Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 2

So I’m sitting in my vehicle parked under our carport, waiting for the damn thing to warm up because it’s freaking cold. Two minutes ago I had been all bubbly about my quest for mayo, onions, and eggs. Now I’m having serious second thoughts as my teeth chatter and my huevos shrink down to raisin-size.

But I shake it off. This should only take about twenty minutes, maybe thirty. The grocery store is just a few miles away, and it’s the middle of the afternoon. Even with this crappy weather and the related idiot potential, the traffic should be relatively light. This is doable.

So I slap my little SUV in reverse and ease out of the carport, moving at roughly two miles an hour, because I’m all about the cautious driving. Then I turn the wheel to the right, shift gears, and start to inch my way down the driveway proper. I get approximately seven feet before I encounter my first roadway hazard. All of the usually majestic shrubs on this side of the house are now so weighted down with snow that they are bent across the driveway. Great.

I get out of the car and approach the sadly-drooping landscaping. I just need to get the snow off of these shrubs so they will hopefully spring back into their former positions. This is easier said than done. For one, the greenery is basically cemented to the pavement under the icy snow. I grab the first few branches and shake the hell out of them. They reluctantly rise to a forty-five degree angle. Progress, to be fair, but they are still blocking the driveway. And this is just the first bush.

I take a deep breath, and continue with the shaking and the cussing as I work my down the driveway. This takes a awhile. To help pass the time, I re-envision the bushes to be co-workers and certain political figures, which helps me add an extra oomph to my efforts as I shake with a vengeance. I’m slightly stunned at the amount of murderous zeal I apparently have in me, but at least I get most of the damn bushes out of the way.

Until I reach the far corner of the house and the end of the troublesome landscaping. Here we have something way beyond a bush. We now have an official tree, twice my height, with tons of branches. This thing is basically laying on its side across the driveway, buried in the snow. At first I can barely move any of the branches.

But I am not about to let this be a deal breaker.

I redouble my efforts, ripping and jerking until the branches finally start to poing their way out of the icy layer of whiteness. As the tree starts to rise back to its original position, there are cascades of snow pouring down on me. I’m drowning in frigid wetness, with icy nastiness getting in every one of my nooks and crannies. My underwear is even soaking by the time I’m done. I’m not impressed.

Eventually, the path is clear and I manage to make my way to the end of the driveway. It’s been a good fifteen minutes since I officially left for the grocery store, and I’m still on my own personal property. Most sane people would have called it a day by this point. But no, we need onions and eggs and I’m not stopping now.

I finally get out on to the street, where I face another challenge. The snow is already deep enough that passage has become questionable. There’s that one set of tracks in the middle of the road that people have been trying to follow. You know what I mean. (Well, people who drive in snow know what I mean.) You want to follow these tracks because you get the most amount of traction by doing so, with a silent kiss to the anonymous soul who made the tracks in the first place.

Trouble is, my tires are apparently bigger than any tires that have traversed this stretch of road since the snow began accumulating, and we have a conformance issue. My tires don’t really fit. The rear of the car is slewing around a bit as I keep jumping the tracks and various wheels lose traction. Not an “oh my God, people are going to die!” state of emergency, but you probably don’t want to be walking your dog right now.

Then things start to get a bit better as my ancient, unused snow-driving skills begin to resurface. In fact, I’m starting to have fun, purposely gunning it a little more than I should just for those brief moments of thrilling terror where you lose control. This is completely juvenile on my part, of course, but I can’t help it. There’s no one around, it’s all good.

As I approach the end of our long street, I am about to proclaim myself the King of Frozen Precipitation, feeling confident and studly. Then I am quickly slapped down from my royal position.

Because I’m unable to stop the car where a polite driver should. Instead, I slide right into the intersection. Luckily, there are no other cars around me, so death is not imminent, but it’s a wake-up call. I need to quit screwing around and pay attention.

So I head to the left, crunching and slipping along. At the next intersection, I purposely roll through the 4-way stop, because there’s still no one around and it’s fun. I trundle along for a bit, passing through a few more intersections until I get to Gibbs Williams. (Where the hell they came up with that street name, I have no idea.) I decide to head right, toward the local high school, since it sits on a fairly busy street and my assumption is that the heavy traffic will have melted some of the snow.

As I’m innocently headed that way, I hit one of those weird patches of re-frozen snow (and therefore ice) and the front of the car is no longer playing nice, slewing to the left. Suddenly, the car is filled with this annoyingly-loud beeping noise like there’s been a prison break. My heart racing a little, I glance at the dashboard to see a flashing image of a car sliding sideways.

Wow. That’s very helpful and all, but I didn’t even know I had this noisy, blinking feature on my car. And I’m not sure that I want it. I nearly had a panic attack, not because of some minimal sliding, but due to the sudden conviction that the alarm meant we had a nuclear radiation leak and Karen Silkwood was going to go running by.

