On a Friday night in January 1975 when I was 19, my boyfriend, Mike, and I went on a double-date with his good friend, Dar, and his girlfriend, Sally. Because I was the only one with a working car, I had to drive from Flushing Township to Flint Township where Mike lived, and then out to Grand Blanc and then Burton to get Dar and Sally. That was a good hour’s drive just to pick everybody up.
I drove to our favorite little pizza parlor on Corunna Road and we spent the next several hours enjoying great pizza and soft drinks while we all told funny stories. There were red-checked café curtains on all of the windows so we could not see that a snowstorm had started shortly after we arrived, nor did we ever really wonder why we were the only customers for most of the night.
John, the pizza parlor owner, finally told us that we really should get going because the snow was coming down fairly heavy and he had to close up. We all looked dumb-founded and puzzled as we asked, “What snow?” It had been only a little bit cloudy when we had started out and none of us had heard that a major snowstorm was going to start that night and apparently last until the morning.
We about fell out of our chairs when we looked out of the windows because there was already at least six inches of snow on top of my Nova and the street lights were almost eclipsed by the many large clumps of heavy, wet snow that were still falling. I groaned when I thought about all of that driving I still had to do in that horrible weather just to get everybody home in time. We were college students living with our parents and we all still had curfews.
I had just cashed my paycheck earlier that day and I still had over $200 in my purse and I briefly wondered if our parents would be too upset if I got a couple of rooms for the 4 of us at one of the several motels just a few blocks down. But I didn’t even bother asking the other 3 if that would work because I already knew my dad would have preferred me to crash and die trying to get home than to do that, snowstorm or no snowstorm.
So while the guys scraped and swept my car and the windows and wipers free from the accumulated snow and ice, Sally and I had a couple of cigarettes while we stood in front of my car out of the wind. The guys did not like us to smoke in the car. When they were done, we jumped in and I slowly left the parking lot, trying not to spin out because my tires were not in the best of shape.
Mike hated to have my purse on the seat between us but I also hated to have him put it on the floor because it always got wet from his snowy shoes. So he put it on the floor anyways when I wasn’t paying any attention. We soon came to a stop light and during the brief time I had to idle, waiting for the light to change, my windshield wipers quickly clogged up again with snow and ice. Since there was nobody else around, Mike told me to just put the car into park while he gallantly got out, shook out the wipers and cleared off my back window. When the light turned green again, we all made jokes about the little old lady I must have just run over because there was a distinctly loud crunching noise when the car started forward.
The driving was extremely slow because of the deep and thick and heavy snow that was already on the ground with more snow still coming down. Because there were so few cars out, and no snow plows were out, I simply rolled through any red lights if it was very safe. I was trying to maintain my momentum to keep from getting bogged down and stuck.
It took me over two hours of slow, steady driving to drop off first Sally, then Dar, and then Mike before I could finally drive home. By this time it was past two in the morning and I was so tired and stiff and sore from the white-knuckle driving that all I wanted was just to sink into my bed and sleep for many hours.
But now that I had everybody out of my car, I was going to finally enjoy a cigarette. I reached for my purse, but damn it, Mike must have put it on the floor again. I turned on the overhead light but I couldn’t see my purse anywhere. I stopped my car right in the middle of the road, put it into park, and pushed the front seat back just in case it had been shoved under it, but nope, no purse. I got out into the snow, opened up both of the back doors and looked all around but nope, still no purse. I even checked my trunk even though I knew we had not opened it at all that night but, once again, no purse.
I was now starting to panic. All of my money from my paycheck was in my purse, as well as my cigarettes, which I could not re-buy because I didn’t have any money and my now greatly increasing need for a cigarette was getting worse and worse and worse. I had bills to pay too! What the hell was I going to do? Where the hell could my purse have gone? Since it must have been Mike’s fault for losing it, I got back into my car, slowly turned around, and drove back to his place.
