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So, I’m sitting in my vehicle parked under our ice-caked carport, waiting for the damn thing to warm up because it’s freaking cold. Two minutes ago, I had been all bubbly about my quest to raid the local supermarket for mayo, onions, and eggs. Now I’m having serious second thoughts about my life decisions as my teeth chatter and my huevos shrink down to raisin-size. (“What have we done to deserve this?”)
But I shake off the misgivings and force myself to focus on the chilly (insipid?) task at hand. This impromptu adventure should only take about twenty minutes, maybe thirty. The grocery store is just a few miles away. It’s the middle of the afternoon, when most people who have any type of respectable career are off somewhere making sure they keep that career. Even with the crappy weather and the related idiot potential that is always a factor on roadways in Dallas, the traffic should be relatively light. This is doable.
I slap my little SUV in reverse and ease backwards out of the carport, moving at roughly two miles an hour, because I’m all about the cautious driving. (Are you listening to me State Farm? Stop charging me rates that should only apply to those potential idiots.) Then I turn the wheel to the right, execute a lovely 3-point turn that might have involved a few extra points, shift gears, and I start to inch my way down the driveway proper. I get approximately seven feet before I encounter my first roadway hazard. All of the usually majestic shrubs on this side of the house are now so weighted down with icy snow that they are bent across the driveway, sighing in their rigid wretchedness.
I get out of the car and approach the sadly-drooping landscaping. I just need to get the snow off of these shrubs so they will hopefully spring back into their former positions. This is easier said than done. For one, the greenery is basically cemented to the pavement under the icy snow. I grab a few branches on the initial bush-blocker and shake the hell out of them. They reluctantly rise to a forty-five degree angle. (A commercial about the benefits of Viagra briefly flashes in my mind.) Progress, to be fair, but they are still blocking the driveway. And this is just the first bush of many. (And that’s a phrase you rarely hear out of my gay-ass mouth.)
I take a deep breath, and I continue with the shaking and the cussing as I work my down the driveway. This takes quite some time, an eon accented by extensive cussing. To help pass the time, I re-envision the bushes to be co-workers and certain political figures, which helps me add an extra oomph to my efforts as I shake with a vengeance. I’m slightly stunned at the amount of murderous zeal I apparently have in me (is this what caused Lizzie Borden to pick up that axe?) but at least I get most of the damn bushes out of the way.
At last, I finally reach the far corner of the house, nearly at the end of the troublesome landscaping that some fool insisted on having. (Oh, wait. That would be me.) Here we have something way beyond a bush. We now have an official tree, twice my height, with tons of branches. This thing is basically laying on its side across the driveway, buried under the snow in some bizarre Donner Party tribute. (“Well, it looks like Jebediah didn’t make it. Pot roast for dinner?”)
But I am not about to let this be a deal breaker.
I redouble my efforts, ripping and jerking until the branches finally start to poing their way out of the icy layer of whiteness. As the tree starts to rise back to its original position, there are cascades of snow pouring down on me. I’m drowning in frigid wetness, with icy nastiness getting in every one of my nooks and crannies, reaching places that I haven’t personally seen in decades. Even my underwear is soaked through by the time all is said and done. I’m not impressed. Then again, am I ever?
Eventually, the path is relatively clear and I manage to maneuver my vehicle to the end of the driveway. It’s been a good thirty minutes since I officially left for the grocery store, and I’m still on my own personal property. Most sane people would have called it a day by this point, retreating into their domicile and lighting votive candles. But no, we need onions and eggs and I’m not stopping now.
I finally get out on to the street, where I face another challenge. The snow is already deep enough that passage has become questionable. There’s that one set of tracks in the middle of the road that people have been trying to follow. You know what I mean. (Well, people who drive in snow know what I mean.) You want to follow these tracks because you get the most amount of traction by doing so, with a silent kiss to the anonymous soul who made the tracks in the first place.
Trouble is, my tires are apparently bigger than any tires that have traversed this stretch of road since the snow began accumulating, and we have a conformance issue. My tires don’t really fit. The rear of the car is slewing around a bit as I keep jumping the tracks and various wheels lose traction. Not an “oh my God, people are going to die!” state of emergency, but you probably don’t want to be walking your dog anywhere near my death-mobile right now.
