Evacuation in more ways than one

It was September 2, 2008, and I was driving back home from my brother’s house in Jackson. My two dogs, the cat, and I had evacuated on the eve before Hurricane Gustav was to make landfall. Fortunately, my son had evacuated earlier with his grandparents since I had been at work and therefore left New Orleans too late to avoid the contra-flow. I spent the following day in safety, and returned home the next morning.

As I was driving south down I-55, the remnants of the hurricane were raging…the sky was black although it was the middle of the day, visibility was next to nothing because unrelenting sheets of rain were coming down, the wind was blowing fiercely, and the radio blared tornado warnings about every three minutes.

My cat was in a pet-keeper in the front seat (he had become half-feral over the course of two days, but was finally sleeping), and the two dogs restlessly occupied the back seat. Obviously opening the windows was out of the question. As the dogs grew whinier, I kept trying to soothe them knowing there was nowhere to pull over.

We drove on, and then there it was…

As the stench came rushing into the front seat, the poor cat awoke mewing pathetically. At the same time, both dogs attempted escape from the back seat by simultaneously trying to leap over my shoulders, one on each side. I pushed them back, and then frantically started looking for a towel while yet another tornado warning screeched on the radio. Little flecks of dog excrement were flying everywhere. Finally I found a blanket on the floor and managed to cover the mess in the back seat thus settling the dogs a bit. Thinking, “Oh, wow, I still have about two more hours to drive before I get home,” I ran my fingers through my hair and down the side of my face. That’s when I realized my hand was full of dog crap.

Now I won’t call the name of the culprit…but it was the big black one with the crazy white eye. Poor thing, he hates storms and must have had the worst nervous stomach of his young life.

Before, I left his home, my brother had given me a bottle of water for what we both thought would be a relatively short trip- I still had half of it left. Thinking it might help, I poured it over my hands, but as one might imagine, diluting the mess served only to make it worse.

I looked at my hands, looked at my clothes, and then did the only thing I could- wiped my hands down my shirt, shorts, and bare legs.

At the Jefferson Parish line, there was a checkpoint for those re-entering the parish. Because I am a nurse, I had a paper to allow early re-entry. As I slowed to a stop at the checkpoint, the two officers took one look at me and waved me through without my even rolling down the window- certainly couldn’t blame them.
When I finally got home, all of us rushed out of the stinky car with more of the… um… stuff… flying through the air. My neighbor was at her front door offering a warm hello and asking me to come over. Though glad to see her, I said, “I might be a while…”

In need of a shower more than ever before in my life, I still had to laugh. We were blessed that the brunt of the Hurricane had missed us and that I had a house to come back to!

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