Friday, January 8, 2010

Driving through the snow...

In a four-door gray sedan!
O'r the ice we go,
Sliding all the way

Okay, that's all you get.

That was my Honda Civic (a.k.a. The Honda, The Piece, The Little Car, and so forth) winter-driving song. It goes on, but it gets dumber as it continues, so I am stopping before I make a bigger fool of myself than usual.

I hate driving in gross snowy weather, but snow isn't as freaky for me as ice is. I hate ice. Even the kind you see and can easily avoid. I hate it all.

This was reaffirmed for me this morning as I pulled out of my driveway and saw how beautiful 16 was this morning. Barely plowed, the compacted snow from the previous day had frozen solid. Nice. And though driving on it was not so risky as on other sorts of ice, I still had the chill of blind panic that I fight every time I see the glossy surface of ice on a road.

I wasn't always like this. But now, every winter, I have to get over the annual Ice Phobia.

Why is this Laura's Number One Phobia (the second being to have a more-than-friendship relationship with a member of the opposite sex)?

For that, we have a story.

I hated driving when I was in Driver's Ed. I was 15, in a group of students from the class below mine, and in the midst of the hugely awkward stage I have yet to fully leave behind me. I hated being looked at, talked to, noticed, asked questions, having the door held open for me by a stranger (or acquaintance)...pretty much all social interaction. I had my circle of friends. We were good. Anyone else though...freaked me out.

Being crammed in a car with three other people, all actively involved in judging me, that was Hell. On. Earth.

When Hell was over, I had my 16th birthday. But I didn't get my license. Heck no.

You see, at the time, a law had just been passed that said any driver under 18 (I think) couldn't have anyone in the car with them for three (I think) months after getting their driver's license.

Okay. So, I live in the middle of no where, but as I said before, even though I was smack dab in the middle of a social vacuum, I had friends. All of these friends were getting their licenses too. And the only way we could legally go anywhere together would involve all four of us driving separate vehicles to the same location.

How dumb is that?

Instead of having one "risky" young driver on the road, now you have four (at least in my case). All trying to stick together, all trying to convey complicated "I'm turning here" hand gestures since that was back when only rich people's parents had cell phones.

So, four times the risk.

My solution to this was not to get a license. But when I ended up (after much turmoil) going to MC--and commuting--it became apparent that I would have to drive there, since there isn't public transportation around here. Or anything, really.

I inherited the Honda. Not The Honda, the Honda. Honda I. We'll call it The Accord, just to keep things clear, as it was the first of two Hondas.

The Accord had air conditioning. The Accord had a working stereo system. The Accord had a passenger side mirror and plenty of leg room. The Accord had been well-maintained. The Accord had a leak-proof windshield and cruise control. It was old (1986) but it worked, and it worked well.

Sophomore year. Fall Semester.

Snow coats the ground, naturally, this includes roadways.

Laura, fresh-faced and innocent, hops into her little two door car and turns onto 16. She relishes in the untouched perfection of new-fallen snow. She notes the hazard of the slush it has covered and the low-low temperature outside. She reduces speed considerably and drives in the tire marks left by others so that her low-to-the-ground car does not become wedged in the snow.

She accepts that she will be late for class, and she is okay with that.

What happened next is a bit of a blur.

You see, Laura had decided to go back home, as she noted a great deal of ice beneath the snow. The super-slick black kind, concealed by snow but no less slippery.

She had no easy place to turn around, so she continued, planning to turn in the Indiana Pork Producer's giant parking lot.

Then the van came.

Now, the van driver had a considerably large vehicle to contend with. They handled this problem by driving in the middle of the road. Laura moved as far to the side as she could. And then it happened.

I recall the sensation of weightlessness, caused by the centrifugal force of my spinning car. I corrected, regained control, then hit another patch of ice.

By then, it was totally over.

I changed direction a multitude of times, then regained awareness only to see my car slam into an approaching tree.

I regained consciousness.

At that moment, I was almost-certain my arm was broken. The impact had also knocked all the air out of me, so I had that fantastic (sarcasm there) fish-out-of-water sensation.

Meanwhile, because my death-defying stunt driving was so important to others, the van driver had continued onward, leaving me to my horrible fate.

Several people stopped. One called the gas station in Roann, the gas station then called Mom. Mom took the van and came for me. While I waited, I watched a police car slow near my car, roll down the window, and stare before going on to something presumably more important.

Thanks, Dude. You were terrific, really. Especially when you came back later and got all mad because I had "left the scene of an accident" when you did the same thing moments earlier. Darn that pesky medical attention.

Mom arrived and told me to start the car.

At this point, the car was across the road from the tree, as it had ricocheted off spun once more, and ended up in the ditch facing the opposite direction on the other side of the road.

She said she thought maybe we could drive it home, and perhaps have it towed from there.

