Mark LaFlamme: Lost ladies find their way home
Feb. 28—It was the collective "woot" we all needed.
Two women on a strange odyssey in their car for the better part of a week were found safe and mostly sound way off in the wilds of Hancock County.
How did they arrive there? What had they seen on their erratic journey up and down the Maine landscape?
Not all of those answers are in yet and it doesn't much matter anyway. When the news was announced that Kimberly Pushard and Angela Bussell had been found, it felt like a victory. Things had turned out OK instead of tragically and for most of us, that felt like a win. A big win, and maybe these days a rare one.
Because collectively, a whole lot of us had been fretting and worrying about the fate of the two ladies, whose trek up and down the Maine turnpike had started to feel like something out of folklore. Were they adventurers in the spirit of "Thelma and Louise," off on an invigorating lark? Or were they two helpless women: sad, lonely and terrified during every inch of the long drive into the unknown?
The longer the women remained out in the wilds, the more likely it seemed that the outcome would be grim. Sad and horrifying news on a near daily basis has left us conditioned to expect the worst.
Two women, unfamiliar with intricate travel, lost for days on weird, winding back roads even as snow storms were raging and the temperature dropped to below zero? Guh, we shuddered to ourselves privately. These kinds of scenarios seldom end well.
So there was brooding and worrying. There were best wishes and crossed fingers all over the place and a good chunk of the local population spent the weekend refreshing their phones in hopes of updates.
I know this because the woman I married spent the last several days thusly preoccupied.
The story and it's potential outcomes darkened her mood for the whole of the weekend. She pasted herself to the computer, looking for updates, looking at maps and speculating on what might have befallen these two ladies on such a mysterious and disordered ride.
All weekend long, she fretted over it, mumbling over the many possible turns of events and cursing the luck of having two women lost on the roads when so many snowstorms were upon us.
She ruminated. Speculated. Theorized. She looked at her maps and considered all the barely-there camp roads; all the rivers and steep embankments that stretch from one end of the state to the other. Why, one wrong turn or a bad command from GPS and this could become a tragic tale, indeed.
All over social media, you'd find discussion after discussion about the unknown travels of the lost women. Speculation abounded. Thoughts and prayers were offered. If you bumped into a friend in a corner store, it's what you talked about while cashing out. It was the kind of captivating story you'd discuss for hours on end with the stranger on the bar stool next to you.
"Say," you'd mutter over your third draft. "What do you suppose will become of those two lost ladies?"
"I dunno," your beer mate will offer. "But after five days out there, I don't imagine it's going to end well."
The tale of the lost ladies galvanized a good portion of the population and for nearly a week. They reminded us of beloved grandmothers, favorite aunts or friends we've had all our lives and the notion of them lost and in peril out in the cold was unacceptable.
And the people didn't just follow the drama, they stepped up to help. Some went riding the back roads in search of that suddenly famous red Jeep Compass. A few offered up detailed maps of the areas they'd covered while others used drones and their familiarity with particular regions to help refine the searches.
The search for Pushard and Bussell was a 24/7 fixation and for all the right reasons.
Me, I was beset by a curious optimism even as the ladies remained among the missing into the fifth day. I don't know what it was, exactly, but for me the strange case began to feel like the stuff of legend as opposed to the stuff of pending calamity.
Maybe it was the little tidbits of information that arose as the search ground on for these two wayward women, best buds since high school.
There they were getting directions at a little general store in Springfield where they were described as kind and in good spirits. There they were at Marden's waaaay up in Lincoln, not far from Aroostook County, and I imagined them tired from the trip, but invigorated enough to shop for deals in the legendary super store.
I kept imagining these two lost souls as weary and confused, yes, but perhaps just a little bit enthralled by the jaunt into unplanned adventure. Perhaps on their long and winding way, they saw enough oddities and experienced enough thrills to provide them with stories to tell their friends and kin for the rest of their lives. Maybe someone will write a folk song about Maine's lost ladies. Someone should.
All weekend long, I was reminded of that old Fastball song about the couple who jumped into their car and just drove off into the unknown. It went through my head over and over as I pondered the latest news.
Frankly, I hope they WERE happy at some points of their travels and that they're happier still now that they're found. These ladies had themselves an adventure. They have a whole lot of stories to tell and a whole lot of people who would love to hear them.
That's a "woot" no matter how you slice it.