Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Still Freaking Out.

For being a very unbold girl from middle-of-nowhere Ohio, I am a very unsqueamish driver. I know folks who are much bolder than me, but I’m not related to any them. Most of my family members freak out about snow, and traffic, and heaven forbid we ever have to drive on an interstate with semis.

I didn’t start out being very bold. I was actually nearly seventeen before I got my license at all, and I would have waited even longer had driving not held for me the promise of the liberation from 6:45AM school bus pick ups.

A series of oddities improved my temper on the issue, however. It all started driving back and forth to Columbus while my mother was hospitalized, an exercise repeated frequently enough and miserably enough that I get sort of nauseous thinking about it. It dragged through thrice-weekly trips to the dialysis center up in Norwalk. The whole thing really picked up steam when I started driving my niece back and forth to the Deaf School twice each week, and it’s been crowned by monthly to bi-monthly hospital treks with my sister up to the Cleveland Clinic.

I do a lot of driving and I’m not very squeamish about it. I’ve cut off truck drivers, and flipped off grandmas who’ve flipped me off first, and I’ve driven down an interstate shoulder to get unstuck from a traffic jam – though, perhaps no one should tell my mother about any of that, as it might spawn a fresh ulcer.

Since my accident last year, however, I’ve become noticeably more squeamish about snow driving. Last year’s wreck was a freak incident. It wasn’t a snowy day, and it was spring, and there was very little ice on the ground at all. I hit a patch of black ice on a bridge, lost control of my truck, and nearly killed myself, and all the while my speedometer had never broken 25mph.
The highway patrolman told me I was very lucky to have gotten out safely. I was inches away from smashing into the side of the bridge; inches away from smashing into a telephone poll on the other side of the road - facing the wrong direction, mind you; and they really didn’t understand how I managed to avoid flipping my truck when I jumped the ditch. The passenger-side door handle was actually filled with mud from impact with the ground, and the imprint in the dirt was an eerily clear mirror image of the truck.

It was incredibly fortunate that I had been feeling unusually nervous that day since I hadn’t been driving the truck that long, especially with no weight in the back. When I saw the bridge coming, I actually eased down into second gear because I was afraid of possible black ice, even though it was a warm day and it was unlikely for there to be any. Had I been going any faster – assuming, of course that I still would have caught the black ice – I would have been finished in one of three equally undesirable ways, and very easily might not have been here writing this lovely blog today. And let me emphasize, I am always driving more than 25mph. I go faster than that, backward, down my nearly un-navigable driveway each day. And goodness knows that I've hit that bridge a hundred times doing 50 or 60mph.

This week has been the first week of real snow on the roads. I’ve slipped a little a few times, and I’ve totally freaked over it. I used to merrily slide past my driveway each day after school, and it didn’t bother me a bit. I used to not mind a little 360 action so long as it didn’t result in a collision or a call to the tow truck company. Now I freak when I feel myself getting pulled into someone else’s tire ruts on the road. I don’t like losing that much control.

It didn’t help that I had baby Ty today. I would sooner chop off both my legs than cause the little man any unnecessary pain or suffering. I don’t know if I could live with myself if anything bad ever happened to him while he was in my care. The idea of losing control of my car with him inside quite literally gives me nightmares.

I used to like Ohio winters, but as I age, they just seem to be more and more a hassle. I’m too lazy to scrape my car in the morning. My chest hurts when my menopausal mother turns down the heat too low at night, and I spend hours sucking down ice-cold air. I’m terrified of sliding on the ice in my car, or – almost worse – slipping myself while I’m carrying the baby into the house. I don’t like how my socks and pant-legs are always soaking wet, and how the salt from the road always gets splashed up onto my windshield when my little water squirter thing is too frozen to squirt anything clean again.

I don’t like beaches very much, or heat, or the idea of Santa wearing shorts to make his Christmas rounds. But today I was very much wishing I was in California, or some other state with central heating.

I guess there's a lesson in all of it. We're never really in control of our destiny, nor can we ever master our fate, though the consequences of screwing up matters of such vital importance are devastatingly high. It's nice to know that we're not alone in this thing. Someone has already made straight our paths, and is guiding us, careless and clumsy creatures though we all are, safely to our destination. It's a good thing not to be alone. It's a good thing to have Someone to be grateful to when you finally make it home at last.