A soft freezing drizzle falls gently on southern Kansas this morning, glazing cars but not yet accumulating on the roadway in Ark City. The brick side streets are another matter. A whitish glaze beckons from the lee of the Wellness Center, showing tire tracks and taking me back to my first driving experience on ice.
I’d spent the night at my parents’ house in Pottsville, Kentucky, a tiny village about a dozen miles away from Mayfield. School had been cancelled in the county but not in the city’s independent schools, where my mom worked as a cook. No less than a quarter-inch of inch crusted whatever of the world lay exposed. A bucket of cold water helped clear the windshield of the Impala she always drove to work. I finished scraping off the last remnants of ice from the window of the car and headed back into the house to tell Mom she was ready to go.
“I’d like for you to drive me in this morning,” she smiled.
At first, I thought she was joking. She was a highly competent driver, having steered stuff ever since she was a teenager and that included cars, pickups, tractors and grain trucks. I was a bit skeptical and more than slightly nervous. “You know I’ve never driven on ice,” I pointed out with unusual humility for me or any sixteen-year-old farm boy.
“You just take your time and we’ll be fine,” she replied. Surprised and pleased by her confidence, I agreed to the endeavor.
I took my time, her time and the whole world’s time. I had no desire for pain, damage or the public humiliation of stranding a car on a winter day. The trip usually took her about twenty minutes. We made it that morning in forty-five, getting her to work ten minutes early.
I don’t think we saw a dozen other cars on the roads or streets. The glaze of ice stretched from our driveway to the parking lot at school. I followed her instructions to a “t,” keeping my speed slow, more than doubling my stopping distance and doing nothing quickly. Turns were made gently, stops started with a few hundred feet early and starts were slow motion transformations from sitting to going.
My knuckles may have turned white and I could feel the tension in my entire body but we made it just fine. I suspect that her faith had more to do with it than did my ability.
I have found many times since then that it’s good to take our time when the way seems slippery and treacherous, good to stay calm and anticipate what could happen, and don’t make changes too quickly but don’t be intimidated by the ice.
Just take your time and you’ll be fine.