After a round of hugs and much jubilation, I paused for a moment and asked, "Where's Tomás?" Daniel and Hilda explained that he was waiting out in the car, listening to a soccer game on the radio. As we made our way out to the parking lot, I began to recount the story of the turbulence, the luggage, etc. Upon leaving the terminal we were met with heavy rain, and we decided to wait under an overhang rather than soak ourselves and the luggage. Daniel turned to me and said, "You know, we had our own adventure on the way here."
The very same storm that had buffeted the plane during landing had also plagued Hilda, Daniel and Tomás as they made their way to the airport to pick me up. As strong rains began to pelt the car, Tomás naturally turned on the windshield wipers, but after just a few minutes the wiper blades fell out of synch and crossed over each other, rendering Tomás virtually unable to drive the car for lack of visibility. Keep in mind that Argentina has been suffering from one of the worst droughts in years, and it just so happened that the heavens opened up the day I arrived.
The trio was passing through the countryside with nowhere to stop to fix the wipers, but finally they happened upon a small store where they purchased a screwdriver to deal with the problem. Tomás joked that they must have bought a toy version because after about three turns of the screwdriver, it broke. Fortunately the storm had let up and they were able to continue to the airport without problems, but Tomás was quite concerned about the return trip home if the storm should kick up again, as the wiper issue continued unresolved.
So there we were beneath the awning, watching as the rain came pouring down, and I momentarily regretted my decision to leave my umbrella back in Philadelphia. After 15 minutes or so the storm abated somewhat, and we decided to make a break for the car. With luggage in tow (minus bag #4, of course), we found the car and started loading up the suitcases.
We left the airport with nothing but a light drizzle falling, but our luck soon gave way as we were faced with a torrent of rain (and an additional torrent of curse words issuing from the frustrated Tomás). We drove along in a scene that must have resembled a 90-year-old trying to negotiate the traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, complete with cars whizzing past and lots of honking. Tomás searched in vain for a spot where we could pull over, but with no shoulder in sight, we continued along at a snail's pace – to the great irritation of other drivers – praying that the rain would let up.
The rain finally slowed to the point where it was nothing but a minor nuisance, and eventually it stopped altogether. Now we were moving along at a decent clip, and we were confident that we would make it home around 2:30am or so. We passed the time talking, taking a nap (ok, just me) and having an in-car picnic of medialunas (sweet croissants) and piping hot coffee from a thermos.
Now we were very close to home and just about to pass through the town of Pieres (don't blink or you'll miss it), when we were pulled over at a police checkpoint. I am convinced that at 2am the police out in the country have nothing better to do, and they like to pull a little power trip to make themselves feel important. They asked Tomás for his driver's license, proof of insurance, blah, blah, blah, and proceeded to nitpick over something they didn't like with the insurance documentation. The officer's supervisor comes over and says, "You know, I could impound your vehicle if I wanted to but I will let you go." Seriously?! I thought Hilda, one of the sweetest people I know, was going to blow a gasket. Twenty-five minutes later with everyone's blood pressure at least twenty-five points higher, we drove the final stretch to Necochea.
We finally pulled into the driveway at about 3am, and I trudged into the kitchen where I was met by the bleary-eyed Cocoa and Ziggy (they had made the trip down in October). A few minutes later I slid into bed and fell fast asleep, exhausted after about 34 hours of travel.