Penguins, Roadslides, & New Year’s Eve

The Cast: Pedestrians (menacing), Penguins (snowy and cute), Myself (…).

If I was thinkin’ about it proper like (or even earlier, way earlier), I would have held onto the story that I published at the first of the year—New Year’s Day, to be exact. At the time I know I was thinking that the topic was relevant, and it was, but it would have been better now. So, if you want to read about a lovely New Year’s Eve activity, go here. If you want to continue, please do. If you want to do both, be my guest. (I strongly encourage the latter)

So, the other night my wife was discussing how there were some cars that were struggling to drive in certain parts of our town. It was later in the evening and my wife had just returned from a later shift. “Why?” was all I could ask, or even think about. See, here in Utah, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon when snow first arrives. And, it is this: People go stupid!!!

I mean it. When the first snow falls, it’s like everyone has suddenly forgotten how to drive in it. There are car wrecks and slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place. And it is always with the first snow. After that, suddenly there is this, “Oh, yeah… I remember now. I live here, and it snows every year. And, this is how I should drive in it.” Yeah, the first snow is the scariest one—only because everyone has forgotten it does that in Utah. Well, not everyone. Some residents remember. Heck, even some new move-ins know about it. But, sadly, a large majority have forgotten. Well, this reminded me of when I almost killed some pedestrians and wrecked my van.

Many years ago… (about 15 or 16), I would have to attend a weekly lecture at my university, as it related to my art degree. I enjoyed most of them. On occasion, there were some that I wouldn’t have minded missing. But, again, for the most part, I enjoyed them. Well, one dark and stormy night (seriously, it was a dark and stormy winter’s night) I had to get to my lecture, and I really was running late to leave the house. I had to clear off the van, and even though I had started it earlier—to warm it up—it wasn’t thawing out very much, the windows were still a little foggy and icy. Also, the snowstorm was getting worse. This drive was going to suck.

If I was late to the lecture I wouldn’t get credit for attendance, so, I needed to be on time. Given that the lecture hall was only a few blocks from my home, it should have been easy. I could have walked it, but not knowing if the storm was going to get worse or not, I opted for vehicular travel. As it turned out, I should have just sucked it up, and walked.

There were a few routes that would have allowed me to make it to my destination without incident, and with lights and right-hand turns in my favor. Unless there was sporting event traffic that night. And there was. Oh, joy…

As I turned onto the one street that I thought would have avoided the vehicular traffic I ran into pedestrian traffic. Almost literally! My windshield wipers were going high-speed, the windshield defogger was trying to defog, the snow was doing it’s best to counteract them both, and the winner was… A tie. Visibility was terrible. And instead of using the crosswalk to get across the street… People were slippin’ and slidin’ in all directions as they attempted to get across the basketball game.

So, I have small children, teenagers, middle-agers, elderly (who weren’t moving fast anyway, but some had walkers and wheelchairs) and their assistants, and all manner of “Hey, let’s not pay attention to the large object—otherwise known as a van—that should be on the road” other people. Those that were paying attention, would look at me like, “Um, I’m a pedestrian. Ergo, I rule the road. Even if I’m not in the crosswalk. Plus, it’s snowing out here and so you should be more considerate.” I’m the VEHICLE!!! They were the pedestrians. They have their own designated paths: Sidewalks and crosswalks. But nobody was using them! I was walking a fine line between going too fast and running people over or going too slow and sliding off the road.

I know, I can hear you wondering about why too slow would send me off the road. Well, here’s why. The road I was on, runs East and West. The West-bound traffic (me) side has a seriously steep grade to it that allows for water to go into the ditch. Well, That grade has—over the years—become more of a rounded hill, due to poor road maintenance. Which in this case has become, “Look it’s all new!” material slapped over the old. Add, to that grade icy conditions, low visibility, irresponsible pedestrians, lack of proper momentum, and gravity wins and I’m in the ditch with a wrecked van.

I had to drive with my wheels turned uphill, and with just enough speed to keep the tail-end of my van from swinging into the ditch—which almost did happen three times because the pedestrians didn’t want to wait for the motor vehicle to pass them, they wanted to get out of the snow and walk in the road! On this short strip of street, there were three other vans crashed into the ditch (no doubt victims to the idiocracy of self-entitled street walkers—not streetwalkers, I mean pedestrians). I almost hit one of those vans. I barely had gotten enough speed before a parent—with her children—ran out, into the road, but stopped when she realized that yes, I was really a vehicle that could kill them all and not just a random pair of floating headlights on the road. I managed to keep my van at the right angle and ended up shooting right between the family and the van before finally sliding off the road (thank you, mother and children, for whom I had to break in order to not hit and kill with my van and resulted in my losing too much forward momentum, whereupon I then lost to gravity and physics) and I hit the gutter.

That should have been the end of it. I should have been the fourth van in the gutter-gravity-well of that night, but, I’ve got mad skills. My van was traveling just fast enough that if I had quit trying I would have slammed into the last van, in the line of vans, that lined the gutter. So, at the perfect moment, when my van hit the gutter, and my tires hit pavement (not ice), I hit the gas, bounced right out of danger, and eventually made it to my lecture—on time.

The next day, the university newspaper had a headline that read something like: FOUR VANS CRASH IN STORM, ONLY ONE DRIVES AWAY, with a photo of the three remaining vans, still wrecked and in the gutter. I remember seeing that and thinking, “Hey, that was me! I was the fourth van. I made the paper.”

Okay, so, if you’re wondering about how penguins come into all this, here’s how: We have a penguin snow mold. And I was going to write about it, and how when we first got it we were at a family members house, had bought it on a whim as we were visiting their home and made like 10 snow penguins and put them all over the cars and lawn, then when we stopped for gas, we made one more and set it by one of those big ice-boxes that are found outside a gas station so you can buy bags of ice, and yeah, just set it there for people to find, oh, and also, we made four snow penguins and set them outside our hotel doors—like sentries guarding the place… Yeah, that was fun. I was going to write about all that because, the other night, it snowed and I made a few and put them around our home. It’s fun. So, yeah, I was going to do that, but then my wife talked to me about the ‘cars sliding thing’ and I wanted to write about that, and then I remembered the story about what I used to do on New Year’s Eve, then remembered I already wrote about that…

The front and back halves of the penguin snow mold.

So, I guess, this is the way my post ends; a little rambly & nutty—just like this year’s been.

I truly hope that you find yourself in a great place this coming year. I really do hope that God blesses you and that you can find peace in Him. May this new year be a bright and wonderful one for you.

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