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A True Husband & Wife Story

This is not about me. It is not about me.

It's about friends. This happened years ago, in the days before cell phones. A husband and wife were driving home to northern Oregon from Santa Barbara, California. They had a sleeping bag and a plan. One would sleep in the back while the other drove, then they would swap. That way they would stay fresh and go non-stop. 

The husband, Ray, stopped at a gas station south of Redding just after midnight. You know what will happen. As he filled the tank, his wife grabbed her purse, hopped out of the car to use the restroom.

"I'm going to the restroom," she claims she said.

He never heard. 

So he claims.

But this is where I empathized with Ray. My wife claims to say things and I claim not to hear. Sometimes I don't.  She's done the same. Many, including Ray's wife, wondered, did he or didn't he? Ray was incensed that she would even speculate it might be possible. 

Finishing, he thought she was still asleep. She returned from the restroom...and the car was gone, leaving her at a gas station. 

Fortunately she had a woman's best friend, her purse (yes, snarky and sexist). She sat down to wait. She figured, he'll be back at any moment. 

Any moment.

Time passed. An hour. Two. 

Ray drove past his allocated time but didn't bother to awaken his wife. She was so solidly asleep. But finally, he was tired. He pulled into a rest stop. He decided to first take a nap. Then he would awaken his wife and they would continue.

After an hour of sleeping, he reached back to awaken her. He says, "I reached back to shake her, and I didn't feel anything. My heart stopped. Turning on the light, I turned around and searched. She wasn't there.

"I had left my wife."

But he knew how long he'd been driving. Freaking out, he headed south, racing down the Interstate. A trooper pulled him over for speeding. He was traveling over 110 miles an hour. 

The trooper was upset. He was ready to throw the book at him. Ray pleaded his case and asked for help. The trooper listened and stomped back to the car. He was gone for a while. He'd just come on duty so he hadn't heard but Ray's wife had called the police. They had picked her up and were looking for him. The officer was sympathetic but said, "You were going over 100. I have to give you something." He gave Ray a ticket for speeding but reduced the speed noted to 80.

When Ray finally was re-united, he said, "Tears were streaming down my face. I was overjoyed to see her again."

The feeling was not mutual. Carol was livid. "You left me. I will never forgive you."

He decided to fight the ticket and drove down to Redding to do so. Everyone in court was laughing by the time Ray finished his tale. The judge was sympathetic but said, "You were speeding. I have to fine you something." He reduced the penalty in a sign of sympathy.

Carol forgave Ray, for they're still together, and the story is rolled out often. Ray struggled in the aftermath. Friends and relatives sent him cute little buttons for him to wear, "Don't forget your wife." He received cards. Tee shirts. It was a standing joke for years. Even now, those who knew them at the time will say as they leave on a trip, "Don't forget your wife."

Smiling as he told me, he sipped a beer and looked off. "I'll never forget her.

"Never."