Snow Struggles

I just hate driving in the snow. I don’t love driving, ever, but driving in the snow is much, much worse.

On Thursday, the girls had a snow day. Excellent. I can appreciate a good snow day almost as much as the next person (I really can’t appreciate it as much as the next person, because I presume that if you are a teacher, you’re just going to appreciate a snow day more than I ever could).

However. Looming, all day, was the prospect of driving to gymnastics.

I love Cartwheels, J’s gymnastics gym, but they hate to cancel practice, ever. They are devoted.

I am less devoted. And I hate to drive in the snow. And I carpool with a family whose babysitter also hates to drive in snow. So we were both hope-hope-hoping that they would cancel, but the snow was supposed to stop before practice time, so no dice.

I even emailed to double check before it was time to leave, because I didn’t want to drive through snow needlessly, but I got a chirpy confirmation that they were ready for practice. Oh, hooray. I’m excited.

I headed out into the still-snowy snow to clear the driveway. We have a long, wide driveway. I got the snowblower going, which felt like a small miracle.

I hate the snowblower almost as much as I hate driving in the snow. From my perspective, both involve gas, engines, a stunning awareness and display of my own incompetence, and the risk of injury or death. The only reason why driving outranks operating the snow blower is that I feel like I could potentially injure or kill multiple people in a car, while it seems unlikely that I could hurt more than one or two people with a snowblower.

Anyway, actually starting the snowblower is about 70% of the battle, and once I’d managed that and started up a podcast to listen to on my phone, I found the snow-blowing process not entirely excruciating. Then, with a partially cleared driveway and a massive amount of snow still to move, I made the fateful error of turning off the snowblower. I thought I could use my Dakota SnoBlade (which I do not hate) to shove things over a bit and save a little time, then run the snowblower again. Except then I couldn’t get the stupid snowblower started again. Which was ridiculous. I had just done it, like, half an hour ago. I still don’t know what I was doing wrong.

But it was moot, because now I had to get in the car and drive to gymnastics. Dammit-dammit-dammit. There was still literally a wide swath of deep snow between our back door and the car. That’s when J started to get ready to head outside wearing her slides. I was pretty grouchy, and I suggested she might want to wear something to protect her from the elements. She grouched her way back to the closet, and then walked out wearing sneakers. . . and her North Face fleece, and a leotard. And that’s it. Completely bare legs. At which point I told her that she had to put on some pants in case we ended up in an accident on the side of the road. I shouldn’t have mentioned this as a possibility. It made for a tense drive.

When I picked up our carpooler, the babysitter yelled that congratulations on my bravery from the safety of a nice, warm home. I refrained from saying, “See?” to J, but generally I appreciated the sentiment. I felt validated. I was being brave.

It actually wasn’t too bad. Most people were smart enough not to go out and drive, and I’d left extra-early, so without the traffic, we made it to the gym in record time.

On the way home, I was feeling quite pleased with my competent execution of carpool duties. Also, I was starving. I had been half-sick with nerves, and now it occurred to me that I deserved a scoop of ice cream at Stewart’s. Which was ridiculous, but the idea hung there in my frontal lobe. I passed two Stewart’s on the way home, and I didn’t stop at either one, because I was too nervous looking at their messy parking lots. I considered going home and walking to Stewart’s from my house, but I dismissed this idea because then I would feel like I should offer M some ice cream, and dammit, she hadn’t driven anywhere. She didn’t deserve an ice cream. I decided to blow the whole idea off. But then, almost home, I was lulled by the fact that I’d been driving for half an hour without crashing and I was listening to some interesting radio story when sudeenly I realized that my subconscious had taken control and I’d skipped the turn and started to head to my closest Stewart’s.

I am crazy. Or this is what I thought a block or two later, because I’d been doing fine on the main roads, but now that I was on neighborhood roads (and, let’s face it, Schenectady roads instead of Niskayuna roads), they were much messier. But at that point it would be about as easy to go to the damn Stewart’s as it would to try to turn around. Still I felt ridiculous for having made this foolhardy, nay death-defying choice. The parking lot hadn’t been plowed at all, and it looked like this:

As I parked at Stewart’s, it appeared that a UPS truck stuck in the parking lot. I got myself a scoop of ice cream and I didn’t buy anything else for anyone. I set it aside as my treat if I managed to make it home intact. Then I white-knuckled the two-and-a-half blocks home.

Once home with ice cream consumed, I still had that damn driveway to finish clearing. I looked for my phone to start up another podcast, and . . . it was gone.

Dammit-dammit-dammit. I had left the phone at Stewart’s. Which is the sort of thing I never do unless I am having some sort of snow-driving-related mental health event.

And I was not driving back there. And I was not going to tell M that I was walking there, because she still hadn’t done anything to deserve ice cream. I trudged all the way to Stewart’s, muttering and cursing to myself, retrieved the phone, and muttered-and-cursed myself all the way back.

Once home, the snow blower magically worked for me again. I finished the damn driveway, and I couldn’t help noticing that, after all, it was kind of pretty out there.

On Friday, J and I made a 2-hour road trip to Binghamton for a gymnastics meet. On the way there, I managed to take the kind of wrong turn that makes your GPS switch from saying that you’re 12 minutes ahead of schedule to saying that you’re five minutes behind schedule. As much as I tried to keep this information to myself, J noticed the shift, and we spent the whole driving feeling¬† slightly more tense than usual.¬† Luckily, I made up the difference through the miracle of speeding, and we managed to arrive just about on time, and I even scored an awesome parking spot. J ended up having an excellent meet, with some super-high scores and everything at least a 9.

It was only as we were headed out of the meet that I heard that a snowstorm was starting. Sure enough, I ended up spending the next three hours driving home through a heavy snowstorm on a highway invisible under a pile of snow while gripping the steering wheel and trying to breathe evenly so I wouldn’t throw up from nerves. J cheered for me every time I screwed up enough courage to pass someone on the highway and murmured encouragements when she wasn’t dozing, clutching the very large trophy she’d won as the all-around winner of the junior A Xcel platinum competition.

We made it home safe.

I like to think that we’re both champions.


  1. Claire

    Sorry you got caught in that storm! I too do not love driving in general, in snow, and particularly not in ice. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s the other drivers that stress me out on the road. Years ago when I worked at Bellevue, I had to drive to work in some bad blizzards and ice storms, but back then I was single and only had myself to worry about. I know it’s much more stressful as a mother when you have other people relying on you.

  2. Ha, Claire, I feel like I’m equally worried about other drivers AND myself! But I was lucky that not many people were out driving at all.

  3. Claire

    That makes a huge difference. Unlike today, when everyone and their brother (including me!) was out grocery shopping!

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