"Uhhh," the woman who'd stayed with me said. "I don't think that thing can drive."

I started the car. Mom told me to. I was in a bit of shock.

Liquid and steam poured from the engine. It also made a very amusing noise, one that I reproduced for several days to all I spoke to.

"The engine block is cracked," the nice waiting lady explained. "You don't want her driving that."

"Okay," Mom said. "Laura, get your stuff."

Then she walked back to the van and got inside.

Meanwhile, I was pretty sure that my arm was just bruised, but my ribs felt pretty awful. I also was weak from the, you know, stress, so lifting my heavy bag of textbooks and Norton Anthologies was a real treat, as was walking over to the car and putting the bag inside and lifting myself up and into the car.

It hurt.

"Dad will come and look at the car," Mom said, because this was before we got Darcy and Mom started calling him Daddy like she did when Paul and I were four and two.

I keep telling her she's going to be eighty with puffy M-shaped bangs wandering around the grocery store using a cart to hold herself up, calling "Daddy? Daddy?" as she walks from aisle to aisle.

"It will need towed," I said. "No one can drive that thing."

"We'll see," she replied.

Then she took me to the doctor's office and he looked me over, pronounced that I had "probably not" broken ribs but "certainly" torn cartilage, something I was told would take "ages" to heal, "if ever."

We went home.

By this point, Mom's freak-out had become less of a paralyzing force. So, when we passed the wreckage of my car, and she finally comprehended what she'd seen before...

She was upset.

"Now do you see why I thought you were crazy when you asked me to start it?" I asked, feeling much better now that I was, well, alive and going home.

Mom didn't really have anything to say about that. She just kept driving.

Strictly speaking, I did everything I was supposed to when I lost control of the car. I regained control, too, several times. But it did me no good, as the road was all wet ice and there was no traction to be had.

Still, the knowledge that I hadn't goofed gave me little comfort. I became increasingly paranoid. Frost on the road became equated with ice. I didn't want to drive when the weather was below freezing.

But I soon became able to turn my torso without shocking amounts of pain, Dad replaced his Civic with a newer, classier car, and I became the "proud" new owner of The Honda and all of its flaws.

Because The Honda was a great deal worse in snow than The Accord had been. My little blue car could hold its own in most snowfalls, but The Civic would fishtail in the lightest accumulation.

In short: The Honda Sucked.

This we all know (and knew). Even without its snow performance, it was a crappy car. Just because it was good on gas, I loved it, because gas soon went up to $4.00+ a gallon and my car still could go for two weeks on a full tank of gas, so I was a happy commuter.

I mention all of this because we've had some snow, the most we've had this winter, and it has caused me to notice just how crapulescent The Honda was in bad road conditions. Really.

Yesterday I was supposed to work from 1 to 8. I got ready, was about to leave, and Dad stopped me. "You aren't driving to work," he said.

"No," I replied. "I'm teleporting."

"I don't want you driving in this."

"Dad," I said. "I've driven in way worse than this. It's no big deal. It's only snow."

"Yeah, but you aren't driving," he countered.

"So I'll just call work and tell them to go on without me," I said snidely. "I'm sure they'll be so happy to let the children climb bookshelves because you told me I couldn't drive."

"You aren't driving," he repeated. Then turning to my mother, he said, "Jul, I need your keys."

"Wait a minute," I said. "Was that your nice way of asking me if I wanted a ride to work so I wouldn't have to drive in the snow?"

"Yes," he said, sounding exasperated.

I love my dad. He tries to be gentlemanly, and it sounds like he's being a jerk. It's a good thing I know him so well.

I drove to work today (slowly) and noticed that no matter how un-cared-for that 16 was, my car didn't slide or fishtail or skid. I was peachy.

Within minutes, I relaxed. By the time I arrived at work, I had come to a conclusion.

It's a good thing I never knew what it was like to have a nice car. See, growing up, we had car after car that...sucked...and all of them decayed and died in our possession. Not a single one had more than one redeemable quality.

If I had known better, I would have hated The Honda with a passionate vengeance. I would have driven it off a cliff or something. Stupid Honda. It was such a wreck. I mean, really. If I had crashed that thing, I would have died so fast, I wouldn't even have had a chance to beg forgiveness for all the rage I harbored against my car and its deadly construction.

Stupid car.

Really, you all told me. You told me how bad it was, and I didn't believe you. Because I remembered the Datsun, the car that Sucked so bad you have to capitalize Suck when you use it in reference to it. The Datsun that we called Puff the Tragic Wagon. The car Dad had to take the back of an axe to if he wanted to open to doors. The one with the gear shift that sometimes worked and the key you could take out of the ignition at any time. Oh, and you could start it with anything you wanted, no key necessary.

The point of all this?

I Love My New Car.

Note: I tried to look up the 1980 Datsun Suck, but I don't think I have the model right. They must have given it a better name to trick potential buyers.

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