Luckily, we missed scenes like this.

My mum is staying with us for a while, to undergo some medical treatments. She arrived  last week, and our days have been busy with tests and appointments. Before we could get started on all that, she had a toothache, and an emergency appointment with her dentist, a former employer and good friend.

There’s a cost to such wonderful care, and that’s that Donald’s office is in Grosse Pointe, down by Detroit. On a good day it takes just over four hours to get there. We didn’t get a good day.

The forecast was for heavy rain, so we allowed for a five hour trip. Even with the downpour, we would have made it, if it weren’t for Detroit. At times, it rained so hard we couldn’t see through the windshield. Thankfully, traffic was light. Maybe only crazy people were out in it. It never occurred to us to cancel…what’s a little rain?

Several exits before our intended off ramp at I94, they closed the freeway. It wasn’t construction, or an accident. We couldn’t figure it out. Oddly, because of a book I’m writing, I’m pretty familiar with the streets of Detroit. We needed to head southeast to reach our destination.

But things didn’t look normal. The first indication that things weren’t right were the abandoned vehicles. Not one, or two, but a handful at nearly every intersection. Some of the roads were flooded, especially where they dipped to go under elevated roads. I won’t drive in floodwaters–unless I can watch someone else do it first. You just never know how deep they are. And, we were figuring out, that was the reason for the abandoned vehicles. Others had tried…and failed.

Many of the traffic lights were out–or just blinking yellow in all directions. And the businesses we passed where all dark. It felt like a post-apocalyptic city, or something out of Bonfire of the Vanities. The weirdest part was that there were no pedestrians. I’ve never driven in Detroit without seeing folks on the sidewalks.

We tried repeatedly, without luck, to find an east-west thoroughfare that wasn’t flooded. So we just kept heading south, figuring that we’d be able to get to Jefferson, and take that East. It was well south of where we were headed, but the other roads were impassable, and cluttered with those eerie, empty cars. Even with all the extra time we’d allowed, we couldn’t have anticipated our meandering search for a path across the city. We were late. We tried to call the dentist’s office, but the phones were out.

When we were nearly there, Donald called us. He’d called my home to get the number for my cell phone. He, too, had been late–as he was home, wrestling with a flooded basement.

Compared to the trip, the appointment was easy. The tooth had to be pulled, which we’d expected. Donald plotted us a safe route back out of the city–keeping us to high ground and avoiding the flooded freeways. Only later, when we saw the worst of it on the news did we fully appreciate what we’d driven into, and then, out of.

The whole region has been declared an emergency. And there we were, oblivious, like tourists checking out the sites.