November 27th, 2006


Well, the Weather Outside is Spiteful

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I'm on vacation.

I'll let that assertion linger in the air, much like a veteran cop might say "I've got two more days before I retire", or how actors of a certain age who manage to keep getting roles in action movies might declare "We're getting too old for this shit".

Today's the first day of my vacation, and we had a dusting of snow yesterday. I've been working from home, so the fact that I didn't need to spend today on the freeways isn't a decadent celebration of sloth - that much is status quo, and perhaps I should appreciate it more than I do. I puttered around the house some today, cleaning stuff that desperately needs to be cleaned, sorting out some stuff that I've ignored so long that it's unimportant anymore. I looked in my fridge and decided I really ought to go "into town" to restock the pantry.

Aside: when I was growing up, a buddy of mine moved out to the far reaches of civilization, and his folks would occasionally refer to going "into town", which reminded me a great deal of a rare and wonderful Ingalls excursion from "Little House on the Prairie". Now, I've adopted that lifestyle. Making the trip into town means a couple minutes on SR-522 into either Woodinville or Monroe, but for only being 10 minutes away, it's still another world.

So, I set out a tad after 2pm, figuring that I could get my grapes and apples and whatnot and get home without incident. Leave nothing but footprints, they say. I might have got a little distracted on my way into town - I stopped by Target to see if they had a Wii console, which they didn't. The did, however, have a copy of a Paul Simon CD that I've been meaning to pick up for a while.

Another Aside: Paul Simon likes to reinvent himself, or at least try to have a different sound from song to song. I applaud that standard, but I'm slightly disappointed to report that "Father and Daughter" reminds me a great deal of "Mother and Child Reunion". Nevertheless, "Father and Daughter" is heartbreakingly touching. If you're a father or a daughter, I encourage you to give it a listen. I, however, am neither, so will get back to my rambling monologue, already in progress.

I buy my Tobasco sauce and cheese and make my way to the checkout line. The cute checkout chick was happy to set aside my bottle of Coke for easier consumption on the way home and commented on how strange the weather was, and how unusual weather doesn't support the notion of global warming. For my part, I chose not to be lured into a discussion of climatological trends and what one day's weather has anything to do with anything.

I got myself homeward bound, and while I was still on surface streets, I noticed that the taillights on the highway (the aforementioned SR-522) were not moving. Not a good sign. At this point, I was probably illegally poking out into an intersection that I had optimistically attempted to cross - traffic on the next block was not moving at all, and I hadn't taken that into account. Oh, well - if I was about to get a ticket, so was the car behind me. And hey, maybe 100 feet away was some sort of cruiser with blinking lights, seemingly tending to an accident. Maybe that casts a shadow where I can get away with crappy driving for a little bit.

Eventually, I decided to plot a detour that would avoid driving on 522 in this area, meeting up with it closer to my home where I could re-evaluate the condition of the roads, and whether surface streets were still a prudent decision. I would say this was around 3:30, already a long trip for a few frozen brown and serve biscuits.

By the time I pulled a U-Turn back to the intersection I was just nervous about blocking, the cops (highway patrol, whatever) had blocked off the road where the accident was, and were directing traffic by hand. I knew I could go one more block out of my way and still meet up with the detour route, but the fact that people were losing control of their vehicles around me, and my course would take me up some relatively steep bits caused me a little anxiety.

In the Interests of the Public Good: if you're on a slippery surface (e.g. slushy, icy, wet roads), and you're spinning your wheels, thus not making adequate forward speed, you may find that applying more gas does not actually help. You've already lost that handy static friction phenomenon, and running your engine faster will cause your vehicle to behave in even less familiar ways. You actually want to reduce the speed of your wheels until the tires once again gain traction, and then you can get home and wait for July, when the pavement is dry again.

I managed to make it up the hill as the daylight waned, being directed through one more intersection by a cop I could barely see in the fading light. Past a sign that said "Local access only, no through traffic" (I'll obey that sign when you give me a fault tolerant means of getting home). Curiously, a small caravan of cars were travelling in my direction, and almost nobody was going the other way.

Several times, people would get impatient and jump in front of me, barely in control of their vehicles. Several times, I passed cars in the ditches on the side of the road. It's tempting to connect the two observations.

I finally got home around 5pm, safe and sound. I feel little desire to go out again for a while, not because I don't like the way my vehicle handles in the snow, not because I was physically uncomfortable in any way, but because the groupmind freaks out with the first inch of snow, and starts acting crazy.

It sure would be nice if more people could work from home, so that they wouldn't be in the unfortunate situation of being a terrible driver in the snow and yet still need to get home from work. This is a related observation to the fact that the roads around here would be so much more drivable if everybody but me stayed home.

Ok, time to make a cup of hot chocolate, curl up on the couch, and watch a movie until the power goes out.