Alyssa Helmes, Staff

My eyes slowly creak open into small slits, still reeling from the whopping four hours of sleep I acquired throughout the night. My vision is clouded from exhaustion and the foggy, red numbers on my alarm clock slowly begin to sharpen as I read 8:48.

A million and one different triggers are being pulled in my brain, shocking my body, urging me to immediately move forward without question. I’m late. I’m very, very late. My limbs are moving automatically, hastily throwing off blankets, turning on lights, changing apparel, and straightening up my frazzled exterior the best they can in minimal time. A tight ponytail, some randomly assorted business attire, a cup of coffee later, and I’m rushing to the freeway as fast as I can in three-inch heels.

Of all the days to oversleep in my entire career, it just had to be this one. One of the most important meetings of the year was scheduled today, in which the owner of the company would be attending. And I was currently absent.

They’re probably docking my pay at this very moment.

Pushing the accelerator with pure determination, I make it to the appropriate on-ramp in record time. The radio is softly murmuring in the background of the vehicle as I enter the freeway and begin moving lanes, but I’m too worried about my job to listen. The transition from late November to early December has really impacted the temperature drastically, and I turn up the heat, as well as the volume to see if the weather report has already come and gone. But at the exact moment that the radio host starts speaking, the flow of traffic slows down considerably. I resist the urge to repeatedly smack my horn in frustration as the woman’s voice radiates from my car speakers, “ . . . two tractor-trailers down on I-75, blocking the split.”

This can’t be happening.

“ . . . as of right now it would be wise to take alternate routes and avoid the freeway at all costs.”

My foot is no longer pressing the gas like I was pressing for time. No, it is safely perched on the brake, securing my vehicle in one singular spot as four lanes of traffic wait idly beside each other. My head throbs with exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety concerning the whole situation.

Reaching toward my coffee cup, I greedily accept the warmth radiating off of it, and the hot liquid inside. Hopefully it will give me enough energy to stay awake. Just as the coffee cup reaches my lips, a sneeze racks my body, sending my face into the cup and the cup into the steering wheel, where in turn the coffee splashes back onto my outfit.

I can definitely feel the warmth now.

Scavenging for any leftover fast food napkins in every crevice of the front half of my car is useless; it’s completely barren. The only thing left for me to do is turn the heat up even more and hope for the best as the coffee stains become permanently ingrained into my blouse.

The radio host continues to drone on about the horrific wreck that has halted all movement and will probably continue to do so for the next couple of hours. We haven’t moved in over 25 minutes so I shift gears to park and lean my head back on the headrest. My eyes begin to shut, the intensity of my headache magnifying by the second, causing me to rub my temples vigorously. Just when I begin to find the tiniest bit of peace, a small pitter-patter begins to take over my entire car. My eyes snap open only to find that it has begun to rain.

Could this morning get any worse?

I flip through all of the radio stations in hopes of finding one that doesn’t have coverage on the traffic jam, too irritated to continue listening to the details, but sadly the only other station that was playing music was a mariachi band. I couldn’t take it, so I turned the volume all the way off.

The rain only splashes harder against the exterior of our vehicles, shielding our cars and blocking our view to the next one in front of us as the drops form a white sheet of water before all of our eyes. It may have been calming, maybe even comforting if it wasn’t for the constant worry pushing at the forefront of my mind about my job.

This streak of bad luck continues for another three hours, and we haven’t moved an inch.

It’s around this time when my stomach gets the better of me, loudly informing me that I need to fulfill my duty and satisfy its hunger. I desperately dig through my purse in hopes that I’ll find a small snack that I had forgotten about, but my hands come up empty. The glove box shows me no mercy as well, and it’s only until I pitifully slide my hands into the crack of my passenger seat do I find one miniscule peppermint wrapped in plastic.

My saving grace.

I try to call, text, and email my boss, but not so surprisingly my phone doesn’t have service. I’m completely stranded with no way of communication to my workplace; to anyone for that matter.

All I can think of is how this is a really pitiful way to get fired: termination by inability to wake up on time or termination by traffic jam. My family would be so ashamed.

It’s only when my phone lights up with an app reminder that I see the date.

It’s Sunday.

I don’t work on Sundays. The company isn’t even open on Sundays. I can’t believe how thoughtless I was to not even check the date. The meeting is tomorrow. Relief flushes through my veins as I realize I’m not losing my job. I haven’t lost my only way of income. I haven’t disappointed my family.

But I am still stuck in this car.