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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

It was a seemingly ordinary February day. I got up, took my son to school, went to work, finished my projects with a great sense of accomplishment, and headed to pick up my son before returning home.

Excited to get the family gathered back together, eat dinner, and relax, my son and I proceeded onto the road. It didn’t take more than a few minutes, however, to realize this was not going to be our typical drive home.

Just as we got onto the freeway, traffic started to jam. Actually, jam is a radical understatement; traffic was more akin to a parking lot. One minute we were driving along and the next minute everything came to an abrupt halt.

I turned on the radio and found out the reason for our state of being was a snow pickup to the north of our location. Instead of a usual run-of-the-mill snow fall that slows traffic but keeps people moving, wind caused whiteout conditions which jammed traffic for entire city lengths. In fact, several main highways and roads were completely closed due to the severe weather. And because nobody could have predicted the traffic entanglement, school busses, commuters, and families were all involved in the mess. Nobody was spared.

Hoping for the situation to improve (it couldn’t really get worse), I called my husband and told him we’d be home a little late— but probably not too late. We were, after all, less than 5 miles away.

Three hours later we were still two miles from home. Just to give you an idea of the agonizingly slow commute: At one point I called my mom to express my frustration. When I called her I was one mile from the freeway exit I needed to take. It took almost two hours to get to the ½ mile point. This was not a fun drive!

At several times throughout the night, police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances needed to pass through. With a great deal of effort, we all moved over and they safely got by. Much to my dismay, several people tailed these vehicles to edge ahead of the tumult of cars (which made me furious).

At this point I was feeling quite helpless and despair was sinking into the pit of my stomach. Somehow the original mess had become even worse and we were moving slower than ever.

And that’s when my son started crying.

Have you ever been in a car with frazzled nerves, just trying to make it through the drive? Have you ever had a screaming child thrown into that mix? Welcome to my life!

I have a tendency to get frustrated in traffic. I feel like most people are only out for themselves and will do almost anything to get even one or two car lengths ahead (seriously, how much is that going to help?). Anyway, I was about ready to kill everyone else on the road. And the crying wasn’t helping—at all.

But my sweet baby boy wasn’t asking to get out of the car or even if we were almost home. Not one complaint about our horrible situation was coming from his mouth. Heartbreakingly, the only thing he wanted was something to drink. He would have taken either milk or water (I’ve found it’s rare to have an actual choice of what kids will take). To my devastation, I had NOTHING to give him. The despair sunk deeper as I contemplated whether or not to pull over to grab him some snow. I ultimately decided against this as I had nothing that could have contained snow. Also, side-of-the-road snow doesn’t usually stay clean for long.

Fortunately, I had my son’s blanket and favorite stuffed animal. And although these items weren’t what he actually wanted, they calmed him down enough for the rest of the drive home.

After driving for a grand total of five hours, we pulled into our driveway.

Why, you might ask, am I telling this story? Because it taught me a valuable lesson: Emergencies don’t always entail massive amounts of devastation. I would categorize that night as an emergency. It took hours for thousands of people to get home; some people never even made it. Hundreds of students ended up either stranded on their busses or sleeping at school, and road closures caused many others to sleep in hotels and cars.

I now carry water in my car at all times along with a few basic emergency supplies. I never could have predicted getting caught in the situation my son and I ended up in, but I will never be unprepared if something similar happens again.

We often experience bumps in our lives; seldom do we get warning that they will occur. So all we can do is prepare. Preparing yourself for emergency situations away from home, no matter how drastic they may be, will give you peace of mind should you find yourself in a circumstance such as mine.

by our new contributor
Shannon Peterson, Copyright Shelf Reliance, LLC (

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