I didn’t want to get out of the car. It was very cold out there. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
Black ice can be deadly.
In what is darkly known in Minnesota as “the Theater of Seasons,” black ice could be the curtain call. A sunny winter’s day and melting snow promise a spring thaw. Come sunset, that runoff freezes into an invisible sheen sending unsuspecting drivers careening out of control and spinning off bridges or into oncoming traffic.
My friend Paul and I were driving to a W. C. Fields film festival.
Paul took the freeway exit and downshifted into the grade. But we hit the ice and spun out. Moments later his ’64 Ford became intimate with a towering snow bank accumulated over the last few months. Aiming back up the icy lane toward oncoming traffic, we were stuck.
The Ford’s radiator had a slow leak and a dense fog bank rose above the car.
My philosophy of cold weather clothing used to be based on intention. I intended to spend as little time outside as possible. Therefore, I didn’t encumber myself with boring items like gloves, mittens, hats, long underwear; anything which would be too warm, bulky, easy to lose, or geeky. Who needs all that crap when your sole purpose is to get from vehicle to building with record speed? I don’t need no stinking galoshes!
Though still in high school, I was old enough to know better. Now I keep blankets, extra jackets and ice scrapers in my trunk. And I live in Los Angeles.
And yes, now you know why that geek (me), wears socks to the beach. Nerve damage makes my feet feel cold in even the warmest weather.
The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees since dusk and now hovered around zero. I never liked negative numbers. Anything below zero was simply too damned cold.
We had no choice but to dig ourselves out before some driver with a bumper car fetish used us as human impact barriers. It actually wasn’t down to ‘we’, but to Paul, who had gloves.
One of the hub caps flew off when we hit the snow bank and that served as a makeshift snow shovel. I was pretty useless. While trying to keep my fingers from falling off, I warned on-coming drivers of their peril by waving my arms like Kevin McCarthy in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
“Wake up! They’re coming! The glaciers are coming!”
Then a cop arrived with his flashers on. He pulled into the ramp and idled his well heated car. Nothing slows a driver down like police flashers.
He rolled down his window when we got to him.
The cop said, “Do you know you are headed the wrong way up the ramp?” He stopped to tell us that? Did he think we were idiots?
“Uh, yes officer. We spun out on the ice and are working to get turned around now.”
The cop nodded and rolled up his window. I would hate for him to get a chill.
Incredulous, I asked, “Isn’t he going to help us?”
Paul said, “Shut up.”
Paul redoubled his efforts with the hub cap. I worked at restoring sluggish blood flow to my toes by jumping up and down. I worried that the jarring would break my ears off like frosty potato chips.
I briefly considered what I could get me into that warm cop car, but opted for the cold.
This weather was a confirmation of what I had always believed; I was witnessing the beginning of another ice age. Minnesota’s biggest industry would be melting mile high glaciers to provide the world with fresh water and ice cubes. I was certain of it. Global warming is not a threat but a salvation.
Paul freed his car and he safely pulled it around the police car and onto the boulevard. He pulled over and killed the engine.
Then we watched as the cop tried to back his car back down the ramp. He was stuck. His spinning rear wheels couldn’t gain traction on the slick ice to free the frozen front wheels.
We approached the cruiser and the cop rolled down his window.
I asked him, “Do you know you are headed the wrong way up the ramp?”
The cop looked at me about the same way I looked at him a few minutes before.
Paul interjected, “We’ll help push you.”
The cop closed his window and we positioned ourselves at the front of his car. Our efforts combined with high speed revs finally freed the car. We nodded to him and the cop left without further incident.
Paul and I got to the screening in time to see Fields’ “A Fatal Glass of Beer”. The main laugh line in the film was Fields repeated declaration, “’Tain’t a fit night out for man… nor beast.”
Ain’t it the truth?