This morning we awoke to new snow and a thin crust of ice all over the roads. In spite of the fact that we live in Idaho, where people are expected to know how to drive on the stuff, the first real snow is always accompanied by a sharp learning curve as the denizens of the city by the lake get their bearings. People seem shocked to realize all over again that driving the posted speed limits may render you unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of you, and that anti-lock brakes and snow tires are no substitute for caution on the icy streets. Slow and steady wins the race, the saying goes, and I was glad I remembered it today as I inched past several fender benders and a string of police flares around a white van mysteriously flipped over on its side.
As a Georgia girl, my learning curve was a bit steeper than most that first winter in Idaho. I routinely forgot to slow down in advance of intersections, causing me to slide through more than one stop sign or traffic light. My instinct, when going into a slide, was to stomp on the brakes and hold them down, transforming our minimally maneuverable car into a two-ton ice skate. It was a long, snowy winter that year, and I was terrified to leave the house.
Finally, Paul took me out to an iced-over parking lot for a remedial course in driving on the tundra. I learned to pump my brakes, to test the grip of the tires, to turn the wheel into the slide and correct my spin. After some practice, I realized I was actually having fun, especially when Paul demonstrated the dubious trick of turning perfect donuts on the ice. It wasn’t long before I was able to release my death grip on the wheel, unclench my teeth, and drive around town with confidence.
Ironically, it was Paul who was driving when we had our one and only bumper thumper that winter. We crashed into a church building. We had pulled into their parking lot to turn around but we failed to see the black ice covering the slightly inclined asphalt. Paul turned the wheel left, the car kept going straight, and we had plenty of time to see the brick wall before we ran into it. Thankfully, the damage was minimal, but we never fail to giggle now when we pass that building.
The name on the sign was “True North”. (Does that make our Ford Escort a compass?)