The Karma Chill is in Negative Digits

Driving in Snow

I’ve survived three commutes, so far, since the big snowstorm on Sunday dropped eight inches of the deceptively gorgeous white stuff upon us.  Even more is predicted tomorrow and I’m seriously thinking of quitting my job so I can stay home until Spring.

Except if I do, I’ll quickly be living in my car, which kind of negates the sense of safety I was going for.

It isn’t a long drive—eleven miles or so, depending on the route and whether or not I’m dropping kids off at school—but it has hills and valleys and treacherous snowpack in most of the spots that require turning or breaking or playing chicken with gravity. Plus there’s that mile-long bridge, currently coated with ice, right in the middle of it.

I can drive in snow and with one exception,* I’m not bad at it. I’m one of those slow and steady drivers who give themselves plenty of time so they won’t have to rush—and who send all those other drivers who assume they’re the only ones who know how to handle winter conditions (e.g., floor it like it ain’t happening) literally around the bend and sometimes into one of the ditches or retaining walls we grow along the sides of the roads around here.**

Snow CommuteBut that kind of focused attention takes a lot out of me. I save up all the stress and horror and road rage and impatience and let it go all at once after I’ve arrived at my destination,*** leaving me in an odd state of twitching lethargy and strident vocabulary overshare.

I’ve been told it’s amusing to watch—primarily by those who purport to love me—but while I’ll do a lot to make people smile, I’d rather wear a clown nose and burp Yankee Doodle Dandy, which at least has the advantage of embarrassing the kids.^

I’m nearly to the point where I’m crossing my fingers that Janie’s cold will worsen juuuuust enough to keep her out of school tomorrow, so I can stay home and take care of her without blowing any vacation days.

I’m sure she won’t mind supporting me in this endeavor.

 

WHY DO YOU HATE WINTER?
(Yes, you do. Lying is beneath you.)

snow-ark

I wouldn’t worry. I’d jump aboard and make ’em drive me to work.

 

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PSST: To further fuel my state of nerves, my stats are jumping today for no discernible reason. Normally, I’d be thrilled, but as no specific post is being singled out and no referring sites are listed, I’m forced to assume that either someone’s mouse is stuck or I’m under investigation for something for which ignorance is no excuse.

So if you could please make sure your computer is working properly, check my financial records to prove it’s not worth paying a process-server to deliver the subpoena, and/or just leave a comment to tell me why you dropped by, I’d appreciate it.

You don’t have to STOP, by the way; just let me know, please. I have a writer’s imagination and I’m already chanting ATTICA! ATTICA! under my breath.

Thank you!

confused

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*Our driveway. It’s a short slope and not very steep, but I can’t manage it in snow or ice without slipping, sliding, or spinning my wheels to the point that I smell burning rubber.

**As long as I’m alive to rack up the negative karma points, I’ll continue to rack ‘em up, five miles below the speed limit.

***Or halfway up my driveway to my destination, like last night. After three tries, I gave up, parked, stomped into the house and confessed my inability to get my car into the garage. My MIL and daughters looked at me in disbelief and told me my husband never has any trouble. I KNOW THAT. And I was grateful that he brought my car in when he arrived home—and secretly vindicated when I could hear him spinning my tires the whole time.

^Or one of them. Sunny is a great musical burping tutor (That sentence is grammatically correct no matter how you parse it, by the way).

Let it Snow, my blue, frozen @$$

hate-snow-Lucy

You know why this post is so short?

Because five inches of snow and a 20 minute commute that took and hour and twenty, that’s why.

Because EVERY WINTER, certain owners of big vehicles tell themselves that other people—presumably everyone in front of them—can’t drive in snow and then end up doing some asinine tailgating-passing-too-close-snow-isn’t-slippery-when-I’m-driving-on-it-engine-gunning-mine’s-bigger maneuver that ALWAYS ends up with their beloved behemoth and three or four other cars turned the wrong way at the end of a mile-long bridge, with bumpers and headlight pieces strewn all over the place, blocking the whole works.

That’s why.

At least the kids weren’t in the car with me when it happened and a Terry Pratchett audiobook was, so my tension levels were nearer Eye Twitch than Defcon.

I don’t like driving on snow. And I especially don’t like braking while driving on the packed stuff—which I did for three miles and forty minutes this morning.

There is hope that the roads will be clear of both snow and idiots—Karmic Darwin* to the rescue—because Jane’s birthday is tomorrow, and I would like to pick up a couple of things on the way home, in case her school closes due to “extreme cold”.**

And if you have it worse—and many people do or did or will, this winter—all I can say is that your pain and frustrations don’t negate my pain and frustration.

