Hands tight. Veins popping. Breathe. It’s just a blizzard. Focus on a positive.
I have low cholesterol. That’s all you can think of?
I can’t see. I can’t see! What just happened? My heats on high but the snow is frozen to the wipers. I need to get over. I need to stop. Not here. Not on highway 77.
Cliff Road exit. Perfect! Not perfect. Exits mean snow banks and untraveled snow. Putt-Putt (my car) weighs 80 pounds.
Whip it Nerissa. Just whip it good. Breathe. You are a Wisconsin Girl. Let’s do this.
Hold on Putters! With a whish and a thump-thump over the mound of snow, I charged through the onramp with no visibility just a lot of guessing.
There it is; the green light. Gun it! And we bump and spin. I crank the steering wheel left, then right, then left-right-left cause that’s what you do when the path is unplowed and impossible, just rev, try all avenues and scream like your lungs are going to explode.
And laugh. I’m freaking laughing. Not nervous laughter but I conquered the universe and now I’m dictator of Cuba laughter. I’m slamming my fists into the air like a champ.
I’m exuberant because I suck at winter driving…
I was 16 and driving to play practice. It is black ice but I’m going 65. If I just get there 5 minutes early I can find my boyfriend and try to salvage whatever’s left of our crumbling relationship.
My wheel catches. I lose control. A car is coming. I slam on the brakes. My head spins round and round. I didn’t scream. I just held on. And thump.
I’m in a snow bank. Just sitting there. My foot on the brake still. Dazed. I don’t know what to do. So I shut off the radio—
I slowed down after that. Instead of 65 I went 45 but always with the same outcome. Me, in a snow bank, flipped on the side or head first, side first, in a marsh, cornfield, driveway, country road, what I thought was a road but was actually a biking trail and of course, the fateful freeway…
A black ice advisory is out. My friend Brandon and I just finished watching Charlie’s Angels and are on the way to Wal-Mart to buy a sewing machine.
We are on 94 West. Talking. Laughing. And then the tire catches. Don’t do it. You know what happens. Pull through. Gas. It’s not working. Gas. You can do this. Gas. I can’t! NO! I slam on the brakes. We do a 180 into the next lane.
I’m like a deer in headlights. Literally because a tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX is moments from slamming into us. I can see her face—illuminated by my lights. Eyes wide. Screaming. And then it was over.
So I thought. Until I look past her tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX and witness the sea of headlights coming our way. Brandon, in the passenger seat, whips my car into reverse. I slam on the gas and we move my car to the left side of freeway.
The tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX stays where it lays; in the middle of the freeway.
The headlights find us.
A car loses control and slams into the guardrail. Brandon and I hop out of my car. We both run to help but something catches my eye. Inside that tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX there is a baby seat. The door is open and the woman has fled but I can’t tell—my eyes can’t focus from that far—is there a baby in there?
I split from Brandon running as fast as I can to that tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX. And just as I get there, I realize, no baby—no baby! And I look up as a red car is two seconds from smashing the crap out of me.
I roll on to that tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX, clinging to the hood as the red car crashes into it. My hands are slipping, my neck jarring as other cars keep smashing and crashing. I hear nothing. I do nothing. I just hold on. And then it stops.
I climb off the hood and look at the mess around me. Horns blaring, people crying, glass breaking, cars and trucks destroyed everywhere. This man roars, “Why can’t we all slow down. Why?” as he waves his arms to the world.
A van slowly drives through the wreckage and pulls behind my car. He wants to help.
I hear a scream. I recognize that voice. I look for him. Where is he? Where is Brandon?
My eyes find him. He’s lying on the ground. He’s screaming. Screaming at me. Frantically pointing at something. I turn to look.
My body freezes. Coming at me, a jack-knifed semi, and I’m its only target. I run. I run. Oh my god I run.
As I hopped on that guardrail and turned to see the back of the semi swooping past me I saw the driver of the tan Malibu license plate XXX XXX, sitting quietly as if watching a movie in a theater. I wanted to throw Sour Patch Kids at her but instead followed suit.
I watched cars zip in and crash left, right, down the middle and to the side. They never saw the accident until they were in it. Some were lucky enough to crash and keep driving.
Eventually it stopped.
6 police cars, 2 ambulances, 3 tow truck companies, 11 cars completely totaled, mine included. The semi had just missed me but was able to take it out on my car. The man in the van who stopped to help had a heart attack when the semi slammed my car into his. Brandon was hit by a car and laid out for a month. And I lost my nerves that night—
Now I’m in a parking lot off Cliff Road slapping ice chunks off my car with ungloved hands. I’m sweaty and tense. It’s getting dark which only makes it only harder. My stomach hurts…
It was outside New York City that the storm hit. We had been warned and therefore left for Minnesota early. We thought we could miss it. But it keeps piling down.
Within five minutes I threw in the towel. My intestines are all twisted up, my brain is ready to explode and I somehow got us stuck on an off ramp.
Jim hops in the driver’s seat. Adam takes navigator while I squat on my hands and knees squealing from the backseat.
Jim flips his hat backwards and says, “I’m a Wisconsin boy. No problem.” And off we go. I watch car after car slide off the road but we just keep zipping past. We can’t stop. We can’t help them. It was like war.
I find Adam’s old Gyro and start stress eating—totally a bad IBS move. Within minutes I’m stress farting. Stinking up the whole car. Jim is so ticked. He’s trying to keep us on the road and I’m distracting him with my stinky olive, dead animal farts.
My nerves are shot and I can’t watch anymore. I ball up into the blankets like a hamster.
Hours later the snow subsided and we pulled off to recoup. The bathroom and I bonded while Adam and Jim aired out the blankets.
I thanked Jim. Silently I wished I had been able to do it myself—
I’m in the driveway now. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to go 25 miles. But as I’m trudging through a foot or more in snowdrifts to get to the house with only tennis shoes on I’m glowing like a spaceman.
Now this isn’t the first snow storm that I’ve powered through without a ditch, marsh, heart attack or hamster ball required but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they were hatched or worse, jinx myself and cause an 85 car pile-up in Canada with a revoked license, bonging beer while text messaging.
Maybe accomplishment is not the right word at this point but it may be time to smile a little—a tiny proud smile for not being the worst snow driver in history…
Do you think the DMV would give me a diploma? Or at least a new photo for my license?