It’s funny how easy it is to do something when you have the proper motivation. I’m sure the military is well aware of this through the use of drill sergeants. Back when I was working out on a daily basis, my motivation wasn’t an inconsolably angry person in a smoky bear hat, it was a girl. And even if I didn’t see this girl all the time when I was working out, as happened most days, I considered the workouts in-between to be preparations for when I would see her. I was in the best shape of my life.
So one stormy winter day, a Saturday if I remember correctly, I decided that despite the weather I would do my daily workout. And what’s better than swimming alone in a huge indoor pool and looking outside to see horizontal snowfall and hear wind clawing at the roof? So I got my kit together and shoveled my car out. The concentration of small tasks like shoveling your car out are good at narrowing your vision away from an overall condition, that being the obliteration of all roads by a severe winter storm. And like a horse with blinders on, I made my way into the big white mass.
Out in the country where I was living at the time, snowplows came in due time. It’s not like Chicago where if the roads aren’t clear by the time rush hour hits, we all complain. No, in the country, there are probably 4 snow plows for the entire county. And the twenty miles of turn-less two lane blacktop, surrounded on each side by ditches that could literally swallow up a semi tractor trailer, might only get plowed once a day, if that. Of course, growing up in the burbs of Chicago, I didn’t think of that at the time.
I grew up thinking about how cool it would be to be in whiteout conditions. As a small child, I remember seeing a movie about people who had been caught in conditions with so much snow and haze that the sky and the ground could not be distinguished from one another. And every winter after that, I imagined pushing my way back to my base camp, lost in a snow globe, icicles hanging from my eyelashes and beard, only 20 feet from my igloo or tent but unable to find it. Then I’d collapse face first into the deep snow like Luke Skywalker on Hoth. Whiteout. Must be cool, right?
The reality of driving in whiteout conditions is a bit different. The problem is, those ditches I mentioned get covered over and hidden. And there aren’t any crops in the winter. So the extremely flat landscape of the Midwest creates a bowl of white around you. It was like the world was a chalkboard and someone had drawn a dusty eraser across it. From gust to gust, the world would go ping-pong and I’d be inside of it. I couldn’t see a freaking thing. All it took was an inch of snow to completely hide the blacktop and we had four or five. But luckily, the winds were very strong. So once in a while, I’d get updates on where the road was supposed to be, or more accurately, where I had wandered close to the edge of wintery entombment. Every so often, I’d pass a stop sign placed randomly in the white world of the Matrix Loading Program. That was my only proof that I wasn’t driving inverted on the sky. Other than that, it all looked the same.
Eventually, the gusts cleared and a darkish white area revealed the location of the workout facility, a large building that looked like it would have one of those fallout shelter signs on it somewhere. Appropriate. I crunched my purple car into the parking lot avoiding the larger drifts which looked like they would be fun to smash through. The lot was completely empty, not a good sign. I walked over to the building sheltering the side of my face from the shotgun blast of flying ice and found the doors to be locked and the lights off. I thought, “What the heck! If I can make it here, anyone can! I’m the only one living around here who DOESN’T have a pickup.”
Time to go back home.
Figuring I might as well have some fun, I decided to plow through one of the smaller drifts in the parking lot. So I got some speed up and popped through with a white cloud flowing quickly away in my wake. One more turn back to the street. Another drift, a little larger this time. I got more speed up and with a quick finality, my car flowed to a sudden stop. It wasn’t as severe as a car crash, but it was almost as sudden, like the end of a roller coaster ride. The front tires spun uselessly in space. This particular snow drift was so gentle that instead of going through the snow, I rode over it. I got out into ankle-deep snow and saw that I was irreparably stuck in the middle of a parking lot surrounded by snow covered fields not necessarily in the middle of nowhere, but perhaps on the border. This sucked. I had no shovel, only a combo window scraper and brush. The prospect of digging myself out with that was laughable. But my motivation to not die out there inspired me to a brilliant idea. I looked over at Barney humming peacefully atop his white hill. Yes, I named my car Barney. I smiled at my cleverness. I’d put Barney in Drive (putting pressure on the snow drift and a slight forward urge to the tires), get out, and start digging around the wheels, and together Barney and I would dig ourselves out!
So I got back in Barney, dropped the automatic into Drive, got out, closed the door and <click>, the doors locked automatically.
To be continued…