Last January I endured the hell known as Snow-pocalypse here in Birmingham. After a 12 hour trek down the interstate (that got me all of 12 miles) I finally had to come to grips with the fact that I was stuck on the interstate a mere 9 miles from my home behind two jack-knifed 18-wheelers. There was nowhere to go. There was no way out of the traffic jam. At about midnight I gave up the fight and decided that my large SUV would be my hotel room for the night. I was a mile or two from the nearest exit, which only had one gas station, two completely booked hotels, and a Bass Pro Shop that had closed up early when the roads got bad. There was no point in me leaving my car and walking…plus I wasn’t dressed for that at all.
Being the OCD person I am, I had nothing in my car to help me in my situation. As soon as my car pulls in the garage each night, I empty out everything that may have accumulated throughout the day. So, to say I was ill-prepared would be an understatement. Just by chance, Jeff had left a bottle of water in the passenger side door the night before. I saw it that morning when I got out at my office and silently cussed him under my breath for leaving “trash” in my car. That half empty bottle of water was the only liquid I had for 21 hours! As for food, I had a delicious Tupperware of cold sweet potato chili and a container of raw squash that I was going to steam for lunch. After about 10 hours I tried the raw squash. I do not recommend raw squash if you are past the point of starving, nausea has set in, and your anxiety level is a notch below stroke level. I decided malnutrition was better than attempting to hold down the raw squash. Just by chance, the man in front of me on the interstate brought me a Nestle Crunch bar at about midnight. It was the best Nestle Crunch bar I’ve ever had. And I was quite appreciative…and guilty for thinking he was coming to kill me when he approached my car to give it to me!
As the night crept on and the gas gauge got closer and closer to the red, I decided to abide by all the warnings I was hearing on the radio: run your car for 10 to 15 minutes to warm up, then turn it off for the remainder of the hour; repeat until you run out of gas. I was dressed in corduroy pants, a sweater, a lightweight jacket, and a thin scarf. We are a commuter town. No one walks anywhere. It is about 20 steps from my car to the front door of my office. It’s two steps from my garage to my home. We are never in the elements for long periods of time, so we don’t dress for it. I regretted that on January 28th. As I said, my car was completely empty. No random clothes in the back. No blankets. Nothing. I ended up using my windshield sunshade as my luxury linens for the night. They do have a reflective coating on one side, so I used that side towards my body in an effort to reflect my body heat back to myself. Pretty sure that didn’t work. It was FREEZING!
I was tired as the hours crept on. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was cold. But none of those inconveniences compare to the pain I felt from the insane need to PEE!! I’m a girl. The world is not our restroom as it is for men. I had been in a car for 10 – 12 hours when the traffic finally came to a complete halt. I had cars and 18-wheelers on every side of me. Off to the left was the grass median, to the right was about 10 feet of grass and then a completely vertical hill as far as I could see (it was very dark, so I couldn’t see much), and behind me was a drop off to the river. I had no option to just hop out of my car and hide behind some trees. There were no trees to get to. Plus, my boyfriend had successfully scared me to death with his constant warnings that all those truckers were going to rape and kill me…I was NOT getting out of my car. As my eyes began floating farther and farther up my head, and the real worry set in that I was doing damage to my bladder and other organs, I looked around in a panic trying to find a solution to my situation. And then I saw her. My cute little paisley insulated lunchbox. I loved that little lunchbox. But I was going to have to kill my cute little lunchbox. That lunchbox was going to save my life. And that she did.
Let’s please have a moment of silence for that lunchbox, may she rest in peace.
At roughly 8 am the following morning (I left my office, 12 miles away, at 11 am the previous day), a man driving on the opposite side of the interstate stopped his truck, ran across the median and up to my window and knocked. He told me there was a high spot on the median that my all-wheel drive SUV could make it over, and if I slowly drove down the interstate GOING AGAINST TRAFFIC with my flashers on, I could make it to the next exit (MY EXIT!!!) in a matter of minutes. He directed me to the place to cross, my car made it with just a little strain, and I was on my way! Right towards two 18-wheelers headed toward me! To say that driving on icy interstate roads in the wrong direction is nerve racking would be an understatement. However, I was so high on excitement that I didn’t care. From the moment that guy tapped on my window, until I pulled into my driveway was a whopping 10 minutes. I think I almost cried as I pulled in my garage.
I made it into my safe, warm, dry home; peed like a race horse; drank 2 gallons of water and had a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup; took the longest, hottest shower of my life and then passed out hard for a few hours. When I awoke, refreshed and still high on life, I knew what I needed to do: build the best car survival kit the world has ever known. And the first item going into that survival kit: a portable urinal. I would never risk bladder damage again.
When the roads were drivable again and my fear of the world outside my front door subsided a bit (not completely…I truly believe I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and panic at the hearing of any words to do with ‘snow’ or ‘icy roads’), I headed out to complete my survival kit.
I may have gone overboard at first. I went to Lowes and got the largest Rubbermaid container that would fit in my third row seats. And it wasn’t large enough for everything I tried to pack into it. I finally scaled down my kit…putting 2 blankets instead of 3, only 2 knit hats instead of the 4 I started with, only 2 sets of gloves instead of the 4 I had. This survival kit stayed in my car for the remainder of the winter and throughout the summer. In the fall, when I purchased a new car, a smaller sedan, I decided the survival kit needed to be tamed down. Since I could fit nothing else in my trunk with it at its current size!
I got online and read articles that discussed the necessities of a car survival kit. Many of these lists recommend items that would only be necessary if you are trapped in feet of snow in a desolate area with little chance of being found and having to hike out for safety. I’m a southern girl. I will never find myself hiking through feet of snow looking for help. If I do, I will happily take death.
My kit contains items that fall into one of five categories:
Within each category I had the following items:
SAFETY:Flashlight (with extra batteries)
In addition, if you have children you should pack enough necessities for them and any baby or child specific items they would need (diapers, formula, etc.) and if you have pets that travel with you make sure you have supplies for them also.
I organized all of my personal supplies in a large backpack (in case you do find yourself in a situation where you have to leave your car and hike, you can toss what you need to take with you on your back). I organized all of the car related items in a zip up bag.
My final recommendation: I put heavy duty Velcro on the backpack and car pack so that they can simply stick to the carpet in the trunk of my car. This keeps them tucked in the back and out of the way and keeps them from sliding around. In a situation where I need to access the items while I am in the driver’s seat of my car, I simply unlatch the seats so they fold down and the supplies with be stuck to the back of the seat within arm’s reach.
This post was quite long, and many of you may think that it has absolutely nothing to do with home organization, but being organized is about having products and processes to be prepared for anything. And after my ordeal on the lovely I-20 in Birmingham, I’ve learned that being organized and prepared while on the road is just as important as being organized and prepared within the 4 walls of your home.
So, take my advice and get your car prepared, you never know when you may have to camp out in her! And don’t get a false sense of security that these things will only happen to you in the winter with snow and ice. The situation I found myself in could have just as easily happened during the dead of winter. It wasn’t the ice that kept the thousands of us from getting home that day, it was the jack-knifed trucks. I could just as easily find myself stuck on the interstate behind a massive wreck in the dead of summer. I’ve passed a situation like that in July on I-65 that had some people trapped in the traffic jam for over 14 hours. I bet a lot of those folks would have paid high dollar for my portable urinal!