The other morning it was storming like the dickens when I set out for work. The snowplows could not keep up with the downpour. The drive, which normally takes about a half hour in the morning, lasted an hour and half. It was insane. The storm was coming down so heavily that visibility in some areas was limited to just beyond the road which I traveled. Cars were sliding into the gutters. Trucks careened crazily around corners, fish-tailing and threatening full spin-outs. And we Utahns must do all of this amongst the continual road construction.
Driving during storms such as that gives one a lot of time to think because there is unlimited down time where one must wait patiently for the traffic to inch forward. I found myself studying the other vehicles around me, watching the decisions some drivers made and the effects of those decisions. Of course, some of that was just for self-preservation but, a lot of it was curiosity. It seems that when it snows here in Utah, many people generally lose their heads.
At one point, the driver in front of me threw up her hands in frustration, wailing at the gods who had sent this storm which was, probably, causing her to be late for a very important date. Taking drastic measures, she decided it was time to turn around, go back or find another way, I suppose. This resulted in her cranking her wheels abruptly to the left and gunning her engine. The wheels spun impotently, shooting grey, sopping-wet slush everywhere. Suddenly something, somewhere, caught traction and her car shot forward, her front tires jumped over the median island and she promptly found herself high-centered.
I watched as the driver of a car smaller than mine chose to merge to the right in an attempt to get ahead a little faster, I imagine. Apparently, said driver did not notice that that lane had not been plowed yet. Nor did it appear that said driver stopped to think that there was a reason that we were all in the left lane, crawling along slowly. It seems that he did not think far enough into the future to think that going into the right lane was going to get him stuck because the snow was deeper than his car was high.
I watched as the driver of a 4×4 truck attempted to merge, at a much-too-high speed, across the slush into a less-packed lane. As he crossed the middle, the slush grabbed his tires, seemingly took the steering wheel right out of his hand and flung him in a topsy-turvy dance down the road. He corrected and over-corrected and corrected again until he ended up back in the lane from which he had previously attempted to leave.
I watched as a wary pedestrian had to cross eight lanes of traffic through a crosswalk that was not at all defined. In Utah, pedestrians take their lives in their hands on a good day, let alone one where the fury of hell has been unleashed. I imagine that this woman was absolutely terrified to make the trek across the road when it was her turn. She nervously glanced at every one of the drivers who sat at the front lines, hey! I’m here! Please don’t run me over! As she did so, I watched my rearview mirror nervously as the cars behind us slid to a stop and came perilously close to causing a pile-up.
It was as if everything that I witnessed was a mirror of my own life.
Lately, there have been many moments when I have found myself high-centered over something which I was sure I was able to safely cross. My judgment has been just enough off that, instead of finding myself securely and happily meandering down the slope on the other side, I sit perched precariously upon a pinnacle and I have no traction to create any movement at all. Some decisions just require deeper logical processes than I, apparently, possess.
And there are times where I get impatient and want to move faster. I am impatient with myself all too frequently and in those moments I tend to make impulsive decisions. I leap into a lane I have never traveled, that hasn’t been plowed and find myself stuck. Sometimes it is good to leap. At others, it is better to stay in the flow of traffic instead of forging one’s own lane. However, I have yet to determine when it’s best for me to stay there and or when it’s time to leap into that next, uncertain lane alone. When will I not get stuck by doing one or the other? And, if I choose to move into the next lane, what happens when that life takes over and I seemingly lose control of my steering ability?
I have been that wary pedestrian, hoping to not be slammed into by oncoming traffic. I have been the driver, watching the nervous woman and offering support of her journey. I have been those drivers that are careening wildly toward stopped traffic, praying to God that something is going to stop them.
I have experienced all of these situations and, as I slowly crept forward that morning, I realized that all I can do is stay present to my moment, stay alert and be willing to be responsible for all of the consequences of my choices. It’s always a good idea to temper my speed and be patient with myself. Oh! And always stay a safe distance from others in dangerous situations.
©Angie K. Millgate 1/26/08