Perhaps I could pay someone to have that thing disabled. Really didn’t care for its obnoxious rudeness and the potential that it could cause me to do something stupid, like scream or leap out of the moving vehicle.

Anyway, the thing shuts off as I regain control of the vehicle. I approach the high school, and I immediately realize this might have been a bad decision. The cross street is indeed busy and full of cars. But these cars are not moving. I’ve rolled up just as school is letting out. (Why this school is even OPEN is mystifying to me.) And these non-moving cars are filled with parents waiting on their hopefully-smarter offspring.

Trouble is, most of the cars are stuck. Because the ground is covered in frozen slush. And these stupid parents have sat there idling, with the heat of the vehicles slightly melting the crust of the packed snow. Now there’s a thin layer of water, on top of ice. They can’t get any traction, especially since they don’t know what they are doing. Tires are spinning uselessly, and cars are wiggling back and forth.

I start to turn around and go back the other way, but a check of the rearview reveals that hundreds of cars have appeared out of nowhere and are now behind me. Great. So I turn left and start to work my way through this minefield of cars, all of them lurching about and apt to T-bone me should they suddenly get traction at any time. It’s a little bit unnerving. But I inch my way forward, hoping my chances at survival are good.

And yes, there’s a bit of social-consciousness stirring in me, thinking that maybe I should help some of these people out. But really, there are spinning cars all over the place. Where would I even start? Besides, the ANTI-social part of me is quite pleased that so many heathen juvenile delinquents are currently trapped in vehicles with their parents. This means they are not out running the streets, joining gangs and experimenting with drugs while their pants drag the snowy ground.

As I finally get through most of this mess, I’m then presented with another life-affirming moment of joy. Just past the school, the street descends into a very deep valley that leads to another serious hill on the other side. I’d sort of forgotten about this in planning my neighborhood travels. As the snowfall briefly clears a bit, I realize that this route is no longer an option.

There’s a massive cluster of cars right at the bottom of the valley. Judging by the various angles of the stationary cars, you can tell that nobody can get out of the valley in either direction. And even if I managed to maintain traction going down and then up, I won’t be able to get through that mess of cars down there.

And some of the drivers standing beside those cars (and apparently yelling at each other, based on the contorted facial expressions) look very, very dissatisfied. It’s an angry mob looking for somebody to blame. If I go sailing past them in my smug little SUV then they are going to claw up the hill after me and rip my tires off.

So I need to turn around, and I need to do it pronto, because I’m already slightly descending this side of the valley. But turning around is not going to be easy, since there are cars lining both sides of the street, spinning in place. I check the rearview again, and for some reason it’s temporarily clear right behind me, everyone’s off to the sides.

I’m going to try backing up until I find a place to turn around. Oh boy, this is going to be a hoot and a half. I pop it in reverse and tap the gas. My car is thoroughly unimpressed with this request, slewing a bit and spitting snow. Then the tires get a grip and here we go.

Instantly, at least three cars start honking. I’m not in danger of hitting anyone right at the moment, who are they honking at? I glance around and realize the honking is coming from stuck cars, two of them actually waving fists. What is WRONG with these people. Are they actually mad that I’m moving and they’re not? GOD.

Screw em. I keep backing up, being very careful and avoiding getting anywhere near anybody. I make it to a little side street, and curve backwards into that. Looking out the back window, I can see a few cars headed this way, but they are a bit back there. So far so good.

I turn back around, and just as I start to put the car in drive, one of the stuck cars on my left breaks free and starts to roll this way, obviously unaware of Death Valley that awaits just over the rise. Okay, fine. I instantly hate this car, but I don’t have the right of way. I’ll just let them pass in front of me, then I’ll pull back out on the main street and head the other direction, away from the lynch mob.

Suddenly, there’s some snow-crunching on the right and I look that way. Somehow, somebody’s made it up out of the valley. That car is headed toward the car coming from the left. There’s not enough room for them to pass each other, one of them will have to give. But nope, they’re both stubborn idiots, and they come nose-to-nose right in front of me. Incredibly, they then just sit there and flip each other off instead of doing anything remotely reasonable.

Then there’s MORE snow-crunching from behind. The cars that had been a ways down this street are now right behind me. And the lead car starts to honk, because I’m not moving, as if he can’t see the crapfest of stupidity right in front of me.

I am just stunned with what is developing here. How are these people even able to feed themselves? I’m boxed in on all sides by losers who don’t know what they’re doing, morons are honking like it will do the tiniest bit of good, and the snow is still pouring down. This is one seriously dry gene pool I’m floating in.

My blood pressure is starting to throb, and I have a twitch. Can this possibly get any worse? Then a dim warning bell goes off in my head. I’ve forgotten about something. Something important. It suddenly clicks and I glance at the dashboard.

The gas gauge is sitting on “E”.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

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