Monday, September 26, 2011

Good things, bad things, and flaky things.

I have concluded: change is neither good nor bad, it is simply change.
Example, my part time employer has decided to lay off all of its truck drivers. This is a bad thing for the drivers. Many of them have been working at the paper for more than two decades. In fact, one gentleman, I am convinced, has been working there hauling papers for Frank Gannett since the time of horse and wagon. It is a bad thing to be laid off; most definitely.

There is an unexpected positive to this lay-off. It is happening two weeks after the last day of summer, two weeks into autumn, two weeks closer to winter, ice, snowstorms, whiteouts, impassable roads and an insignificant number of plows. Most of the driving for the newspaper happens between 1 am and 3 am. In western New York, the only people on the roads at those hours during the winter are flakes, if you get my drift.

The one exception to insignificant snowplow presence is the New York State Thruway. If the forecast calls for snow starting around 2 am, the plows are out in the turn around by 1 am. The yellow beacons on top signal to motorists that all is well, and serve as a warning to any flakes that their interference to the motoring public will not be tolerated. Having seen those plows, standing guard at 2 am, I have felt such peace and safety that I have set the cruise control on the truck, put my feet on the dash, and leaned back to nap.

Other thoroughfares are not so fortunate. The number of snowplowing sentinels of snowfall is most insignificant. One rather horrid night I was driving towards Batavia, New York, via Bergen and Leroy. The wind and snow combined to make travelling hazardous. That is what the National Weather Service Office from Buffalo said, and they were right. I could only see a few feet past the hood of the truck; I drove half watching the banks of snow on the side of the road to make sure I stayed on the road and not in the snow banks.

Just before I reached my destination, I came to a halt. It was not a screeching halt for two reasons. First, that would be cliché, which I try to avoid at all costs and second, I was stuck in a snowdrift. It was a slow, gentle, fluffy, can’t-go-anywhere halt.  I walked around the truck in a drift that was up to my waist. It was impossible to tell it was that deep when I drove into it. I had no hope of getting out, until a farmer drove by in her bucket loader…at 2 am. She stopped and began to dig me out at 2 am. Did I mention this was two o’clock in the morning?

Finally, I was unstuck. I drove up the road to the drop spot. One plow had made one pass, leaving me one lane to drive in. I did not need more than one lane, but if anyone was driving the other direction and we met, the consequences could have been distasteful.  Upon reaching the drop spot, I realized that the storage units were on my left hand side and the door on the truck to unload the papers was on my right hand side. This was another example of bad urban, I mean rural planning.

I decided to drive down to the next intersection and turn around. I had no idea where that was, but I was going to find out. Before I reached any intersections, I saw the plow that had been plowing the lane I was driving down, in a ditch. This did not bode well. I decided to drive on past the snowplow and into the uncharted and unplowed territory, which lay before me. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The road alternated between bare, wind-swept pavement, and large drifts of snow. I lined up on the drifts and hurtled through them. Snow exploded over the cab of the truck and I could not see a thing. Over and over, I repeated the sequence of lining myself up so that after I barreled through a drift, I would still be on the road when I exited the other side of the drift.

Then two thoughts struck me. I was glad it was just a thought and not a vehicle, because if a vehicle were approaching from the opposite direction while I was in the middle of a drift and I was struck by it, the result would not have been distasteful, rather it would have been catastrophic. Second, if I got stuck, this was in the middle of nowhere, there would be no farmer with a bucket loader to dig me out, and the only snowplow in the county was stuck in a ditch somewhere behind me. I was convinced I would be there until spring. My poor wife, married to an ice-man. Maybe my kids would finally think I was cool.

Change is good and bad, but I know I am not going to miss driving in the winter. It is not the snow that bothers me, it is all the flakes-if you get my drift.

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