BY JOHN McLOONE
There was one driver I saw in my journeys last week who I really identified with.
I felt his pain. I was on the road in Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota for about 15 hours on Wednesday, slip-sliding from post office to post office to make sure your hometown newspaper was in your mailbox on time.
I’ve really, really, really had it with winter, but you all know that already. I’ve seen countless spinouts and semis in ditches. I’ve pushed stuck cars, and had mine pulled out of my front yard at 4:30 a.m. No, I didn’t put it there. Someone was doing me a favor and backing a truck full of newspapers in to make it easier for me to hit the road. One wheel got stuck off the driveway, and the rest was history.
I witnessed something that I’ve never seen before, and it really kind of summed up for me everything this winter has represented. There was a passenger van that must have lost control on icy pavement, and the driver rode right up a guardrail. They’re kind of low to the ground where they start and curve to a straight edge along the top. It was kind of like when you see skateboarders jump up and ride along the edge of something, except instead of a kid on a skateboard, it was a middle-aged man in a 5,000 lb. Ford. He had two tires hanging over the overpass and the other two on the pavement. He had slid out the passenger side door, and he and a police officer were surveying the scene when I drove by.
I have a confession to make: One time I did something similarly stupid. I’ve done a lot of stupid things, so I’m narrowing the list to stupid things I’ve done in the snow. It was a similarly snowy day about 15 years ago when I stranded myself and my vehicle in such a way that all four of my wheels were off the ground.
I can actually cross-reference this story with stupid things I’ve done while holding two coffees in my hand. There are a couple stories in that file. On one occasion, I was driving a stick shift. It was 3 a.m., and I was heading into work, probably circa 1995. I stopped and grabbed two coffees. I had a half-mile drive on a virtually open road. I didn’t have cupholders. The only other vehicle was a police officer, who thought there was another reason my vehicle swerved. He informed me I was stupid and let me go.
On the next occasion, not learning my lesson about driving short distances on seemingly open roads with two coffees, I again was on my way to work early in the morning, this time in a snowstorm. The snow was plowed to the middle of the road. Did I mention it was snowing? I have a habit of driving this route more toward the middle of the road, because there are a couple manholes and a few potholes in the normal right traffic lane. Before I knew it, my car was exactly atop the plowed pile of snow in the middle of the road, all four wheels about a foot off the ground.
It wasn’t as serious as this guy did on the guardrail, and the first guy upon the scene had a rope and pulled my car down.
He told me, too, that what I had done was pretty stupid.
I could only agree.