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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

The Amazing Race: Not For Us

My husband and I will never interview to be contestants on NBC's "The Amazing Race." You probably know the drill: a bevy of couples compete in a frenzied race around the world, meeting all kinds of crazy challenges along the way.

My husband and I wouldn't make it out of the parking lot.

We barely made it to the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner the other night, where I was being acknowledged for my writing, along with dozens of other authors. The schedule requested that all authors show up at 4:45 PM for cocktails and conversation.

Things got off to a rocky start. The clock was ticking, my husband, as usual, was running late, and he just couldn't finish his primping with me in the bathroom at the same time.

"You've had your time. Now it's mine."

I grabbed my lipstick, walked down the back stairs, and used the front of the microwave as a mirror--not recommended.

"Have the car keys?" I asked, after locking the door from the inside.

"Why would I have the keys? I thought you were driving. This is your event."

There we were, neither of us with the keys. (Like I said, we wouldn't make it out of the parking lot or, in this case, the garage.)

After rescuing a spare key buried in the yard, we were on our way. Not for long. We bumped right into an endless line of cars all intending to turn left at the intersection that seemed further away than next summer.

In my increasing wrestling match with the clock, I swung the car out of the lane and zipped into a side street. A big mistake. Cars were stuck together like fans at a sold-out Rolling Stones concert. It took twice as long to get to that intersection.

Once on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, we sped along until we got to the exit we needed, only to find it barricaded for some insane event in Grant Park. That forced us even further south where we found ourselves on an expressway taking us in the wrong direction. I managed to exit on the last local street before heading to St. Louis.

When we finally arrived at a red light at the intersection next to the building where the event was being held, Alan ushered me from the car, telling me to sign in while he parked. I needed a drink. Badly. But maybe, just maybe, the nightmare was over.

No such luck. No sooner had I made it to the cocktail lounge, out of breath but still standing, my phone rang.

"The car is dead," my husband screamed. "I'm stuck in the middle of the turning lane. And I have a cop up my butt."

Sweat cascaded down my face. Where was the microwave when I needed it? I knew this literary award thing was a sham. I should have stayed home and watched "The Property Brothers."

I dashed out the front door, retraced my steps, jumped into the driver's seat, and pressed the starter button multiple times until, grace a Dios (I've been learning Spanish), the car started right up as if it had just had a tune-up.

Where the hell were the parking attendants? Oh, there they were. On the wrong side of the street. I pulled a U-turn into oncoming traffic--at that point, death seemed like a good option.

"Take the damn car."

That's me up there on the screen. If you squint, you can see me on the far left as I began my strut across the stage.

I guess I can channel my mother and report that "All's well that ends well." The cocktail party was still in full swing, several of the authors hadn't yet arrived, and, later when one by one we were called on stage, I didn't trip or give the peace sign or suffer a wardrobe malfunction.

I finally had that drink.

Alan and me at the end of the night.


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