February 26, 2010

Where The Tough Keep Driving

Today is Friday, and it's the day I was going to write about a memory from the Appalachian Trail.  But instead I thought I'd tell you what happened to me night before last.

When I told people we were moving to Wisconsin, I could kind of visualize myself already here.  In my mind I was wearing a piece of foam cheese on my head.  Ice fishing with a man named Bernie.  Doing shots of beer cheese soup at a hockey game.  Or milking a cow and doing shots of colostrum.  Mmmm, colostrum shots.  But the reaction I got from most people was not nearly as imaginative.  They were all the same.  Wisconsin?  You know how bad the winters are, right?  Or Wisconsin? (Shudder).  Brrrrrrr!  It's cold there!  I've been living with Dustan so long now that I'm sure my response was something like an eager nod, a big golden retriever-grin and an enthusiastic "Bring it on, baby!"

The reactions of people here, learning we'd just moved from Virginia, were even gloomier.  Will this be your first winter here?  (Big, ominous, apocolyptical laugh)  You just wait til your car is buried under a foot of snow and you've got to dig it out before work.  That does sound pretty miserable, doesn't it?  So we got ready.  I should change that sentence.  We got SO ready.  We got here, bought snow shovels and rock salt and small candles just in case we were stranded in a snow drift so big we could always toast our hair and eat it on a cracker.  I turned into a Weather Watcher, made noaa.gov my best friend.  As October turned into November and then December, we were like minutemen.  Watching, waiting, ready to fight the snow.

But something all funny-like happened this year.  We got some snow, yeah.  A skiff here, a mid-morning dump there.  Had to use our shovel maybe twice so far.  But Virginia.  Ohhh, Virginia.  The snow you've gotten this year rivals the winters of my childhood past.  Power lines down, front doors snowed closed, snow so heavy roofs are caving in.  The ominous winter we expected in Wisconsin has been completely and totally trumped by what is going on over there on the east coast.  What IS going on over there anyway?  I sent my mom a Valentine on February 8th and she got it like three weeks later.  The USPS isn't firing on all pistons because of "inclement weather on the east coast."  But haven't they been getting Valentines to Minnesota since before the world began?  And here, my friends, is the vast difference between a bad winter in Wisconsin and a bad winter in Virginia.  In Virginia, the world stops turning when it snows.  Schools close.  Forever.  Kids just sit around getting dumb, watching ice melt.  And Walmart can't keep cases of bottled water or emergency blankets or pre-packaged firewood stocked.  People quit driving.  The roads crust over with crunchy ice on top of snow.  Christmas is cancelled.  No one has to work.  Mailmen aren't required to get Valentines to moms on time.

In Wisconsin, however, nothing changes when it snows.  I'm preeeetty sure their definition of inclement weather here is a whiteout, below-zero temperatures, and a tsunami coming off Lake Michigan.  Simultaneously.  Because work ain't cancelled, baby showers aren't cancelled and no one goes home early if around, say 3:30, it starts snowing at your place of work with such fury that your car is suddenly buried and no one has cell reception.  And you too would feel like a total pansy if you stood up and peaced out because you were such a thumb-sucking baby that didn't believe in driving in the snow.  Because girl, if you don't drive in the snow here, you're not going anywhere.  For a very long time.

So I stuck it out until five, gathered my things and trudged out to my car.  I had to use the ice scraper-slash-snow brusher offer to get all the snow from Ruby while she idled, and then I started my long journey home to Racine from Milwaukee in really bad conditions.  It was like the snow surprised everybody, especially Wisconsin's equivalent to VDOT.  WDOT?  And the roads weren't plowed at all.  I was white-knuckling my steering wheel on the interstate all the way home.  It was impossible to change lanes without your backend squirrelling around, so I just stuck to my lane while brazen Neons and 18-wheelers flew past, probably jamming out to Pink and smoking a cigarette in their cab.  Wisconsin-born.

I finally got off at my Racine exit and was desperate for gas at this point.  So as I start to turn right into the gas station, my car decides: no.  We're not going that way.  In fact we're skidding the opposite way.  Right towards a concrete median with a big stoplight mounted in the middle of it.  It all happened in slow motion.  It wasn't dramatic or heart racing.  It was more like "Ah man! No, man! Crap." My car banged into the concrete base of the stoplight and then the stoplight fell on my car.


By stoplight I mean a big steel pole with a diamond-shaped sign on top that holds three big red, yellow and green bulbs.  On my car.  Unbelievable.  I'm too proud to leave work early and the price I pay is having a stoplight on my car.  Ruby is actually OK.  No windshield busted, just a dented hood and some undercarriage stuff, whatever that means.  My airbags didn't even go off.  But still.  A stoplight on my car?  A stoplight that costs ten thousand dollars that belongs to the city that I have to my insurance company has to pay for?

The policeman looks at my license and says to me "Welcome to Wisconsin."

And I say "This is inclement weather!"


  1. i laughed, a lot, at your expense on this one. mostly because the same thing would totally happen to me :[ so sorry that it happened, but thanks for sharin!

  2. WHAT THE HECK!?!?!? A. stop. light. fell. on. your. car.

  3. That's the most epic car wreck ever...and yes, I definitely laughed, but it was the kind of nervous laugh you do with wild eyes, you know, the moment following the initial incident where you realize you were one lucky dog to have not had a green tinted light bulb cover shatter and embed plastic into your squeaky clean Neutrogena face. Great story. We miss you over yonder in the VA.


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