I look down at my car’s clock and see the time. Holy shitballs, five minutes until work. I quickly return my vision to the car ahead of me, which is now clipping along at a cool fifteen miles per hour. Their taillights dance to the left, then the right, then the left again. I note their Florida plate and enjoy a fleeting laugh before my own car begins to lose traction and slide. I counter steer and bring my car back into line. I glance at the empty passenger seat, half-expecting to see Vin Diesel talking about a quarter mile. My good fortune continues as I see the car ahead of me going straight past my exit. Home free!
I turn onto the last street before my stop. Three minutes, I can do this. The Steak and Shake on my right tries tempting me in like a Siren, with its bright lights and above-freezing dining room. My heart pounds in my chest as I pass by it, avoiding temptation yet again. Not today, you delicious bastards. As if driving over a landmine, my car rocks and bounces off of the pavement, the result of Bloomington’s unkempt winter roads. Flat tire or not, I push on, only moments away from work.
The snow falls harder and harder as I approach the faded sign of my workplace. I let my speed drop several miles per hour and make the sharp turn into the parking lot. I draw in a deep breath and prepare myself for the best part of any winter morning – parking my car. The time reads 6:59AM. With a minute to spare and an empty parking lot I yank my wheel to the right. The wheel shakes underneath my hands as my car drifts sideways towards my parking spot, any parking spot. A primal yell of pure bliss leaves my mouth as I continue gliding across the lot like a three-thousand pound ballerina.
I quickly turn off my car and begin my mad dash towards the door, slopping scalding hot coffee all over my coat and hands. I fumble with my keycard for several seconds before unlocking the door, causing another storm of coffee to rain down on my fingers. My grip begins to cave as the very mug of coffee I’m clenching onto, is also melting my flesh. I hate everything. The door clicks, letting me know it’s open. With a violent whipping of my hand the door flies backwards. Before it has time to close I am already through the next set of doors and power-walking down the hallway. Like Theseus, I leave a trail behind me as I fly down the hall, substituting coffee for thread. I begin raising my arms as I see my computer desk, preparing to sling my lunchbox and other belongings towards it. With a triumphant crash I land in my desk chair, sliding my things onto my desk in the process. As I stare at my computer it dawns on me: my car’s clock is ten minutes ahead.
When I was a child there were few things I loved more than sledding. When I was a teenager there were few things I loved more than sledding. Now, a supposed adult, there are still few things I love more than sledding. Everything about sledding entertains me, from the building anticipation as you climb the hill, to the rush and slight fear of death you experience as you fly down said hill on a piece of plastic. But, like traditional sledding, there is a time and place for sledding in your car, and into an embankment off of the highway at 7AM is definitely not it.
You often hear about the dangers of black ice and the like. As a semi-new driver, I am constantly amazed and dumbfounded by winter driving. This is for several reasons.
- Ice really sucks. Are you a fan of being in control of your car? Well, take that idea and throw it out the window along with your dreams and aspirations, because winter doesn’t care. Maybe it’s my 1994 Le Baron talking, but control is only an illusion during the winter. At any point in time, it is possible that your car will decide it’s time to drift left, or that stopping wasn’t such a good idea after all. Because of this, remember to leave extra room between yourself and the car ahead of you, and to slow down sooner and more severely than you normally would before turning. Your life and the security of the planet Earth depends on it.
- The drivers really suck. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that “the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.” This statement applies to winter driving, but only when you substitute the second half of the statement with “every driver on the road.” I like to think of myself as a very aware and safe driver who knows what they’re doing. I only wish I could say the same for others during the winter. If you ever find yourself driving in a snowstorm or on icy roads, remind yourself of the three second rule when following and be ready for anything. If you’re reading this on a cellphone right now while driving, roll down your window and discard of your phone. Don’t you watch those commercials?
- Ice, why are you in my car? This one may not be an issue for everyone, but if you’re like me and you own a soft-top convertible, listen up. It’s common for a fine sheet of ice to plague the outside of any car left outside in the winter. You can imagine my surprise then, when I realized there was a thick layer of ice INSIDE my car. While the layer outside can be tackled with an ice scraper and extreme prejudice, the ice inside your car requires a more subtle approach. For starters, blast your heater and defrosters. Don’t even think about scraping the ice inside your car, as that will only result in melted ice soaking everything you hold dear (I speak from experience). I also recommend keeping a towel inside your car during the winter season, as you never know when you will need to wipe the inside of your windows following the defrosting. This towel can also serve as a great place to keep that ice-covered ice scraper you’ll be throwing in your car.
Timing is everything
If you haven’t noticed by now, everything is slower in the winter. The roads are icy, causing many drivers to panic and drive irrationally slow. The irrationally slow drivers cause other drives to angrily accelerate, driving irrationally fast (this guy is what we call an asshole). Throw in the fact that the snow and lack of sunlight have created a total whiteout and you’ve got a perfect state of chaos. I wish I could say this can all be avoided, but sadly, it can’t. Short of moving to a warmer climate, you’re stuck with this temporary madness. Pessimism aside, there is hope! Leaving early can make all of this much more bearable. If you regularly leave fifteen minutes before work, make it thirty just to be safe. If you know your car is in an uncovered parking lot, being hammered by the winter, leave an extra forty-five minutes early. This ensures that you will have ample time to scrape your entire windshield (note: entire, not a four-inch viewing hole), and that you won’t be “that guy” who flies by everyone in a whiteout, eventually sliding into a ditch. We will point and laugh, believe me.
I realize the tone of this entire post is one of hopelessness. Rest assured, the winter can be conquered, and it can be downright fun. Staying warm, leaving early, and paying extra attention to everything, are the first big steps to kicking winter’s ass. If you’re ever feeling too defeated by the season, take a minute to admire the beauty of the snow and ice around you. If that isn’t enough, I’d say the occasional drift across an empty parking lot should cheer you right up,
so you should totally do it but I won’t condone that behavior. To further your knowledge of the winter, make sure to read my first Man vs. Winter, in which I transform mere mortals into Human Snowmen. Godspeed, travelers of winter.