Then things start to get a bit better as my ancient, Oklahoma-based snow-driving skills begin to resurface. In fact, I’m starting to have fun, purposely gunning it a little more than I should just for those brief moments of thrilling terror where you lose control. This is completely juvenile on my part, of course, but I can’t help it. There’s no one around, it’s all good.
As I approach the end of our long street, I am about to proclaim myself the King of Frozen Precipitation, feeling confident and studly. Then I am quickly slapped down from my royal appointment, because I’m unable to stop the car where a polite driver should. Instead, I slide right into the intersection. Luckily, there are no other cars or pedestrians in the vicinity, so vehicular-manslaughter is not imminent, but it’s a wake-up call. I need to quit screwing around and pay attention. (My high-school guidance counselor: “Oh, so now you’re going to listen to me?”)
So, I head to the left, crunching and slipping along. At the next intersection, I purposely roll through the 4-way stop, because there’s still no one around and it’s fun. I trundle along for a bit, passing through a few more intersections until I get to Gibbs Williams. (Where the hell they came up with that street name, I have no idea.) I decide to head right, toward the local high school, since it sits on a fairly-busy street and my assumption is that the heavy traffic will have melted some of the snow, thus lessening the carnage-potential.
As I’m innocently headed that way, I hit one of those weird patches of re-frozen snow (and therefore ice) and the front of the car is no longer playing nice, slewing to the left. Suddenly, the car is filled with this annoyingly-loud beeping noise like there’s been a prison break. My heart racing a little, I glance at the dashboard to see a flashing image of a car sliding sideways.
Wow. That’s very helpful and all, but I didn’t even know I had this unsettling, blinking feature on my car. And I’m not sure that I want it. I nearly had a panic attack, not because of some minimal sliding, but due to the sudden conviction that the alarm meant we had a nuclear-radiation leak and Karen Silkwood was going to go running by, hollering that we should all save ourselves before important and thick doors were closed and our mysterious deaths would be buried in a conspiracy of bureaucratic lies.
Luckily, the Silkwood Alarm shuts off as I regain control of the vehicle. I approach the high school, and I immediately realize this flight path might have been a bad decision. The cross street in front of me is indeed busy and full of cars. But these cars are not moving, based on my admittedly-faded memories of velocity and physics that I didn’t really grasp in that high school where I ignored the guidance counselor. And I’ve rolled up just as school is letting out. (Why this school is even open is mystifying to me.) These non-moving cars are filled with parents waiting on their hopefully-smarter offspring to spill out of the education emporium, released from incarceration for the next 16 hours.
Trouble is, most of the cars, once their attitudinal adolescents have been secured in the back seat, are now stuck. The street is covered in frozen slush, because these stupid parents have sat there idling, with the heat of the vehicles slightly melting the crust of the packed snow. There’s a thin layer of water, on top of ice, on top of snow. They can’t get any traction, especially since they don’t know what they are doing. Tires are spinning uselessly, and cars are wiggling back and forth like rutting pigs in a blanket.
I start to turn around and go back the other way, but a check of the rearview mirror reveals that hundreds of cars have appeared out of nowhere and are now behind me. (Did somebody ring a bell? Was it the Silkwood Alarm?) Great. So, I turn left onto the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and start to work my way through this minefield of cars, all of them lurching about and apt to T-bone me should they suddenly get traction at any time. It’s a little bit unnerving. But I inch my way forward, hoping my chances at survival are good. Or at least better than getting a Democrat elected to state office in Texas.
And yes, there’s a bit of social-consciousness stirring in me, thinking that maybe I should help some of these people out. But really, there are wheel-spinning cars all over the place. Where would I even start? Besides, the ANTI-social part of me is quite pleased that so many heathen juvenile delinquents are currently trapped in vehicles with their parents. This means they are not out running the streets, joining gangs and experimenting with drugs while their pants drag the snowy ground. In a way, I’m helping society by not doing anything. And I’m good with that.
