Winter Roads, a Wonderful Hell.

This morning, around 6:00am, I heard voices. I woke up to a woman talking, and my wife was still sound asleep next to me. As I lay there debating whether I’d managed to go insane or if I should go clear the living room at gunpoint, I start to hear beeping. “Ah.” says I. The answering machine. I shambled out of the bedroom and played the message. It was the automated prompt from The Narrator’s school telling us that they were on a two hour delay because of bad weather. Cool. Back to bed.

When we all did finally wake up, I checked the TV to see if the school I work at was delayed, which I knew was futile. The Superintendent very rarely closes, and I can’t remember any delays in the recent future, so while The Narrator could drink his juice and snuggle under the blankets on the couch for another hour, I was headed out the door.

This never fails to amuse me. The school is delayed because the roads are bad, but I still needed to drive ON those roads to get to a school that ISN’T delayed.

From the start, I knew it would be a rough trip. Our Ford Fusion, which I’ve been too broke cheap to put winter snow tires on, isn’t spectacular in the snow. Being front wheel drive and light weight in the rear, the back end will easily step out on you if you’re not careful. Plus, the roads in front of the house was buried under at least an inch. Not to mention we live at the top of a small but steep hill, and going anywhere means going downhill, and on mornings like this….you’re in for a treat.

I dropped the transmission to low gear and crawled down the hill. Nearly the exact moment I came to a stop…the Check Engine light came on.

Balls. Now what?

Luckily, there was no indication of a problem other than that light, so we went on. A moment later, as I headed down the road, I remembered I needed gas, but turning around seemed pointless, so I opted for going BEYOND the school where I work, to the next station. More driving in it.

And then the phone rang. As I was driving on a state highway which is posted 55MPH….at 30. I blue-toothed it, and my wife on the other end of the line tells me, “They cancelled The Narrator’s school.” Awesome. Now I’m driving through a district that has decided that the roads were too bad to send out school buses, in a relatively light Ford with all-season tires and a check engine light I can’t figure out.

Oh well. There’s work to do.

Long story made less long, I made it. I ended up getting gas, the check engine light went out, and I only *nearly* lost control once going up a long hill on a bend. It took me nearly an hour to make the trip, but I’m here.

– In all honesty though, and this is going to sound insane…I love this sort of thing. Bad roads, rough weather, vehicles not quite up to the job…I’ll be the first one to go drive in it. I love the challenge.

The day I realized this, I was back from my freshman year of college and we were at a party at a buddy’s house. One of the other guys brought two girls with him from the ski mountain where we worked, promising to drive them home later. He promptly got drunk. I, for some reason, stayed sober and rather than strand these poor girls here, I opted to drive them home. The problem was- it had been a complete BLIZZARD for the last few hours, and the roads looked exactly like something you’d see in a Thomas Kincade painting. I was driving a battered old Ford Taurus station wagon.

At one point, the car went sideways, and with the two girls screaming, I managed to straighten it out and get them home safely. I even got a kiss out of the deal, so…bonus.

Better than the kiss though, I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed driving on roads and in weather where normal people refuse to.

I love being forced to pay attention and sharpen my senses to get somewhere safely. Not just snow either- driving rain, howling winds, fog, you name it, and the worse the conditions, the more I enjoy myself.

I’ve had to temper my enthusiasm for this since we’ve had the boys, because I know I’m not invincible, and sooner or later, the odds will catch up to me, so packing the wife and kids into the car and driving off on a jaunt on the middle of a howling gale of a snowstorm is reckless and stupid.

But still.

Even when I’m working PD and the roads are bad enough for ‘firehouse rules’ (staying put unless called out somewhere) I’ll still try to patrol when I can, and ESPECIALLY if the fire siren goes off or the ambulance pager buzzes…I don’t care what the roads look like, I’m going. One snowstorm last winter saw our driveway have less snow on it than the road did, because I was on ambulance call. I have NO idea what would have happened if there was a call, but I didn’t need to find out. Point is, I was ready to go.

The lesson here kids, is that AD is slightly broken. If you’re ever snowbound in upstate NY, and look out your window to see only snow plows and a single moron in a red Ford…that’s me.


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