Monday, April 15, 2013- Colorado Springs to Denver
Time: About 5:30 pm
Wait: Approximately 30 minutes
Where: Uintah Exit
On Monday morning, having meant to hitch out in the morning to catch my AM class, I hit the snooze button on my cell phone in a zombie-like state and forgot to wake up, missing my Monday classes. Inevitably, I ended up hitching out Monday evening, which was nice because I was able to enjoy the nice weather that Colorado Springs apparently was getting and Denver was not. There was a rather cold breeze creeping in, however, but nobody seemed to predict the amount of snow that Denver actually got.
So my brother drives me out to the Uintah stop, and my stomach makes some strange noises, and I begin to regret having poured an eighth a cup of green chile into the macaroni I made earlier. The wind is really blowing for awhile, and literally near rips the hitchhiking sign out of my hands as I wait along the shoulder. As usual, some people laugh or smile, others scowl, and others give me a thumbs up.
There’s been a bombing at the Boston Marathon and maybe it’s harder to put any bit of faith into humanity on a day like today. Overall, I think good overcomes evil, otherwise we wouldn’t be alive today. Maybe I’m just a foolish optimist, or maybe it’s just a few bad apples that really suck. I mean, who can bring themselves to calculate that much thought and time into something so sinister? What the hell is wrong with some people?
Nobody stops till I’ve waited in the cold for a little over a half an hour, and I grab my stuff and run up to the Chevrolet Blazer parked along the shoulder. I thank her for stopping, and she introduces herself as April. I place my bags in the back seat, and she shuffles around some stuff, hands me a vase full of pink, red, and white flowers, and I put them in my lap as we drive off.
“My friend gave me those flowers”, she tells me. “She lives in Colorado Springs and has breast cancer. I brought her flowers, and then she gave me flowers in return.” I tell her I’m sorry about her friend (What else can you say in response?), and she says her friend is “doing well”, although the cancer is starting to “take it’s toll.”
We exchange some small talk, and she tells me that she works for the Department of Labor, in Denver, off of Eighteenth Street and California. “We’re the people that harass the employers for employee compensation”, she says dryly. She explains to me how the system works, in a nutshell. “Basically, if an employee gets injured while at work, the employer is obligated to pay for the medical costs through workers’ compensation”, she says. “They get up to two months to pay it, and if they don’t, that’s when we step in and have to play devil’s advocate and collect not only for the employee, but for the state as well in a collection of fines.”
April says that she had been working for the Department of Labor for over five years, but ironically had an injury of her own at work and is now on workers’ compensation. “I have carpal tunnel from typing so much at work”, she tells me. “The doctor says I’m not suitable for surgery though.”
April tells me that until she was eight, she lived in Bronson, Kansas, and after that point, she lived in Colorado. “So I’m pretty much a Colorado native”, she says. ” I’ve lived the majority of my life in Colorado.”
She talks about growing up in a true American town in southeast Kansas called Bronson, where literally everyone knows everyone and strangers can be looked on with skepticism. “There are pros and cons”, she says, and laughs. ” You don’t have to worry about things such as theft as much. My friends and family that still live there leave there keys in the ignition with the doors unlocked. There is a high value in trust, but only if you’re in the inner circle. A lot of the restaurants and shops are actually on the first floor and part of people’s houses. Since the Wal-marts have come into the outskirts of town, it’s really decimated a lot of the businesses though, especially local grocers. It’s horrible.”
April explains that most people don’t realize it, but the majority of the state of Kansas resides atop an aquifer, which is an underground layer of rock that permeates through rivers and streams, but largely exists underground, and can be extracted through something such as a well. “That’s part of the reason Kansas can be so unbearably humid”, she explains.
April is going on forty, and tells me that she is starting to feel the aging process. “I’m still young in spirit though!”, she says with a laugh.
As we make it closer to the Palmer divide, it goes from no snow to a steady stream of solid white flakes that seem to be sticking to the ground like peanut butter on toast. The traffic slows to a sluggish trot, and Colorado implants from Florida, Arizona, and California seem to be throwing their hands up with what-is-this! looks on their faces.
A bit of distance into the Palmer divide, the traffic is backed up and we find the four lanes of vehicles being merged into one, and up ahead five orange cones set up next to a state police cruiser. The police officer is directing traffic off of the highway.
Wow, it’s that bad, we realize.
We take a detour into Parker, Colorado, and April’s ABS brakes seem to be acting up and not cooperating, and her windshield wipers are freezing to the windshield. We eventually make it to the Lincoln light rail station, where she drops me off, having only seen one car in the ditch (sunny side up), and everything we see is covered in complete whiteness. Along Lincoln Avenue, a Lexus car is literally stuck up a small slop on the road, tires spinning with no traction, going nowhere.
She drops me off and I help her de-ice her windows, and we bid farewell. I tell her to be safe on the drive back, and she smiles, drives off. The snow is coming down heavy, in thick blankets of white.