It’s barely snowing as I shift through fourth gear on the road out of town. The man on the radio says it’s time for the road report and I turn it up slightly, expecting the usual report of city roads that doesn’t affect me. Instead, a man comes on who claims to be northbound on the highway out of the city, approaching the same overpass I can see just ahead of me; he says he’s just passed his eleventh vehicle in the ditch since he left the city an hour ago.
Great, I think. Roads are icy and I’m driving our “new” car for the first time. Right away I wish I had my Jeep back, with its familiarity and trusty 4×4. We bought this car—a 1991 diesel Jetta—for its gas mileage after our truck got totaled in one of the bad snowstorms before Christmas. My husband has spent the past few weeks tinkering with the car, getting it running fine, and today is our virgin run together. So, little car, I think, let’s see how the roads are.
I merge onto the highway without problems and within five minutes see the first three cars in the median. The highway doesn’t seem that icy to me and I think back to one of my first driving lessons. It began on a country back road, where I was waiting in a driveway for a big dump truck to go past when Mom told me just to go. So I pulled into the road and as our truck climbed a hill, all I could see in my rear view mirror was the dump truck grill.
I began going a bit faster and a bit faster, until I’d hit the 80-km speed limit and left the truck behind. I smiled; I was doing this driving thing just fine! As the road wound through a few hills, I kept up my speed and Mom said nothing. The road turned to gravel and still I was doing 80 km/hr. Then, as the road curved around a broad corner, the back end of the truck began to slide on the gravel. I slammed my foot down on the break as hard as I could. The truck swung completely around, slid sideways into the ditch and stopped with a shudder facing back the way we’d come.
I was shaking as I stared through the windshield. I’d just put our truck in the ditch. My dad would never let me drive again. I couldn’t even remember what I’d done to get the truck there. Then Mom said calmly, “Well, let’s keep going.”
I looked at her. She told me I could either do a three-point turn here or go back to a driveway we’d passed earlier and turn around there. Since I was too frazzled to figure out a three-point turn then, I elected to go back to the driveway.
It took me a few days to remember what I’d done to cause the truck to go into the ditch. Over the next years, though, that lesson stood me in great stead. I learned to steer out of skids, rather than panicking and slamming on my breaks.
Now, as I face icy roads once again in a strange car, I remember that lesson again and the icy roads no longer bother me. Thanks, Mom.