The Tragic Optimist


Made it home last night, but that drive is quite possibly the worst drive I’ve ever faced. It was the only time I can think of that I really probably shouldn’t have been driving. When I left campus, it was doing this light frozen drizzly stuff and I wasn’t too worried. But just as I’d gotten out of town on the little highway (19) and was still a few miles from the interstate, it got bad. Big, heavy, wet snowflakes not falling, but being blown horizontally bad. I could hardly see the side of the road.  There was no traffic, so no tracks to follow to be sure I was staying in my lane.  I wanted to pull off the side of the road somewhere, but I was out in rural Minnesota, and couldn’t see any driveways or side roads and was afraid of ending up in a ditch.  So I kept going, and kept up a mantra: “I will drive slowly, I will drive carefully, I will make it home safe.”  I hugged the side of the road, since that was the only guide I could find for staying on the road, and at least I knew I wouldn’t stray into the lane of the oncoming traffic.  But I figured that if I was doing that, anyone following me would do that, too, so just stopping on the shoulder wouldn’t be a good idea since that might end in my car being hit from behind.  And would I just spend the night in the car?  What do people do if they pull off the side of the road in bad weather?   Eventually I got to the entrance to the interstate, and I could see that there were at least some other vehicles, mostly semis, driving.  I have never been so happy to see those big trucks lumbering down I-35.  If they were driving on the road, then surely I could do that, too.  I got onto the interstate and it was better.  I got into the right lane, behind another car – that was going really slowly – and just followed it at a respectful distance, finally believing that I would make it home.  And indeed, the rest of the drive was slow, and there were some nerve-wracking parts, but nothing like trying to stay on the little highway 19 on the way to the interstate.  I finally got home an hour 15 minutes after leaving – normally, it’s a 40 minute drive.  On bad winter drives, my carpool keeps track of the number cars we see in the ditch – mostly a way to judge just how bad things are, and to remind ourselves to drive carefully so as not to become some other carpool’s statistic.  That whole drive, I never saw a car in the ditch, but that’s likely due to the fact that it was late at night (I didn’t make it home until 11:30), and the fact that all of my concentration was focused on watching the road and the car in front of me.

All last night, I kept having a recurring dream of me driving on highway 19 through the snow and coming up on another car and trying to stop, but not being able to.

It’s time for spring.



  1. Very scary. Glad you’re ok.

    It’s kind of freaky that it’s currently 42 degrees warmer in DC than in Minneapolis. If April showers bring May flowers, what do April blizzards bring?

  2. Yeesh. I remember one time driving Rick Fonte’s car home from the airport in similar conditions. No fun at all.

  3. Maria

    I don’t miss snowy driving at all. Berkeley is blessedly free of snow!

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