One should never panic on icy roads

I didn’t panic.

They taught me in driver’s education my senior year in high school not to panic when the vehicle you’re driving hits a patch of ice and begins to skid. As instructed, I steered with the skid, regained traction and straightened up.

“I got this,” I thought to myself as I made my way down the ice rink disguised as a street in suburbia.

I did, however, begin to question my decision to go to the grocery store — a mere 5 minutes from my house/office/place of warmth and comfort — to grab a few things for dinner, since I had failed to take the ribs out of the freezer in time to thaw.

I was thinking fajitas, with some fresh jalapenos to add a bit of warmth to a very cold day.

It was about 15 degrees around 3:30 p.m. when I began my short trek to the store. It was much colder three hours later when I finally got home.

But I never did panic. Even when the tires began to slip again, mere seconds after I regained traction, I remained calm, continued to steer into the skid and refrained from stomping on the brakes — a no-no for sure, as I remember from my driving instructor.

I must admit to feeling a tinge of nervous energy, however, when the rear end of my light duty pickup swapped places with the front end and I was gazing — helplessly I might add — at the house I had passed a split second before.

But I didn’t panic, even as the truck skidded backward and fishtailed into and over the curb — fortunately on the side of the street with no houses and no cars parked on the street. Just a curb.

“Not hurt,” I thought to myself. “No property damage, no harm, no foul. Now If I can just slip off this curb, regain a little purchase on this icy street, I can turn around and ease on down the road, grab some staples and take a less treacherous route home, none the worse for wear.”

I put the truck in gear, spun the tires, and rocked back and forth a bit until I felt the rear end slip off the curb. But, it would go no further. Then I noticed the little orange light on the dash that indicates when a tire is a bit on the low side.

I got out — carefully — to check. I didn’t think I had hit the curb hard enough to knock the tire off the rim.

“I could change the tire in this arctic environment,” I thought. “But my truck jack is lightweight and I’m parked facing uphill and it’s cold as the proverbial well driller’s whatever … and I have Roadside Assistance.”

Yeah, yeah, I know, real men change their own tires. But really smart men pay extra for Roadside Assistance. I called. “A wrecker will be there within 70 minutes,” the dispatcher said.

A nice man across the street from where my truck sat halfway in and halfway out of the road came out and invited me to come inside to wait. I thanked him, but declined so I could make certain not to miss the wrecker when it came.

An hour later I rang his doorbell to see if he would mind my using his bathroom. He was most accommodating. He was most accommodating again an hour later. (I’ve got to quit drinking tea in the afternoons.)

In the meantime, I whiled away the time posting pitiful reports on Facebook and texting my wife and son. Pat offered to come get me, but I told her I thought I needed to stay with the truck lest I miss the wrecker guy.

I can’t count the number of Good Samaritans who stopped to offer help. “Thank you, so much,” I responded to each, “but the wrecker will be here in just a few minutes.”  

Ha. What was I thinking? It was cold, icy, nasty weather. Wrecker services were up to their whatevers in crashed vehicles.

Just after dark, the wrecker came. I really felt for the young man who crawled under my truck to slide his heavy duty car jack in position and, with hands that had to be near frostbitten, undid the lug nuts, removed the tire, installed the spare and then went back to rescuing other vehicles.

“Been at it all day, and will be all night,” he said. I thanked him profusely — but not nearly enough — and made my way back home, where Pat made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

What a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that hours earlier?

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