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Three words guys hate to hear, 'We're fine, but ...'

July 04, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Guys have mixed feelings about getting the call from their wives that starts out, "We're fine, but ..."

Three words into it, you know what's coming. People, fine; car, pretzel.

The Marco Polo in High Heels had just ventured off on her way with her friend Jeannie for a vacation in some lakeside Canadian lodge. Four hours after their departure time, the phone rang, with her name on the ID.

This was not good. Wives on vacation do not think about their husbands. Husbands of wives on vacation do not want to be thought of by their wives. Because if they are, it means they are needed.

Fortunately, I have a Very Smart Wife who, honestly, began the conversation with, "The car's fine."

Then she added, "We're fine, too."

I don't know what that says about me. It kind of implies that she thinks I would be more concerned about the automotive element than the human element. Still, I will admit to being relieved at the sanctity of the vehicle. Next came the word I knew was coming.

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"But ..."

"But? If the car's OK and you're OK, what could there possibly be to "but" about?"

"We're stranded."

"How can you be stranded if the car's OK?

"It's not the car, it's the road. Interstate 81 is closed because of the flood."

"Uh, oh. Does that mean you have to come home?"

"Can't. It's closed behind us, too."

"Where are you?"

"Clark's Summit. We got almost to New York and had to turn around. And the hotels were full all the way back to here. We got the last room."

"Well, at least you're on a summit."

"Clark's Summit."

"Yes. I'm assuming Clark wouldn't have named his property thusly if it were a river bottom."

"There's a river right outside the hotel. It's up to the parking lot."

"There's a river on a summit?"

"Listen, you can hear it." (Faint gurgling sound.)

"What else is around?"

"Nothing."

"Do you have any provisions?"

"Oh yes, we're fine. We have three bottles of wine and two bottles of vodka. And I think a jar of strawberry jam."

"The Donner Party should have been so lucky."

"The which?"

"Never mind, what can I do?"

"Call up a map of Pennsylvania and find out where we are and if there's any other route we can take. And see if you can find out when 81 is going to be reopened."

A quick search revealed that the cities on all sides of her - Binghamton, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre - were all being evacuated and that every major artery was shut down.

"Bad news," I reported. "Looks like the only lodge you'll be seeing for a while is the Econo."

"OK, thanks, gotta go."

"I'm really sorry, I just don't see any way out."

"OK, thanks, gotta go."

Something was wrong. Very wrong. She was sounding entirely too chipper about the delay. Had it been me, the Susquehanna would have been boiling, and not from the flood.

She called again in the early evening. "Good night. We're going to bed, we're exhausted."

Exhausted? From what, sitting around a hotel room all day doing crossword puzzles? No, something was afoot, and I didn't like the sounds of it.

It wasn't until the next day when I was talking with Linda, one of our editors, who knows the area. I mentioned Andrea was stranded just north of Scranton and Linda said. "Oh well, you can tell her there are outlets up there."

Bingo. Suddenly everything crystallized.

"Oh, something tells me she's already figured that out. Girl kind of has a nose for them, you understand."

It was true. Somehow they had found the only outlet center that was open in all of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and availed themselves.

No wonder she hadn't been too worried about food. Who needs jam when you have J. Crew?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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