Life in the fast lane, no way this winter
January 06, 2010
I'm looking for a graphic artist because I really, really need a sign for my car. It's got to be one of those rear-window types that won't obstruct my view but will get the message across because it's become increasingly apparent to me that people driving behind me really, really need to know.
"I went into the ditch and all I got was this lousy tow bill and these slow driving habits."
That's what I want the sign to say. Not that it'll help any, but at least the over-confident SUV drivers and those wheeling the huge pickup trucks with major snowplow equipment on them will perhaps have a little compassion and maybe, just maybe, a smidgeon more patience.
In any case, they have no choice (except to pass me) because the bottom line is this: I. Am. Not. Going. In. A. Ditch. Again. If. I. Can. Help. It. No. Matter. How. Close. To. My. Rear. Bumper. You. Care. To. Drive.
Maybe that's what the rear window sign should say, now that I think of it.
I know driving down Dryden Road at a top speed of 35 gets on the nerves of a lot of people. I assume that most of those people never landed in the HUGE, DEEP ditch at the intersection of Glover Road while attempting to actually stop at the stop sign.
Yes, it's a dark and not so snowy night but there's this crazy little country thing called "blow over" that's taking place on the gusty, 8 degree winter night. I take this into consideration having lived out here the past 20 years so I ease the roller skate...uhm...PT Cruiser up to a conservative 35 miles an hour.
Pitch black road, no traffic. Path ahead illumin-ated by the brights. Familiar stop sign in sight, I ease off the gas and begin applying the brakes (well in advance I think rather smugly) and I suddenly realize 35 miles an hour is way too fast. I am now behind the wheel of a roller skate disguised as a heavy piece of equipment which seems to have a mind of its own. Wild attempts to steer and counter-steer are fruitless and for a moment seem to make things worse until I realize something in a split second: I have a goal—a mission, a dream—to not wipe out the stop sign.
Another split second later I pat myself on the back: I didn't wipe out the stop sign. The next second I panic, then say a few choice words. The view from where I'm at is just about level with Dryden Road and it's really not all that pretty. Attempts to open the door to assess the situation are met with the icy resistance of Old Man Winter's hand. That and the eight or so inches of snow blanketing the ditch. I budge and budge until I can wedge myself out and take a look at what just happened.
Yes, it's the day of cell phones so help is close at hand. Well, kinda close like everything else out here. Even the friend or neighbor that lives nearest is at best a half hour away and on a night like this one, an hour. Ditto for the towing company because I'm not the only one who was driving too fast for the conditions on the dark and not-so-snowy night so I'm waiting in line behind a long list of fellow ditch divers.
Amazingly, passersby do manage to stop—just not at the stop sign. I'm surprised and encouraged by the number of people who find a place to pull over on Glover south of Dryden Road to ask if I need help. I'm embarrassed when a couple of them say "Hey, you're the newspaper lady aren't you?"
Ya. Uh huh. That's me. What a shining moment. I'm fine, I say, and I am. Help is on the way, I grin, but thank you so much for stopping. Really.
Eighty bucks later (eight-zero, $80) the vehicle's back at home—no major damage, no big problems except in the old checkbook.
So here I am today. This winter. Driving skills forever altered. I am not a rocket scientist but I do know that I'd rather spend 80 bucks enjoying a good meal (several where I eat) than getting a tow out of a ditch. In fact, it's not that I've got an extra 80 bucks to spend but I'd just about rather spend it on anything but getting towed out of a ditch. This I do know. This does not change regardless of how closely I'm being followed.
Now come to think of it, maybe that's what the sign should say. If I find a good enough graphic artist maybe I could get one of those flashy things they have on the major expressways where the message changes. Yes, that's the ticket, which this winter at least, won't be issued for speeding.
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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.