What happens when you least expect it

“What happens when you least expect it” is the caption for a feature story on actress Laura Linney published in this month’s issue of “More” magazine.
The headline jumped out at me because it was as true to what happens in my neck of the woods, as “that way” is the direction to the North Pole.
And my neck of the woods doesn’t necessarily always have to be right here, smack dab among the big and tall evergreen trees.
My neck of the woods, (a.k.a. the ridiculous, the unbelievable, the folly) apparently follows me to any location in which I happen to be taking up space—and skulks about with haphazard adventures.
I don’t need to be sitting on my wicker couch by the creek for that scenario to stop by for a visit.
It followed me all the way to Winnipeg a couple of weeks ago. As if driving in that one-way jungle is not enough for this country mouse.
I confess I’m not a fan of only being able to go in one direction—especially when behind the wheel—and when I’m in the driver’s seat in Winnipeg, my passengers know they haven’t the remotest chance of discovering new places there to tour or shop unless they take a cab. I have one goal in mind and its Route 90 to my hotel.
I arrived at the hotel lobby that day without incident. I had stayed in my lane, followed other vehicles traveling in the same direction, and didn’t have to stop for geese crossing the busy thoroughfare like I did the last time.
It was when I got out of the truck and went around back to open the hatch that my neck of the woods jumped out at me and up my nostrils smelling like three-day old road kill in 34 C sunshine.
By the time the stench hit my odor receptors, it already had melted off my makeup and stirred up all the chocolate snacks in my stomach that I’d eaten on the 4-hour drive from home.
To quote Will Smith from the movie ‘Independence Day,’ “AND WHAT IS THAT SMELL!”
Did I have road kill in my tire treads? Did somebody put road kill in the back of my truck as a joke? How did I make it through Customs at Warroad with that stench?
My daughter and I could hardly contain our insides as we pulled our overstuffed suitcases from the hatch, slammed it closed and backed away blue in the face from lack of oxygen.
I could not get over it. Never had I smelled something THAT rotten and never had I expected to smell it coming from my vehicle.
It was so bad that when I made my ingrained and patterned two-city block drive to my shopping experience at Polo Park that afternoon, I left the vehicle in a far corner of the parking lot for fear of reprisal by other drivers parked beside me.
And I’m sure I could have left the truck unlocked. No thief in his right mind would steal something that smelled that bad.
By 9 p.m. that night, as I relaxed in my hotel room thinking about the stench and how many guests were sure to complain about having to park beside me in the hotel parking lot, I called the front desk to give them the heads up about the situation.
And in trying to explain away the mysterious reek to the front desk clerk I burst out laughing hysterically and surely caused the poor fellow to believe I was in need of a straightjacket.
As I lay in bed that night, I envisioned a crime scene investigation unit would no doubt be in place by morning, cordoning off my truck with crime tape, complete with helicopters and men in white suits.
I had turned over in my head all possible causes for the disgusting odor and concluded that “Dot” had chased a large rodent up into the under-bowels of my truck where it had died waiting to escape her wrath.
It would be jammed in some inaccessible location under there and I would never get it out.
Turns out it was a Styrofoam bowl of unspeakably rotten soup that had been sitting on the pavement in the exact spot where I had parked at the hotel.
I had smashed it open and splashed its contents on the underside of the truck and oozed into the tire treads.
I was so relieved by the realization that I would not be the subject of a forensic investigation that my exaltation came in ahead of my purchase of anything on sale at the mall.
I almost was elated enough to be carried courageously down an unknown one-way street to visit a shopping mall I had never been to before.
But that possibility went out the door when I tried to turn left while in the wrong lane.
Luckily the rest of Winnipeg was on alert that it was I behind the wheel and managed to stay clear of my country mouse driving.
I arrived at my house safe and sound and was unpacking the truck as the dogs raced around the yard expressing their joy at my arrival when I realized that leaving the doors open to the house to transport my wares inside, was clearly a mistake.
The red squirrel, followed closely by Dot, made a beeline for safety through the kitchen door.
My neck of the woods was home again.

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