Caution will get you killed

By Bill Colvard -

“Deeply bitter,” was how a good friend characterized her feelings about the snow that swept through the area on Saturday.

And though that snow was mostly gone the next day and the mid-70s temperature today makes it hard to believe it was snowing up a storm just a few days ago, I have to agree. I have my own “deeply bitter” feelings about the snow.

For one thing, that ridiculous precipitation which had absolutely no business freezing up things this late in the spring made me miss an after-party. And that can never be forgiven.

I have never in my life missed an after-party. Or at least I hadn’t done so before Saturday. So now I’m just another one of those fraidy old geezers who let fear and caution stand in the way of a good time. I really did not want to become that person.

But when I came out of the Andy Griffith Playhouse a little after ten Saturday evening, and my car was covered in about five inches of snow that hadn’t been there when I went inside two and a half hours previously, with more falling every second, I decided it was time to get home. Or to try to get home.

The play had been wonderful. I’d never been to an opening night of a new play before. It was a magical experience to be sitting in the theater watching a show that no audience had ever seen before.

And I had great seats. Fourth row center, three rows closer to the stage than any decent person ought to be, to paraphrase Joe Mankiewicz.

The playwright and director, John Adams, made reference in his curtain speech before the show to the fact we were the show’s first audience, and then joked that there would be no refunds.

Not that anybody wanted one. “In the Shadow of the Mountain” was a great piece of theater, and I hope you saw it during its brief run. Because who knows when you’ll have the chance again?

By the time the curtain call came, a standing ovation did not seem to be nearly enough, and I desperately wanted to do the two-finger Audrey Hepburn taxi whistle to show the depths to which my soul had been touched. But alas, I have never mastered that skill. (And had not the slightest idea how badly I would be in need of a taxi just a few moments later.)

In retrospect, a good long call or three of “Author, Author” might have done the trick to get the deserving playwright back on stage for a bow.

My pathetic, adventure-free self gave last-minute regrets to my erstwhile hostess, looking for signs of scorn and derision in her eyes at my lack of fun-guyness. I didn’t detect any, but there was plenty bubbling up from my soul.

After managing to slip and slide out of the parking lot without killing anyone or doing any damage to my vehicle or any others, I got lucky and fell in behind a salt spreader and followed him to Dobson without incident. Of course it took forever since we were only going about 20 miles an hour.

But as soon as he turned off to go out toward Fisher River Park and I was driving on undisturbed snow, I discovered that my Corolla has this handy-dandy feature in which a bright red light flashes if the car loses traction. I’ve owned this car two and a half years and never knew that.

And it’s a bright light, too. That flashes. Brightly. We’re talking Studio 54 circa 1977 red neon flashing. What kind of sadistic automotive designer thought it would be a good idea to spring that kind of distraction onto someone fighting to the death with a steering wheel?

It could have triggered an epileptic seizure had my brain been so inclined. It did trigger a very painful memory that the mechanic at the Toyota dealer had said a few months ago I was going to need new tires soon.

What is soon, I wondered, red light flashing, tires sliding, traction lost, hope barely holding on.

I had thought if I made it to Dobson I’d be okay. It hadn’t even been raining in Elkin when I left home. And surely I-77 would be clear. I had heard several people at the theater who were driving to Winston-Salem and Greensboro say that Highway 52 was clear, and they’d be fine if they made it that far.

So why wouldn’t I assume that an interstate highway would also be clear? Well, it was not. Not even a little. But at least the few other vehicles on the road had mostly chosen an appropriate speed similar to mine, in the 20- to 30-mph range.

Once again, I was behind a truck that was carving out a space for me in the road. But as the truck was a good bit wider than my car, I couldn’t keep the tires on both sides of the car in his tracks. And couldn’t remember which one of the front wheels actually pulled the car. So needless to say, there was a bit more of the red neon light show I’d come to know and love so much in the preceding hour.

And no, conditions never got one bit better before I landed in front of my house, safe, sound and severely shaken. And shaking.

And deeply bitter at missing an after-party that I could only assume was rocking down at that very moment. My friend, who was also deeply bitter about the snow, discovered that very evening her car had the same sort of light, only in yellowish-orange.

By the time I got settled in at home and my blood pressure settled down to normal, it was pushing 2 a.m. and my dog wanted one last excursion before bedtime. I opened the door to find all the falling snow had turned to rain and melted all the snow off the sidewalk and street.

So if I’d gone to the after-party, there would have been no problem. That was a hard lesson to learn.

An abundance of caution almost got me killed, and a little bit of procrastination could have solved everything.
And take away your joy

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.