It was a Sunday. I didn’t have to work until 4:00 P.M. It was a ridiculously early 6:00 A.M. Roommate was a morning person. Occasionally, I suffered sunrise.
I’m a morning person now. I suffer ridicule for the years I was not. It’s okay. I’m deft with my middle finger.
When I suffered sunrise, I was treated to breakfast. Sometimes we took a drive. This time we took a long drive. Why not, we thought? With ten hours until shift start … with Roommate having some pull if needed for a cool, ten-minutes-late arrival … why not?
It was a two-hour drive between home and the capital. There was plenty of time for a drive there and back, a couple of meals, and probably some exploring too. But we never made it to the capital.
We were almost half-way there when we picked a place for breakfast, right smack in the middle of nowhere. The small town diner boasted the best breakfast in fifty miles. It was the only breakfast in fifty miles. But the perfectly prepared eggs and crisp bacon did not disappoint. The steaming, never-ending cups of coffee brightened the dull decor and awakened a deep desire to forego the original unplanned plans for a new sort of spontaneity.
Off in the distance, framed by the hand-painted picture window of the diner, was a steaming tower, billowing temptation. We sat with our backs to the counter, raised our cups to adventure, and decided to see how close we could get to the nuclear power plant.
Getting close was the easy part. With the tower as our guide, we turned and twisted down country roads, some with numbers, others letters. Some wide and straight. Some narrow and curvy. Mobile phones had only recently disconnected from their vehicular hosts able to be carried personally, though not yet in a pocket. GPS wasn’t a household acronym, unless you were referring to German Potato Salad. We didn’t have a map. We had time.
The adventure was worth the anticipation. We pulled up to the main gates, parked the car on the side of the road, and walked toward the fence without an ounce of the apprehension the Do Not Enter, Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted signs intended to invoke. The structure was immense. Equally impressive was the containment building–built to withstand the impact of a fully-loaded passenger airplane without breaking. The cooling tower stood 553 feet, with a base of 490 feet. It cooled 585,000 gallons of water per minute, with 15,000 gallons lost to the atmosphere from evaporation. It was spectacular.
But ten minutes in the mid-day sun was enough. We came. We saw. It was time to leave. We turned around to walk back to the car and realized we had absolutely no idea how to get back to where we had started.
I called my boss, told him we were lost, and promised I’d be there just as soon as we could figure out how to get back to the interstate. An hour later, I called my boss again, told him we were still lost, and promised I’d be there. Another hour passed. Another phone call. Another hour, another call. By this time, I should have been there already. He told me not to bother coming in. The sun had long set by the time I arrived…four hours late.