This is going to be my last post about Farm Sanctuary, for a while. I will probably do another series of posts, about my internship at the Acton Shelter, at a later date. You can find the rest of the posts in the series here (1,2,3,4,5,6,7).
I want to end my story about my time at Watkins Glen by telling you about an experience I had, while I was there, that I think may have changed the whole direction of my life. At the time, it was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me, but I think it may have also been the most important thing that’s ever happened to me.
I have mentioned in previous posts how much I hate driving. I have some pretty good reasons for this, which I know I still haven’t ever really explained, but I will eventually. The point is, it’s something that stresses me out, even under the best conditions. Under poor conditions, it causes every muscle in my body to clench up, and turns me into a quivering ball of anxiety. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying in a car accident; it’s that I’m afraid of the consequences of being in a car accident, especially if I’m the one who caused it.
There was a cat, named Sandy, who lived at the shelter. She had been having health problems and needed to go to the vet, to have some tests run. I was assigned the job of dropping Sandy off and then going back, later in the day, to pick her up. You may recall that my internship took place in the middle of the winter, so road conditions were seldom ideal, during the entire time I was there. I also didn’t have a car with me, and I’m always significantly more nervous driving someone else’s vehicle, both because it would be unfamiliar and because I would feel so much worse if I were to damage a vehicle that didn’t belong to me. Still, the vet was not terribly far from the shelter, and someone needed to do it. So, I agreed.
When I dropped Sandy off, the weather was pretty much the same as it had been for the rest of my internship. There was snow on the ground, and it was cold, but the roads were relatively clear. By the time the vet called to say that Sandy needed to be picked up, heavy snow had begun to fall and, by the time Sandy and I were on our way back to the shelter, Watkins Glen was in the middle of one of the worst snow storms I have ever seen.
There had already been a decent covering of snow on the ground, so it didn’t take long for the snow accumulating on the road to blend with that on the ground, making the edge of the road invisible. The wind was whipping across the fields, building up huge drifts of snow, which hid the landscape underneath. So, I couldn’t even decipher the edge of the road, based on the surrounding topography. More threatening than the snow on the ground though, was the snow in the air. It was falling so fast, and blowing so hard, that visibility dropped to nothing. I couldn’t see anything, no houses, no other cars, nothing. It was like drowning in a bucket of white paint.
Maybe the smart thing to do would have been to pull over and wait for the storm to stop, but there was no way to tell where a safe place to do that would be. I was afraid that I would either end up pulling over too far and rolling us into a field, or not far enough and being plowed into by another car. Besides, at the rate the snow was falling, the vehicle would have been completely covered in a matter of minutes. It’s hard to tell how long it would be before anyone found us. In case you were wondering, when the weather was nice, there were certain spots near the shelter where one could get cell service, if one was lucky. In a blizzard, there would have been no chance of me getting through to anyone.
So, I just clenched my hands around the wheel, leaned forward toward the windshield (as if that would help me see through the sheet of white) and kept driving. I crept along, never going above ten miles per hour, driving by feel more than sight, in order to gauge whether I was still on the road or not. Still, I had this vision of letting one of the wheels slip off the road and into one of those snow drifts. The car would slowly tip, and then slide down over the hillside and be buried in snow, in the middle of a field. I knew, if that happened, there would be no chance of me getting Sandy someplace safe, before it was too late. I thought, she and I would just sit there, helpless, until we froze to death.
I honestly have no concept of how long it took me to get back to the shelter that day, but it felt like an eternity. Every second of that drive was utterly terrifying. I wasn’t afraid that I would die, although I must admit that freezing to death is the last way I would want to go, but afraid of failing the poor cat who was counting on me to get her home safe. In the end, I did get her home. I didn’t wreck, I didn’t get stuck in the snow, I just kept creeping along until we finally pulled into the parking lot of the shelter.
There are few things I can imagine doing that would be as frightening as that trip, for me. That day, I did something that I truly didn’t believe I could do. After that experience, I found myself less worried about doing things that I hadn’t done before. I mean, yeah, I’m still anxious about pretty much everything. But I feel like, if I could do that, I can probably handle anything else that life throws at me.
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