By Alun Thomas
Whenever there's a blizzard or heavy snow I am guaranteed to be caught in the middle of it. Working a third shift job doesn't help my cause much, but if there's one thing I've come to loathe about this area it is snow. And after the disastrous storm of December 1st I hope I never see it again. Like all of us I have been caught driving in snowstorms plenty of times, but this put them all to shame. Some of you may be laughing to yourself, 'he should have been here in 79 then!', but having lived here for eight years I missed the horror snowstorms of years past. But with plenty of advance warning about the recent avalanche of snow I thought I might try to beat it. I failed.
Nothing strikes fear into me more than driving in snow. Having rarely encountered the stuff until moving to this glorious state I was appalled by it the first few times I was forced to navigate through it. The amount of concentration it takes to overcome the elements is what drives me to near insanity. Living forty miles out from my job is another detriment. So with the warnings out about the impending storm I got to work early to overcome the odds and get home before the gates opened. The snow was scheduled to start around midnight. At seven pm I looked outside. It had already begun. It wouldn't be half as bad if I lived nearby, but the impending drive home slowly turned me into a madman.
At one thirty am I made my way out. One of my workmates had scraped my frozen windows for me. My hats off to you son. My drive home takes forty minutes most nights. It took me ten minutes to drive a mile. I asked myself how I was going to do this. I turned on the radio for consolation. I determined it too difficult to listen. With a blanket of snow showering me I could only focus on the icy, shit road. My crawl had officially begun. Almost immediately a cannon of trucks barreled by me. Is there anything worse in those conditions? Already finding visibility impossible, a truck speeding by, mere inches from hitting me and sending me to my death is madness in its most pure form.
But there is madness beyond that. What I kept dwelling on mentally is that I am risking my life, all for some low paying, nowhere, inferior manual labour job far beneath my talents. You must make the job! If I had called in I would have been considered weak. 'The other guys who live out near you made it in' would have been the comment. Yes but they are far stupider than I. Supposedly. So this is what we do for our precious jobs that most of us revile. We put our lives on the line because of the fear we may lose our jobs or a day of pay and trudge through the most reprehensible of weather to make it. Someone shoot me now. These thoughts ran through my head continually.
As the snow got heavier I made my exit onto the rural roads out near the village in which I waste my life in. On the exit ramp several cars and trucks had pulled over rather than risk it. I'll show them! They had the right idea. Visibility was zero thanks to vast, open fields. I was travelling five miles an hour. I only kept in a straight line by looking at the ditch on the side of the road. I considered stopping right there and letting the snow bury me. It would have been less painful than driving in it. But I perservered. What on earth I had done to deserve this hell I do not know I wondered. Take me to a warm state. Is it any wonder states like Nevada and Arizona are prospering? Who in their right mind would elect to move to Illinois? Why didn't I do more research before I moved here? Eight years is a long time. But I'll never get used to the cold and snow. Never.
After two painstaking hours I made it home. The mental strain and anguish was unbelievable. Hunched over for two hours, eyes wide open, trying to keep from sliding off the road, unable to see a yard ahead of you. Bollocks! It made me physically ill the whole weekend. I later learned that the four people I work with who live out near me all got stuck or slid into a ditch. I was the only one who made it unscathed. Me the foreigner. The ubiquitously tough New Zealander made of iron steel. Now also a nervous wreck checking the weather every day for snow, living in fear. I wouldn't want to miss work after all! Actually I would. The chances of me driving in that, knowing it will happen again are less than zero. Not for some ridiculous job. Not for anything.