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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Traffic Relief

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As we left the city of Mozart, we were tired and hungry. I had to use the restroom, but the line at the museum was long.

As we left the city of Mozart, we were tired and hungry. I had to use the restroom, but the line at the museum was long. I decided to wait until we got on the road, as we had planned to stop fairly soon after leaving Salzburg.

We felt confident in our driving on the autobahn now. After all, we had spent a good hour on the famous highway earlier that day. We decided to try a different route back to our bed and breakfast in the Alps. This alternate path allowed us to be on the autobahn for more miles and potentially reduce our overall travel time by up to a half hour.

We took the nearest ausfahrt and were soon cruising along at around 100 miles per hour. It quickly became apparent that certain stretches on the autobahn have few exits -- they tend to slow traffic. Once on one of these long sections of highway, travelers are pretty much trapped between guardrails for miles on end.

I had just mentioned that I was really starting to need the restroom more urgently, when suddenly, the stream of traffic, which had been cruising at extremely high speeds, came to an abrupt halt. Thank goodness that little rental had good brakes, although they did let off the smell of burnt rubber when we slowed that fast.

We had been using one of those inflatable travel pillows that fits around a person’s neck as a wedge to hold the suitcases in place beside Clementine in the third row. Though the suitcases were stacked rather tightly, before we jammed the pillow between them and the ceiling, they had been sliding on top of Clementine when we took curves.

Now, when we slammed on our brakes with the sudden traffic halt, that pillow popped loudly. That sound, combined with the rapid speed reduction and the smell of burnt rubber, made us think we had blown a tire. Plus, once the blow-up neck pillow popped, all of the suitcases skidded on top of poor little Clementine. All we heard from under the pile was a tiny whimper!

I quickly undid my belt to lean over my seat and remove the heavy suitcases from on top of Clementine. This put quite a bit of pressure on my very full bladder, but I was genuinely concerned that Clem was hurt. We couldn’t pull off the side of the road, because even though we were traveling at a snail’s pace now, traffic was bumper to bumper.

We finally extricated Clementine from under the pile of suitcases, shaken up, but not hurt. The shifting luggage had exposed an unopened bag of spritzkuchen, which are basically glazed donuts. Though the spritzkuchens now resembled pancakes more than anything else, they were enough to distract Clementine from the memory of being buried under six people’s luggage.

I mentioned for the 25th time (my car-mates said it was the 125th time) that I needed a bathroom stop. As the cars were now completely immobile, I began to panic a little. The empty plastic cup on the floor of the vehicle started looking more and more inviting. An hour later, the traffic still hadn’t moved. I saw a man get out of his truck and relieve himself on the side of the road. I was yellow with envy.

We ended up stopped for four hours. When we finally saw an ausfahrt, we had to cut across lanes filled with carloads of people who kept yelling, “Geh zum Teufel!” out their windows. We smiled and said, “Dankeschön!“ as we took the words to be encouragement.

As soon as we pulled over, I bailed out of the car as if I were escaping kidnappers. Of course, the restroom was a pay toilet, and I hadn’t brought any money. The convenience store attendant was so frightened of the crazy American lady, he didn’t stop me from crawling through the free kids’ entrance. Toilets in Germany have two buttons - one for light-duty flush and one for heavy-duty flush. I’ll leave it to listeners to guess which I pushed!

We never learned what had caused the trouble on the autobahn. When we tried to find out using our hotel internet later that night, we discovered that the roads in Germany experience an average of 2000 traffic jams per day. My guess is that the worst traffic jam of my life was just another day of farfegnugen in Germany.