"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking a Step to the Side

Things are wrapping up nicely here at the end of the semester and the panicked emails from my students haven't been that bad. I got final portfolios from my 252 class last night and I'm really looking forward to seeing the revisions of their short story and their craft papers, because I suspect they're very good. I get final drafts of Writing Project 3 from my 150 tomorrow. Whee!

But we got our first snowstorm of the season this last weekend and since Lincoln isn't great about plowing its streets, I was grateful for my four wheel drive. My winter survival kit, however, is still in my bedroom. Three years ago, when I hurt my back, that's what I was carrying, so it always makes me a little nervous to lug it around--even though I know it needs to go in the Jeep.


Here's the story from Monday: I'm looking for a parking spot in the four hour meters and see this car spinning its tires on the ice in its parking spot, going nowhere. So, I get out, the guy rolls down his window and I offer to help. It's an orange Camaro. New. Leather seats, top of the line sound system. Vanity license plate. The guy driving it probably isn't more than twenty and from his accent and what's on his vanity license plate, I assume he's an international student from a place not used to ice and snow. He gets out to push and I slide into the driver's seat before I realize it's a stick shift (of course it is) and I can't drive a stick shift. We get that little problem taken care of and he tries to push and nothing happens. I say that I've got some kitty litter in my Jeep that might help and he doesn't know what that is (another thing that makes me think he's an international student) and so I take the kitty litter out and pour some behind his tires, to get some traction. It's the Tidy Cats for my actual cats, not the non-clumping stuff in my survival kit that's much better for traction (larger particles)--and it doesn't work. I feel like a failure as a Minnesotan. Maybe this winter, I need to get a chain for my Jeep and have my dad teach me how to use it. I do know the difference between 4-high and 4-low, at least.

But this is the reason you don't see a lot of sports cars in Nebraska (or Minnesota or the large of the Midwest in general). They're not great on ice. And if you're driving a rear wheel drive vehicle, like that gorgeous Camaro, you're going to want to go to the hardware store and stock up on sandbags.

Dear students. This is place. This is what it means to live in this place, today. Place means wearing your winter boots to school and then changing into your regular shoes when you get there. Place means not letting your gas tank get below a quarter tank. Place means remembering the difference between which way you turn into a skid, depending on if you've got front or rear wheel drive. Which I always forget, because I'm directionally dyslexic. And I know you're in college and invincible, but there is no shame in wearing a hat and mittens.

And to close with my favorite weather-related quote: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." Happy winter! Happy last week of classes!

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