Gray Matters — Winter weary
Monday afternoon, my coworker Pam reminded us all that the official start of spring — at least according to the calendar — was just 29 days away.
Less than a month, but still not a short enough time span to satisfy this lady, particularly after the recent severe weather and a couple of smaller systems that sent me and my vehicle either spinning or flying off the road altogether.
And that was over the course of just one day.
The first time I had that issue was last Monday, Feb. 11, on Swan Lake Avenue, as I was en route to my folks' house for a short break before the start of a night meeting I was scheduled to cover. I was traveling along at a fairly slow pace because a fine layer of winter mix had settled on the roadway, but I didn't feel it warranted the use of four-wheel drive. Big mistake.
I was all fine and dandy until I felt the rear end of the Jeep start to slide. I reached down for the lever to switch over to four-wheel drive, but it was a futile effort — by then I had already done a 180-degree turn and was positioned on the opposite lane of travel. At that point I thought to myself, 'Oh, great, here's where I die.' I would say my life flashed before my eyes, but there was no time. That's because I then felt the vehicle begin to tip slightly, at which point I tensed up to brace for one of two worst-case scenarios — rolling it over and/or careening into an oncoming vehicle. The way I see it, neither of those events would have ended well.
But thanks to the deep snowbanks that lined the road and filled the ditches from the previous weekend's storm, the rear of the Jeep planted itself firmly in the snow instead. I wasn't hurt at all, except for my bruised pride, and my vehicle was not damaged.
Boy, was I lucky.
That said, I should have known what was about to occur — it seemed everyone I have ever known in my entire life stopped at the scene to offer assistance and, of course, to rib me a little about my poor driving ability.
First my landlord, Tom, stopped to make sure I was OK — he happened to be driving along a couple of cars ahead of me and saw the whole thing. Tom was pretty cool, and didn't really give me a hard time. But then my dad showed up right about the time one of Belfast's finest, Patrolman Brian Lunt, came by to assist me.
Officer Lunt was extremely helpful at the scene — thanks again, Brian — and so was my dad, although he certainly could not resist the urge to remind me that just because my vehicle is designed to go off-road didn't mean I was supposed to do it in the manner I did. Far be it from dad not to offer some kind of wisecrack, especially after he found out I didn't get hurt.
Then my son's bus driver happened past — he called me "crash" the next morning when he came to pick up my son for school, and we had a good laugh about it at my expense.
Just as dad and Officer Lunt were forming a plan for dislodging my Jeep from the snow bank, a firefighter friend of mine drove past and waved when he saw I was OK. A few days later, I received an email from him asking just what I thought I was doing in the ditch. I told him I was chalking it up to bad weather and my even-worse driving. The way I see it, that is both fair and accurate. And of course, a little bit funny.
I won't even go into the two additional times I found myself spinning in the middle of the Mt. Ephraim Road on that same evening — one, it's embarrassing because I was using four-wheel drive both times and still managed to lose it, and two, those instances just were not as amusing as the first one. But I digress.
There's a lesson or two in all of this, though, chief among them being my reminder to take it slow because it's better to arrive late than not at all due to injury or death. Lesson number two, I think, is a bit more on the order of Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong will, and when it does, especially if it is even remotely humiliating, you'll likely have an audience.
On the serious side, though, please be safe out there in the last remaining weeks of winter. And if you do have an accident, I hope it is minor in nature and that you're able to find as much humor in it as I did with mine.