Those Damn Old Winters

Fear and discomfort. That is why I instituted my policy to avoid traveling north during the winter. Love, appreciation and guilt are the reasons I have broken that policy at least three times. Every time I have traveled to New Jersey between December and March, there is at least one nasty snowstorm. Last year, during a one week period, there were three winter weather events.

Last night I proved to myself that I still remembered how to drive on icy roads, but I was so frightened. It is just not the same as it was, because when we lived here, I was always traveling on familiar roads in a car I knew well. This time, I set out in the dark in Aunt Ar’s car. The thermometer  was reading no higher than nineteen degrees, and pellets of frozen rain  were bouncing off her car. By now I knew the route, which was an improvement over the first time I traveled the streets in a rental car. I can do this, I thought to myself.

After cleaning off the snow from the windows and hood, I set out on my journey, cautiously driving down the icy hills while remembering to downshift so I could avoid using the brake. I was gaining more confidence until I saw the flashing blue lights ahead coming from two different directions.

When I came upon the barricades on the road—my road back to Aunt Ar’s—I began to panic. I stopped the car, gathered my wits and headed back to town, seeking a place to park so I could call Aunt Ar for help. She had no answer readily available, so I set out for the police station. What a waste of precious time! The young woman at the desk insisted there was no roadblock along my route. “You must have taken a wrong turn. There are no reported incidents on your road. Use your GPS.” Thank goodness I left the hospital with a fully charged phone! I explained to her that I was lost and unfamiliar with the territory, but she had no sympathy.

I doubted her words but nevertheless thought she knew better, so I followed the voice on my GPS—my new best friend Siri—who directed me right back to the barricaded road. Aha! What a rude nasty bitch, I thought.

So now my life was in Siri’s hands. I followed her calm reassuring voice over the unlit icy country roads. “Turn right, turn left, now drive for seven miles,” she directed me.

I found myself talking out loud to her. “Siri, don’t get me lost. I am afraid. I am trusting you to get me back. Don’t let me down like the bitch at the police station.”

Finally, at the end of those seven miles I was back on the familiar road and continued ever so slowly, ignoring the lights of the cars behind me urging me to drive faster. But I would not, because although the temperature had begun to rise, it was still an uncivilized nineteen degrees. I am in no rush. I am not ending this very long day upside down in a ditch at the side of the road..

Up ahead I saw the lights of McDonald’s and Shop Rite. I was almost there. I turned onto the last stretch of the ice-covered pavement to the finish line, and with a great sigh of relief, reached my destination.

I walked into the house announcing, “I need a glass wine.”

And that, girls, is why I have instituted my winter travel policy. But I could not say no to Aunt Ar last year when she asked me to come in early March, which was when I had two snowstorms and one ice storm. It is the guilt and appreciation for all she does that does not let me refuse, tied in with love for Grandma.

Grandma’s mantra is “I hate kids,” while mine is “I really, really hate winter!”