His whole house was dark and silent as I stumbled through the deep snow to his bedroom window and tapped, tapped, tapped, as quietly as I could to not wake up his parents. But Mike would not wake up so I had to tap harder and harder, hoping I wouldn’t awaken his parents and have them wonder why was I trying to get Mike at his bedroom window at that late hour. He finally sleepily came to the window and pulled back his drape to see me frantically waving at him to come outside.
I was waiting in my car when Mike got in and I explained that my purse was missing and that I had over $200 and my cigarettes in it. And I couldn’t help it, but I started crying. He said, “Don’t worry, we will find it.” Then he told me to pull my car out of his driveway so he could check in the snow to see if he had accidentally kicked my purse out when I had dropped him off earlier. It wasn’t in his driveway but he said, “Hang on, keep the car running to stay warm” and that he would go in and call Dar and have him check his driveway.
After a very long 20 minutes, Mike came back out wearing his coat and gloves and he explained that Dar and his brother had both gone out and shoveled their driveway but they didn’t find my purse. And that Dar had then called Sally who went out with her brother to look in their driveway but my purse was not there either. I started crying again because I couldn’t afford to lose so much money.
I told Mike that I had my purse on my arm while the guys were clearing off my car at the pizza parlor while Sally and I were smoking. And that the last time I had seen it was after I had put it on the front seat when we all left. I then punched Mike in the arm as I asked him, “Did you put it on the floor of my car again?” He guiltily said, “Yes, I did but I thought it would be okay down there.” He profusely apologized to me as he gave me a hug and a kiss. “We’ll find it somehow if we can just figure out where it could be.”
So we sat there, both of us thinking hard to understand where my purse could be when the only possible answer both dawned on us at the same time. We turned to each other and excitedly said, “It must have fallen out at that stop light!!” And then I exclaimed, “That must have been that crunching noise we heard when the light had turned green! Instead of running over a little old lady like we had joked about, I had actually run over my own purse!” And then I giggled and giggled with relief that that must be where my purse is and also from the absurdity of this whole situation.
So I told Mike to hang on because we were driving back as quickly as we could to that same intersection. He asked me, “How in the hell are we going to find a white purse in all of that white snow?” And I replied, “I don’t care how but we are going to check every square inch of that intersection because I am not losing $200!”
So I drove as fast as my almost bald tires would let me in all of that deep snow. As we were driving around a curve on Corunna Road towards that intersection, we saw a snow plow up ahead of us. I looked at Mike and he just shook his head and said, “It will be springtime when the snow melts before we’ll be able to find your purse because that snow plow is going to get there and plow it up before you will.” I determinedly told him, “Oh hell no, it isn’t!”
So I gave my little Nova a bit more gas while Mike hung on to the door handle and the dashboard as my poor car wildly fish-tailed back and forth down the road but I was somehow gaining on that snow plow. I quickly jerked my car over into the other lane and hit the gas some more, and when I had barely enough room, I then swerved my car back over in front of that snow plow and cut him off from the intersection.
The driver leaned on his horn as he quickly swung the snow plow over into the other lane to keep from hitting me and I could hear him loudly cussing me out even through the windows. I really don’t blame him at all but at least I had prevented him from plowing up my purse and heaving it into a huge drift on the side of the road.
Mike and I scrambled out of my car and we frantically shuffled our feet through all of that deep snow at the intersection. I started giggling again when I thought of what that snow plow driver would be wondering if he could see what we were doing. But after only a few minutes Mike triumphantly held up my purse. My leather wallet was soaked and ruined but the money inside of it was fine, as well as my driver’s license and my pictures. I didn’t even realize until then that I had been driving around for hours without my driver’s license.
My cigarettes in their silver metal case were a lost cause though; they were smooshed completely flat and soaked through. Everything else that had been in my purse was still in pretty good shape. My poor, poor purse, however, looked like a bomb had exploded in the bottom of it. The whole bottom half was in shreds and tatters.
I didn’t care though because at least I had got back the most important stuff, in spite of the snow storm, in spite of the snow plow and in spite of my boyfriend doing something really, really dumb. Besides, how many girls can say that they ran over their own purse with their own car and then saved it from mass destruction from a snow plow?