13 December 2003
Writhing in a winter wonderland
The fastest way home from 42nd and Treadmill, generally, is to take the freeway loop about 165 degrees counterclockwise. It's about two miles farther than along surface streets, and the lanes are crowded, but traffic at that time of day is usually moving close to the 60-mph speed limit, so it's not as horrendous as it might be were I doing the same in Denver or Dallas.
The downside of this route is that it passes over a couple of bridges, including the infamous Belle Isle Bridge, which will freeze over with even the slightest bit of cold water thrown at it. With temperatures hovering right at the freezing point, I took off half an hour early and implemented Plan B, which is confined to surface streets, which passes over one fairly short bridge, and which has only one turn, and a right turn at that.
I probably shouldn't have bothered. The spritzing we got, part sleet, part freezing rain, part snow, and seemingly part WD-40, was causing people to dart madly off in all directions except for the actual path of the road. But if the going was treacherous, the stopping was impossible, and indeed I spent a few anxious seconds doing the slide though I didn't veer off course in so doing, and I was able to recover control soon enough. The nine-mile run took 55 minutes, culminating with some hurried soul trying to pass me while I was starting the turn into my driveway. I figure they picked him out of the fence at the grade school later that evening.
Ultimately, about four inches of the wet and nasty stuff piled up; this is a fairly feeble amount by the standards of Buffalo or Boston, but we can just about match them for traffic paralysis. Posted at 9:04 AM to Weather or Not
In my travels, Charles, I've noticed that the cities and districts where snow is a regular plague o'er the land cope with it very well, whereas the cities and districts where snow is an infrequent, hoped-against visitor are completely paralyzed by the first half-dozen flakes.
Milwaukee and Minneapolis aren't at all slowed down by a two-foot snowfall. Washington DC stops dead from the beginning of even the slightest flurry, and stays dead until the city is completely thawed and dry.
A friend from Toronto tells me that that noble city isn't more than mildly inconvenienced even by a four-foot fall. "If you want real snow," he says, "go up to Chalk River. They get it in six-foot helpings."
There's a lesson in here, somewhere.
But we have no excuse. We get snowstorms (and worse, ice storms) every year, and while the aggregate total of snowfall is not impressive ten inches or so in the city, maybe fifteen to twenty in the outlying areas to the northwest it's not like we never get any chance to practice.
The District of Columbia is, of course, what JFK said it was: a "city of southern efficiency and northern charm."
It's not the practice, it's the drivers! I'm sure everyone thinks their area has the lock on bad drivers, and there are certainly idiots everywhere, but I wonder if perhaps Oklahoma doesn't have a bit above the national average as far as bad driving goes. These are the same people that have umpteen wrecks the instant it rains, which we certainly get plenty of, rememeber.
Certainly, our roads aren't as well cared for when it snows or ices as those in, say, Minneapolis, and that does have a lot to do with it. But still, you'd think people would know basics about how to drive on snow or ice by now.
I have a different outlook on this state of affairs. The agressively defensive driving skills I've learned here in Oklahoma have come in Right Handy when driving in other states. I've learned such interesting tidbits as:
- while the traffic in the Bay Area is horrid, you can gage your chances of changing lanes based on the dollar value of the cars around you. The more expensive, the more they'll jump out of the way if you make a move towards them. It helps if you're driving something big that's obviously a rental, or something cheap looking.
- drivers in Minnesota actually believe the yield signs on the onramps are for the people on the *highway*, not the people coming onto the highway. You too can bull your way onto the highway with great ease, but watch out for people coming up the onramp next to you -- they won't even glance left before merging onto the interstate.
- drivers in the DFW area are widely (at least around here) lauded (?) as the worst around. I think not; however there are certainly a whole lot more of them in one small spot.
I don't know if they're the worst, but Dallas drivers are the most reckless and rude I've ever seen. I hate driving in Dallas.
Everywhere I've ever lived, people say "Drivers here are the worst" Oklahoma is no exception. Lemme tell 'ya - I've seen much, much worse.
Worst drivers in the United States: Los Angeles.
Worst drivers in the world: Tel Aviv.
Worst drivers who really, really matter: the !@#$%^&* idiots in front of me in the left lane of the Long Island Expressway.
Of course, your mileage may vary.
And to add injury to insult, as a fledgling home owner you then had to go out and shovel.
We didn't have to in Yukon, driveways were melted off by noon. So thank goodness, didn't have to break out the grain scoop yet.
The sunshine promised for yesterday has only just started to appear this morning; I didn't go anywhere yesterday, so I left the driveway alone, and at the moment the major ice floes are just starting to break up. Gravity being what it is, they'll roll down into the street, where they'll encounter concrete that's been traveled upon and melt much faster.