I remember during my last year in high school when it was the very start of a new year and the streets were utterly deserted. Cars were abandoned along the freeway. The hill up to my apartment was littered with cars on either side. It was like the apocalypse had reached our streets. The world was white, and Portland, Oregon didn't function like that.
Fast forward two years and you'd find me 2,000 miles away from home, I had the same old delight at the sight of a world full of white, but I also had my same understandings of the rules to surviving in snow. In Ohio, everyone functions in snow. People get in their cars and drive to their destinations. There's no cancellation of school or closing down of roads. Not for a mere few inches. The roads are cleared within hours. The people have no fear. And I'd have to learn to function like them too. So when the day finally came and I had to venture out into my bitterly cold wonderland I was terrified.
Here are 13 things I thought as I drove in the snow for the first time at the age of 20:
1. Why is my car so dark?
When I first made it to my car I was in such a hurt to get in and turn the car on to get the heat started I missed a step. As soon as I climbed in I realized I was in utter darkness. My windows wired as if they adorned curtains that were shut. My lack of knowledge had led me to forget that I had to clear my windows of their white companion.
2. Why do my windows keep freezing over even after I scrape them?
Takes a while for the window defrosters to really get going and protect the windows from refreezing over.
3. My foot is a feather, wait no, it’s a cloud
My foot touched the gas pedal as if I was sitting on a bomb and if I pressed it too hard that bomb would go off. I imagined my foot to be a feather. And that was what was going to keep me alive. As I drove, though, terrible images filled my head causing my foot to become a cloud.
4. I don’t care what any other driver thinks
When I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw a car inching behind me. I was going significantly below the speed limit. I kept saying things to the driver of the car behind me (fully aware that they couldn't hear me) like, "I'm so sorry," or, "I'm just trying to keep us all alive tonight," and with my head moving from side to side, "Don't you get mad at me."
5. I’m approaching a barrier, one that I’ll have to overcome
For me, that barrier was going over the train tracks which included the smallest incline.
6. Why isn’t my car moving?
There I was, ready to take my turn at the stop sign but as much as I put my foot down on the gas pedal I wasn't moving — until suddenly I was!
7. Why does anyone function in snow?
The Portlander in me found this way of life to be crazy risky. I'd rather be safe, in my living room, with my cats, then out here risking my life
8. Why is this taking so long?
As I moved painfully slow along the road due to the conditions I was well aware of the increased time it was taking me to travel to my destination. Specifically, that night it took me three times as long.
9. Everyone who ever told me “it’s just snow” was and is wrong
Everyone who ever has told me "it's just snow" is wrong. Snow is not a "just" thing. It's something to be taken seriously no matter what your expertise with it may be. Based on the number of other vehicles I saw traveling slow and still sliding from time to time, I'd say it requires more seriousness.
10. Maybe it’s not too late to just go home now
I definitely wanted to just go home and get away from the stress and safety risks of driving in the snow.
11. How would this be different if I had grown up in a city that functions in snow?
There’s always at least one “what if...” question for every situation.
12. I wish the roads had been plowed before I left
Then I wouldn’t have had to deal with the stress and safety concerns of my short trip.
13. All the ways something could go wrong
At numerous points throughout my drive, I would have a scene still play in my head. I saw it play like some old movie in a drive-in theater: over dramatized images displayed large across a towering screen. The basic plot of each one involved me sliding and then crashing.