Which pleases me: snowing and winter go together.
(Unlike rain. Thursday it snowed—big, puffy, beautiful swirling flakes—and then it rained, melting those beautiful puffs into slush. February rain sucks.)
Anyway, I used to mock folks in southern climes who freaked out when they got an inch or two of snow–ha ha! Look at those fools spin out!—but I’ve mostly gotten over my weather superiority complex. I mean, I decompensate when the temp climbs hellward of 85 or 90, so who am I to lord it over those who shiver below 40 degrees?
And laughing at the Georgians or Carolinians who slide into barely-snowy ditches requires one to forget that everyone is an idiot during the first snowfall.
I didn’t truly appreciate this until after I moved to Minneapolis and got my first car (Plymouth Horizon hatchback, RIP: gave its life after a long road trip west). Yes, I drove when I lived in Wisconsin and of course learned to do doughnuts (easier on a rear- than front-wheeled car), and helped push more than one car out of snowbank. (I don’t remember if I ever drove into a snowbank; if not, that had more to do with luck than skill.)
Anyway, now that I was living in a city and driving my own car and paying my own insurance, I also paid more attention to those many other drivers as well as to my own driving. And I noticed that every November (or October: see Minneapolis) when the first snow fell, drivers acted as if they had never before had to deal with this outrageous phenomenon of icy dust billowing down from the clouds.
They drove too fast. They braked too late, and then stood on the brakes as their cars veered sideways down the street. They drove too closely to one another. And—my personal favorite—they’d only clear a portion of the front window and maybe, maybe, a bit in the back before hitting the road.
That’s some smart driving, right there.
After the first snowfall or two, however, most drivers would get the hang of it, as if some part of their brains awoke from their brief warm-weather comas to say “hey, dummy, watch out!”, and they remembered to clear off all of the window and the lights and drive as if snow and ice were, y’know, slippery.
Or just not drive at all. That was my preferred method for dealing with big snow: stay off the road until the plows came thru.
Of course, one could be cautious and still SOL. It might snow when you’re out, or you might have to drive, and in Minneapolis the side streets and sometimes even the main drags wouldn’t be plowed down to pavement, such that driving was sketchy long after a storm ended.
And sometimes you do everything right and it still goes wrong. I remember one night driving down a small hill on Franklin Avenue toward the intersection at Third Avenue, stepping on the brakes, and having the car completely ignore the instructions to stop. I pumped the brakes, steered the car straight, but no dice.
The light turned red, but that wasn’t going to stop me.
So I did the only thing I could do: I laid on the horn as a warning to drivers on Third and slid right on thru that intersection. Luckily no one was in front of me, so the drivers on Third simply watched my Plymouth ski on by before motoring forth.
No one got hurt, and nothing happened. Lucky.
Upshot: snow fucks everything up, and it takes experience (as well as snow plows and salt and sand trucks) to deal with that fucked-up-ness. Folks in the north get plenty of chances to learn, so it’s easy to feel smug about southerners who will get only one or two shots every couple of years to get it right.
We shouldn’t. Because everyone’s an idiot driving in the first snow, and even the experienced need luck sometimes.