lane. There were so many people missing all these "suddenlys" that the Highway Department painted three or four huge airplanes a couple of car links apart on the roadway to direct them to the correct path up one level to Beltway 8. I say a "thank you" to the Highway Department every time I drive over those airplanes.
I left home at 7:00 p.m. because I didn't know how bad the traffic would be, and it was raining heavily. With the low overcast, it was pitch dark (pitch, like black tar!). With my head down, eyes on the pavement I watched my headlights reveal the painted airplanes as I drove over them...most comforting…wondering how many there were…until instanteously I realized I was traveling on a LONG steep incline, upward, and toward the west. I was climbing high into the sky … that very top of the spaghetti bowl where I had never gone before…and in the opposite direction as the airport. As I rounded the curve, I felt like I was a mile high from the ground. It was very, VERY scary. I frantically prayed, "Help me, Jesus! I need you right NOW. You promised never to leave me or forsake me. Please, please be with me. Help me, dear Jesus."
I'm in the fast lane driving about 35 m.p.h., thinking Houstonians travel the 65 limit no matter what the weather. I need to get WAY over there to the right lane. How many lanes are there? Looks like 4 or 5. No lane marking lines are visible in all this rain. I eased across the freeway, cringing with expectation of a crash by an 18-wheeler! Surely the vehicles behind could see my blinking turning signal lights! I took the first exit down to street level…must stay close to the freeway to U-turn at next intersection. Did you know a person can think 1,200 words per minute--but only speak 250 words per minute? It takes forever to tell you how frightened I was!
The feeder was several lanes wide with arrows arching right, left and straight ahead. The sign said, "Left lane must turn left." I drove right! I need to think about this! What if I couldn't turn left after driving under the freeway? I don't know where the north/south street goes. ALL freeways have feeder roads! I made a U-turn at the next intersection about 2 miles from my exit.
I must stay close to the Freeway until I come to something familiar. Do not exit the feeder to get on Beltway 8. I could be forced to go to Dallas or downtown Houston! This feeder road was 4 lanes wide. It was impossible to read any road signs on the far right. The rain was slacking off. I was terrified as I kept driving over a mile through intersections under overpasses, in a jungle of concrete redwood tree trunks supporting various levels of freeways. It was NOT a straight shot--curves appeared, left, right. Once, I came to a stop-light, opened my door to ask directions of the driver in front of me. But the light changed before I could get out of my car.
I just happened to look in the next lane to my right. A woman driving a pickup truck was looking at me. I jerked my head straight again. Then, she seemed to be driving the same speed as I was. I looked to my right, and she was still staring at me! I NEVER look around while I'm driving! I keep my eyes on the traffic ahead. We both stopped at the intersection. I rolled down my window and shouted, "Am I on the way to the Airport? I think I'm lost."
She replied, "Yes, but you must get up on the freeway -- not at the next entrance! I'll let you in my lane. I'll show you the way." HOW could she do that if I'm in front of her!!! The car behind had flashed his lights and blew his horn. Then he swirled around both of us, leaving space for me to get behind her. I followed her up on Beltway 8 until I saw a familiar exit, Aldine-Westfield. WONDERFUL!! "Thank you, Jesus." I passed the woman. We waved at each other.
I wished we could have stopped somewhere and talked. How far did she go out of her way? Would she have taken me all the way to the airport? Some people would say she was an angel. I've read about angels appearing to people in trouble; and I was in constant prayer. My mistake was keeping my head down looking at those printed airplanes when I should have kept an eye on them as I looked UP to the overhead lane markings. Look UP. God is there to help.
I arrived at the airport at 7:55! The rain had stopped. This is Houston, where the weather changes every 30 minutes.
I keep wondering why that woman was looking at me. I never look around while driving since a certain incident happened when I was driving home from work, downtown. I heard the horn blowing from the vehicle beside me. I turned to look at a man in a green Ford pickup, trying to wave me to a stop, or to the freeway feeder. I didn't feel like my car had a low tire or a flat. No smoke was visible from the back or under the hood. He kept honking and motioning. I kept driving. I think he's trying to "pick me up." I don't dare go home. I changed freeways. I must go somewhere with crowds of people…Northwest mall! I sped up; slowed down. He kept following. I quickly changed lanes, so he'd pass and I got his license number. I wrote "green Ford pickup and the number" on several pages of a pad I keep in my car. I threw one in the back, put one between the front seats, in my purse, in my shoe, and on the pad, as I drove to the mall.
Coming from downtown to enter the parking lot of the mall, you'll pass the building of six theaters. There would be people inside the movies, dark inside. I parked in front and quickly bought a ticket. I ducked into the first movie opposite the ticket booth. Bad idea! Only seven people inside, scattered around. Too early. I sat in the middle of a middle row. A man entered and was coming toward me. With a whole empty theater, why would he choose my row? It's HIM!! He saw my Cadillac, probably asked the cashier where I was. I ran from him and jumped in my car, circling the mall to find a parking place at the end of a row and in front of an entrance. He was still following me, as he had been ever since he drove up beside me.
I was so scared and panic stricken I didn't have time to pray! But God had his eye on me! The ideal parking space appeared as a customer exited. I drove in, ran across the driveway and into the mall. He'd have to find a place to park. To my right was a loud noisy Arcade. No one could hear me scream in there. To my left was a jewelry store with no customers. Next was an ice cream parlor with people. I scurried in. I ran to the cashier and said, "There's a man following me. I don't know who he is. If he comes in here and forces me to leave with him, call the police."
She said, "I'll call Security and have a guard stand by." I sat in a booth, sliding over so my terrorist could sit beside me. I didn't want his back to the cashier. Sure enough, he came in. Right behind him was "Security" talking to the cashier. The man sat beside me. I asked, "WHY are you following me?" He said, "I'm a man. You're a woman. What more reason do we need?" I assured him I was married, loved my husband, was not interested. He asked, "Have you ever tried it with another man?" "I could NEVER do that!" "You don't know what you're missing."
This man stank--like he hadn't bathed in six months. His foul odor was making my tummy queasy. I'd hate to throw-up all over the table for a nice waitress to clean up! NO!
I promise: I'll stand, and gush the strawberry malt, which I just drank, all over this man. I'm thinking I cannot hold back more than 5 minutes more. I am so very lucky that he didn't have a knife or a gun. He is so very lucky to get up and leave 3 minutes later, convinced I was not his kind of girl. I tip-toed to the door; watched him leave the mall…not waiting for me in his pickup.
No matter where I go, God goes before me, keeping me safe as He promised. I have joy in being used by God to tell my personal and undebatable experiences with Him. He creates situations, unplanned events and trials that bring me close to Him and into His peace. He longs for your fellowship as well. Open your heart to a closer relationship today; seek His purpose for you.
> Spaghetti bowl on a dark, rainy night