Sunday, March 21, 2010

Driving to church in the snow

I dropped my son of at his grandparents' church this morning. This is our usual Sunday pattern; it gives the boy some time with his grandparents, and it gives us some time to get things done around the house. The only thing that made this morning interesting was that yesterday, it snowed.

That, however, was more than interesting enough. My son (he'll be four in June)thought all the snow was hilarious; he kept pointing out things that had snow on them, and then giggling. The highway was mostly just wet, but there was slush on the bridges. We passed one wreck, where the front left corner of one vehicle had connected with the rear right corner of another, with the result that both were now on the side of the highway and facing the wrong direction. Everyone passing the wreck did a sensible job of slowing down enough to be safe, but not so much as to create additional dangers; and Theron had a good time looking at the fire trucks. All in all, the trip down was pretty uneventful.

So I dropped the boy off and headed back, and that was where life got a little exciting. The ramp that takes you from LBJ Freeway to Central Expressway (or 635 to 75) is a high, curving bridge. It's two lanes wide, with about half a lane on either side. And, of course, as we came around the top and started to descend, the car in front of me decided that - what with all the slush on the bridge - she should step on her brakes. Fortunately, she figured out almost immediately that that was not a very good idea. Unfortunately, that forced me to slow down, at a point where I really didn't want to be braking. All things considered, it was more annoying than really dangerous, but I was doubly irked when we reached the bottom and I discovered that the driver was talking on her cell phone while driving in the slush.

But okay, fine, I passed her and life went on. Now I was driving north on Central, and the road was wet with stretches of mush atop the bridges. Traffic was pretty light, and while the crosswind was a bit nasty, that danger was easily avoided by just not, y'know, driving too fast.

Two bridges further north, I glanced in the rearview mirror just in time to see a large pickup truck accidentally move half a lane left as he was crossing the bridge. He had been in the left lane, so the lane that he was now partly occupying was the High Occupancy Vehicle lane, which was empty at this hour. However, owing to an excess of stupidity at the Texas Department of Transportation, the HOV lanes on Central are separated from the rest of the lanes by rows of little plastic sticks. The truck mowed down a good forty-foot stretch of these with his front bumper before he was able to get back over into his original lane.

A bridge or two later, I saw somebody in a smallish black car - if I had to guess, I'd say it was probably a Mustang - take an unexpected right turn across all four lanes of traffic. It was the same basic scenario: the car was in the left lane, coming across the top of a bridge. I don't think he actually got hit; I think he was far enough in front that the car which would have t-boned him was able to stop. It was pretty obvious (even watching through the rear view mirrow at an increasing distance) that he'd panicked... because once the car came to a stop, it didn't move for a good half a minute. I did eventually see it straighten out and get moving again.

And that was pretty much the last of the morning's excitement. I got back home, parked the car in the garage, and took a nap. Mission accomplished.

I do have a final note for my fellow Texas drivers. I know we sometimes get unusual or unexpected weather conditions, and I understand that sometimes you have to go out anyway. I'm also aware that the Metroplex is carefully arranged so that automobiles are the only practical way to get to most places. That said, I'd take it as a personal favor if those of you who don't know how to drive in these conditions would stay off the road when they happen. Okay? Thanks.

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