As I finally get through most of this mess, I’m then presented with another life-affirming moment of joy. Just past the school, the street descends into a very deep valley that leads to another serious hill on the other side. (I’d sort of forgotten about this bit of geography in planning my Escape from Ice-Catraz. But I think it’s fair to say that my mind has been a bit muddled by the fact that I had to clay my way out of my own driveway. You’re never really the same after that.) As the snowfall briefly clears a bit, and I’m able to assess the situation, I realize that this route is no longer an option.
There’s a massive cluster of cars right at the bottom of the valley. Judging by the various angles of the stationary cars, you can tell that nobody can get out of the valley in either direction. And even if I managed to maintain traction going down and then up, I won’t be able to get through that mess of cars down there.
And some of the drivers standing beside those cars (and apparently yelling at each other, based on the contorted facial expressions) look very, very dissatisfied. It’s an angry mob looking for somebody to blame. If I go sailing past them in my smug little SUV then they are going to claw up the hill after me and rip my tires off in a frenzy of misguided retribution.
So, I need to turn around, and I need to do it pronto, because I’m already slightly descending this side of the valley, partly due to the pull of gravity and partly due to my brake pads having abandoned all responsibility at this point. But turning around is not going to be easy, since there are cars lining both sides of the street, still spinning in place. I check the rearview again and, for some reason, it’s temporarily clear right behind me. I don’t know where all those cars trailing me went, but they clearly had a different itinerary than I did, which basically encapsulates my entire life.
I decide to try backing up until I find a place to turn around. I pop it in reverse and tap the gas. My car is initially thoroughly unimpressed with this request, slewing a bit and spitting snow. Then the tires get a grip and here we go, with me traveling back-assward into the mess I had hoped to escape. (Another encapsulation, eh?)
Instantly, at least five cars start honking. I’m not in danger of hitting anyone right at the moment, so who are they honking at? I glance around and realize the honking is coming from the parental cars stuck on the sidelines of the street, with two of the honkers actually rolling down their frosted windows and flipping me off. What is wrong with these people? Are they actually mad that I’m being productive in my life and they’re not? Oh right, this is Texas. They must be Republicans.
Screw em. I keep backing up, being very careful and avoiding getting anywhere near anybody. I make it to a little side street, and curve backwards into that. Looking out the back window, I can see a few cars headed my way on said side street, but they are a bit back there, wheels spinning. So far, so good.
I turn back around, and just as I start to put the car in drive and hopefully escape this hell, one of the stuck cars on the main thoroughfare breaks free from the ice and starts to roll this way, obviously unaware of Death Valley that awaits just over the rise. Okay, fine. I instantly hate this car, but I don’t have the right of way. I’ll just let them pass in front of me, then I’ll pull back out on the main drag and head the other direction, away from the lynch mob.
Suddenly, there’s some snow-crunching from the other direction and I look that way. Somehow, somebody’s made it up out of the Valley of Republicans. That car is headed toward the car that is headed toward him. There’s not enough room for them to pass each other, so one of them will have to give. But nope, they’re both stubborn idiots, and they come nose-to-nose right in front of me, blocking my exit from the side street I’m on. Incredibly, they then just sit there and flip each other off instead of doing anything remotely reasonable. (Me: “Why is everybody so angry?” Sigmund Freud: “It’s all the result of sexual repression in their childhoods.” Me: “Blow it out your ass, Fred.”)
Then there’s more snow-crunching from behind me. The cars that had been way the hell down this side street are now right behind me, courtesy of random bits of traction here and there. And the lead car in this unwelcome calvary starts to honk, because I’m not moving, as if he can’t see the crap-fest of stupidity right in front of me.
I am just stunned with what is developing here. How are these people even able to feed themselves? I’m boxed in on all sides by losers who don’t know what they’re doing, morons are honking like it will do the tiniest bit of good, and the snow is still pouring down. This is one seriously-dry gene pool I’m floating in, and all I wanted to do was get some eggs from the supermarket.
My blood pressure is starting to throb, and I have a twitch that will probably never stop. Can this possibly get any worse? Then a dim warning bell goes off in my head. I’ve forgotten about something. Something important. It suddenly clicks and I glance at the dashboard.
The gas gauge is sitting on “E”.
Click here to read the next installment in this series…
Categories: The Stories