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February, 2014

Driving in a Snow Storm in the South

I was at work yesterday when the snow started coming down around noon. All my coworkers started getting ready to leave for home, but I decided to wait. I looked out the windows to the main road outside and saw the heavy traffic cluttering up quickly whitening streets. I didn’t want to have to deal with the traffic in addition to the snow and ice coming down.

Everyone told me to get out. They warned me not to wait because the roads were only going to get worse as the day and storm progressed. Within an hour, my building was almost empty. I walked around and found three other people still at their desks. Outside, the road was still congested, and the snow was still coming down heavily. I continued to wait. I just continued to do my work.

At my office, I had warmth and plenty of food. If I did end up having to stay through the night, I’d be fine. My family was all safe and sound at home. They also had warmth and food, and the boys were outside playing and sledding.

At 3:00 there was only one other person in my building, and the road outside was starting to clear of traffic. But the snow was starting to fill in the paths the previous traffic had left on the pavement.

At 4:00 I decided it was time to leave for home. There was barely any traffic on the road outside. I’m perfectly fine with driving very slow through the snow so long as I don’t have to worry about so many idiots refusing to slow down. It’s the other idiots on the road that worry me during snow and ice storms. I’ve driven through these conditions several times through my 30 years of driving — I’m no expert, but I am cautious, attentive, and patient. Plus, at home I have a garage, and at work I have a parking deck, so my truck doesn’t get covered with snow to block my view of the road.

So I left work and got on the roads. The streets were icy, very slick. But I drove slow and steady, with slow easy stops, starts, and turns. With very few other cars on the roads, I didn’t have to worry much about possible collisions. I could concentrate on the road.

I made it to the highway. Going my direction, the traffic was still very light. But over on the other side, coming back the other way, the traffic was stopped and thick for as far as I could see. Those poor people weren’t going anywhere fast. I drove about 20 mph along the normally 70 mph beltline. Here and there along the way were abandoned vehicles.

The abandoned vehicles turned out to be a good thing for me. The hardest part of the drive was staying on the pavement and avoiding the highway edge. The abandoned cars were all stuck in the mud of the shoulder. Driving or sliding off the edge of the road into the dirt meant a complete end to driving. There’d be no getting unstuck from that.

Although most people going my direction stayed slow and steady, there was an occasional idiot driving twice our speed. Everything from small coupes covered in view-obscuring snow to big delivery vans dropping chunks of ice passed. I just held slow, straight, and steady while they flew by.

At last I reached home at 5:15. The commute had taken 75 minutes compared to the normal 35 minutes. Not too bad. I had several worrisome moments of short slips and skids, but I only lost traction once. The roads were very bad, and I definitely wouldn’t have tried that drive in the traffic I saw earlier in the day. But taking my time with very little traffic around was not overly dangerous.

I brought my work computer home with me so I’m staying in and working from home today. Although the plows worked over night and cleared the roads enough that I feel I could easily get back to the office today, there’s no need for the trip. My only problem today is keeping my boys out of my home office enough that I can get my work done. One boy wants to play Warcraft on his mother’s computer at the desk beside me, and the other boy wants to play Minecraft on the laptop at the table in front of me. (And I want to play either game with either boy.)


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National Flags

Watching the Olympics brought this thought to mind.

I’ve always liked the British flag. And I like how the Australian flag incorporates the U.K. Union Jack, but with the Southern Cross stars — sort of like identifying as the U.K. South. (I’ve also always liked the Confederate flag, probably because of its similarity to the British flag.)

The South Korean flag is also interesting, though I don’t know the history of it, even though I bowed to it many times during my tae kwon do training. (Bowing out of respect for the culture from which the martial art originated.)

The basic tri-color striped flags, like Russia, France, Germany, etc., I’ve always thought were kind of boring. The Mexican, though tri-color striped, at least has that cool eagle emblem in the middle. I have similar thoughts on the Iranian flag. And the Canadian flag, though only two colors, is neat with its maple leaf — I like a flag that is immediately recognizable.

I like the U.S. flag because it looks different than most, and is immediately recognizable.

The Albanian flag is pretty badass.

Choosing my favorite, I’d probably point to the U.K. flag. I like the look of it, but after learning of how it incorporates the flags of each of the member kingdoms, that makes it neater.

I used to live in Wilmington, NC. Wilmington is a port for many British ships, and when a ship was in port, many buildings around the area fly a Union Jack in honor/acknowledgement of the British sailors coming ashore. The mall where I worked during college was one such building. One day an American man pointed out to me that the Union Jack was flying upside down, and that was a sign of distress. He light-heartedly hassled me about it, (like I had any control over the flag flying above the mall entrance), and I thought he was joking. I mean, the Union Jack has a topside and bottomside? I wonder if even Brits can immediately recognize when their flag is upside-down.


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