But if you’d like to share your Winter Wonderland horror stories below, I’m listening.

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*Best superhero name ever!

**It’s supposed to be -30F with the wind chill, and many of the kids have to walk outside between classes.  It’s one of the hazards of having a school that outgrew its original historical landmark building.

Rocinante’s Reprieve

CargoThe roads around here have been dicey lately, what with incontinent weather systems leaving piles of precipitate all over the place, so it wasn’t until Sunday morning that it was safe to push Rocinante, my loyal Honda Civic, past fifty on the highway.

At which point he started shaking so hard, I thought he was going to lose a tire and jettison his undercarriage—not a happy prospect when one is a quarter of the way across a slick bridge above the frozen Mississippi, with two kids in the back seat making those “uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh” noises that kids like to make when they vibrate.

We managed to arrive safely, if shaken (Hey-o!), at our destination, where I asked my friend Larry—the one who lent me a roll of duct tape when Rocinante’s driver’s side mirror fell off this past summer—what he thought it might be.

He thought it might be a lot of things, most of them expensive.  Of course.

We managed to get home again, by dint of taking streets with speed limits of thirty-five and briefly irritating the crap out of the other drivers on the bridge who would have liked for me to go just a tad faster.  But I started to notice other things, too, like the way Rocinante was lagging when I hit the gas, as if he had to figure out how to get his wheels all going in the same direction first.  And how even at slower speeds, I was feeling a definite wobble in the front wheel on the driver’s side.

I  had to wait until Monday evening to get Rocinante to our favorite mechanic, and I’d already half-decided that it was time to trade in my faithful 2005 steed, with his battered body and imaginative gas gauge.   Instead of  laying down the money for new struts/tires/axel pins/exorcisms, maybe I should use it for a down payment on something new, or newer.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a car payment, but maybe it wouldn’t be too bad—surely a nine-year old car with under 65,000 miles on it would earn a decent trade in, dents and dings and broken latches aside.

Or I could sell him myself.  Surely someone would want to adopt a small loyal car that might be a bit . . . homely . . . but always started—battery willing—and offered effective heating, low gas mileage, and a brand new windshield . . .

Maybe for parts.  Or the demolition derby.

I suddenly realized why some people spend thousands of dollars on chemo for their pet goldfinches.  Unfortunately, in this situation, “Over my dead body” isn’t just a phrase, and I had the safety of my children’s’ bodies to consider, too.

So I drove to my mechanic’s shop with heavy heart and light pocketbook and told my car wizard all about it while one of his guys took Rocinante out for a test drive.

The guy came back and drove my baby onto an empty lift.  My mechanic went out to talk with him and about fifteen minutes later, he came back into the office, where I’d been reading depressing magazine articles about cleansing diets and echinacea,  and shook his head.

My heart sank.

“Charlie didn’t feel that vibration at all,” he said.  “When’s the last time you drove it over forty-five?”

“Yesterday morning,” I said, wondering if I should call my kids in as witnesses and have them demonstrate that “uhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh” noise for him.

“Did you park inside last night?”

“Yes.”

“Is your garage heated?”

“No.”

“Okay,” he said.  “Your struts are fine and everything else looks good—bolted down tight.  But you have a lot of ice and packed snow around your front wheels and I’ll bet it was worse before you reached your garage and some of it melted off.  That can throw off your balance by several ounces.  We just cleared all that out, so why don’t you take another test drive with Charlie, and see if that fixed it?”

“Um, okay.”

So I did. And it had.  And I was charged $17.60—but only because they replaced my wiper blades.

Rocinante is in fine, inexpensive shape, at least on the inside, and I wouldn’t trade his ugly mug for any of the prettier ponies out there.

Not even for heated seats and a USB port.

Probably.

What are you driving these days?

Tuesday Morning Ramblings

Right before I left the house with the kids this morning, I told my MIL, “It’s going to snow, because I decided to wear my favorite flats instead of my boots.”hate-snow-Lucy

By the time I backed out of the garage, there were fat flakes sailing through the air and a nice fluffy layer on the ground.  It must have started the moment I slipped on my shoes.

So I turned on the windshield wipers and said, “I’m going to win the lottery, because all that money would be a terrible inconvenience.”

I’ll let you know how that goes.

CD PLayerThe kids understood my need for radio silence during the snowy drive to school, and helped out by singing the first two lines—and only the first two, over and over—of their current favorite songs, at the top of their lungs.  When I protested, Jane explained that she was just showing me which songs she was planning to earn with her good homework behavior* this week.

