Saturday, January 14, 2012

Delightful as Christmas Break was, I am now back at school and back at work. Already I've lesson planned until 9:30 P.M. and re-started Stargate Atlantis as a way to decompress from all that lesson planning. Eventually I will tell you more about my classes: English Composition, and ever the favourites, Introduction to Literature and Christian Classics.

Right now, however, all Iowa is amazed by our first touch of winter in months. All November and all December, the grass remained stubbornly green (or brown, especially towards the end). Now, everything is white. In the last 72 hours, the temperature dropped from 55 degrees to 15 degrees and we were treated to more than 7 inches of snow.

All the Iowans have broken back out their winter spirit and their boots. Me, I don't come from a particularly wintery state. I don't come from a snowy state. My most vivid memory of winter driving is falling asleep in the back of a rental car at 11:00 PM, winding through the Colorado mountains at 30 m.p.h. in the snow. Every half hour or so, my family pulled over and waited while a caravan of twenty Colorado drivers zipped past us confidently.

So, I've taken a crash course in Winter 101 lately. Here is what I've learned:

My road is not significant enough to merit much plowing. 
All we get is a packing-down as cars drive on the road. The minimum plowing, and then the packing down, leaves the road in a condition reminiscent of the ice roads in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Here is a picture of the Ice Road (from the History Channel), used by truckers who ship supplies into the remote villages:

Here is a picture of my road, which I took this morning. Compared to the Ice Road, my road (unfortunately) has no mountains or pine trees. Notice, however, the huge piles of snow and the perpetual layer of ice across the road. Any time I pull in or out of my driveway, the snow crunches reluctantly. I swear, the snow is waiting to freeze and trap me.

Do not park on the street. The snow does, in fact, trap some cars. The night of the storm, I lay in bed for thirty minutes listening to one driver's attempt to escape the trap. The engine revved, then dropped back, then revved again. Then, everything was quiet for sixty seconds or so - and then the engine revved again, dropped back again, revved again, dropped back again.

This is why I park in a garage. 

Slow WAY down for turns. A winter driver I am not (at least not yet). After some icing in October, I have taken to toodling along on the frozen roads at about 30 m.p.h. This is too fast for a turn. In fact, half of that speed is still too fast for a turn on frozen roads.

Right in the middle of the storm, I took a left turn through a larger intersection, tapped on the brakes, and went skidding away towards the right. For a moment, I was afraid my car was about to slam into all the waiting cars on the other side of the road. We straightened out, though, and I continued safely - and slowly! - on my way.

Left turns on frozen roads should be taken at 5 m.p.h.

People, if faced with a snowstorm, like to state the obvious: that there is in fact a snowstorm happening right now. If I turned on the car radio, someone told me it was snowing. Yes, thank you, I can see that outside my car window. Then, I drove onto the highway and found a warning sign that told me roads were icy. Mmm, thanks! I can see that too. I pulled up and was told that it was snowing. Gee, thanks! I just stepped out of my snowy boots. I want to know when it will stop.

It's as though we humans feel like we can control things, or are in charge of them, or are at least particularly observant, simply by stating the obvious.

A snowstorm is a great time to shop at Wal-Mart. Usually, I hate shopping. I especially hate shopping at Wal-Mart, where I have to forever duck around customers who stop in the middle of the aisle to wonder whether they should purchase the red Cars II toothbrush or the blue Transformers one. This is not what Wal-Mart shopping is like in a snowstorm.

I had teaching supplies to pick up, so I braved the icy roads and hills to stop there after were. Perhaps twenty cars were in the parking lot, and huge plows with blinding headlights. Inside the store, nobody was in the electronics section or the clothes section; the only customers were walking about in heavy parkas with car scrapers and snow shovels in their hands. I grabbed eight sheets of posterboard, some oatmeal and toothpaste, and booked it out of the store.

Now I'm wondering whether I should check the weather, and wait on the next snow to go pick up the rest of my groceries.

The Boy Scouts' motto is Be Prepared. Right now, the storm has ended and it's a sunny 20 degrees outside today. But I am now prepared (hopefully) for Winter 102.

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