I didn’t tell her that hearing the first line of the homemade KidzBop version of “Wrecking Ball” wasn’t doing anything for my level of parental follow-through.**  Maybe I should have . . .

Sunny gave me an extra hug when I dropped her off—I suspect that she wanted to see me skate around the car again like a moose on ice, but the reward was worth it.

Had a close call on the way to work with a minivan driver, who thought I should have gone through the yellowred light at a slick intersection, despite the two cars that had already stopped in front of me.

Honking while sitting at a red light because the driver in front of you won’t try to defy the laws of physics, not to mention the traffic laws, at your psychic command doesn’t just display your self-righteous impatience—it also makes you a jerk.

Red LightActually, honking at any red light makes you a jerk.  Turning on red is allowed in most of the U.S., but it isn’t required, and we aren’t allowed to decide when the driver in front of us can safely turn.  If we believe that we are allowed—nay, required—to make these judgment calls, we should keep in mind that our line of sight is impeded by distance, other vehicles, and by having our heads lodged where the sun can’t get to our corneas.  It’s physically and karmically safer to wait for the green light.

CoffeeOne of the tiny, drive-through coffee houses that punctuate my morning commute had a new sign up this morning:  New Soup and Pumpkin Flavors!

I thought that a tomato-pumpkin parmesan latte didn’t sound so bad—sort of like bisque with a caffeinated kick to it.  But I expect the pumpkin chicken noodle mocha wouldn’t go down so easily—up, maybe.

When I arrived at the library at quarter to eight, I had a breakfast bar, cracked open the first diet Pepsi of the day, and decided to reward myself for hopping on the exercise bike this morning by having a grilled chicken salad at my favorite lunch place.

Cheese FriesAt the writing of this paragraph some hours later, I have decided that “reward” and “salad” do not belong in the same sentence.  “Burger and bacon cheese fries,” on the other hand, might.***

I can always hire a personal trainer and chef—and a chauffeur and homework tutor—once the lottery thing pays out, right?

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* My library subscribes to Freegal™, which allows our cardholders—including those of us with staff cards—to download three free songs a week.  Since Jane has a card from a different city, I told her that she could earn my songs throughout the week, if she did her homework without complaint and to the teachers’ standards—or mine, if her teachers don’t make their directions clear to me.  If Freegal™ doesn’t have a song she wants, Jane can save up three free songs for one that I’ll buy for her.  I get song veto rights, because I’m not stupid.  We made this pact after her report card arrived Friday—it told us in no uncertain terms that we have a bright kid with a bad homework attitude, which wasn’t exactly a surprise.  We’ve tried everything else to get her to understand why homework is important and thought we’d might as well move on the bribery.

** Nor is the realization that I’ve been humming that one line to myself all #%$&ing morning.

***It says a lot about my nutritional attitude that I already had image of cheese fries in my media file.  But I’m not inclined to listen today.

Snowy Day Sunny Art

Thought I’d brag on Sunny for a little bit, even though she and her sister celebrated their prayed-for snow day this morning by sleeping in, while Rocinante and I slalomed through the snowy streets—ten inches predicted by evening—and over a bridge glistening with, apparently, buttered ice to reach the library, because literacy is beautiful and responsible dedication to one’s profession sometimes bites down hard.

But  Sunny recently brought home some things from school that have re-established and elevated my sense of maternal pride, so I forgive her.  And I’m sharing:

If Jane is my Machiavellian draftsperson—Cupcake Wars, anyone?—then Sunny is my artist.

Fly Away Dandelions

She doesn’t get it from my side of the family, though I did inherit my mad stick figure skillz from Dad.  The Wessons, though, have artistic talent to spare and passed some of it to my kid, who would rather draw and color and decorate than eat.

How many five-year olds color the sky all the way to the ground? How many, when they draw a man standing in front of a tree, draw the man first¸ and then work on the tree trunk, which is set in the grass slightly higher than the man’s feet, because “it’s farther away, mommy”?

I might be biased—well, of course I’m biased—and I’m no art critic, but I like her use of color and perspective and placement.

Like this:

Aboriginal Sunny Art

I want to write the story that belongs to this picture, so I can use it for the cover . . .

Of course, last night, she was drawing a leprechaun for our front window with a pink marker  and decorating his waistcoat with flowers, a pink rainbow, and, for some reason, a television set showing a Powerpuff Girl—Blossom, I think, from the color.  But he does have a waistcoat.

And he still beats my stick figures by a mile.