I always thought if you skidded you went sideways, but I didn’t go sideways on that horrible day of icy roads and freezing rain that we had last month in northern New England.
On that day, with conditions so treacherous the state ran out of tow trucks, my car didn’t go the way I asked at all but jackrabbited instead , straight into a tree.
Never mind that I was turning the wheel.
Never mind that I had braked with extra care.
But if the car didn’t go sideways over the last two months, just about everything else around here did – even before we got to the seven feet of snow.
For one thing, everyone in my family got sick and some of us got Technicolor sick.
I was one of the lucky ones: My kind of sick just had me laid out like Lenin in his tomb for most of our family vacation, aware only dimly of various kind family members circling through to bring me food I could not eat.
Then, for the week following, I couldn’t sleep, because my air passages were so packed with what felt like concrete.
Then, for two weeks after that, I couldn’t wake up.
Also, for most of those weeks, I couldn’t read.
I couldn’t iron, though ironing has always helped me calm myself in the midst of every kind of personal shipwreck. I would LOOK at the iron propped on the windowsill and sink, ‘How do you suppose that thing works?’ I would LOOK at the TVs darkened screen and think, “Weren’t there some sort of beguiling images or something that used to emit from there? ‘
And there is more: My little grandson broke his leg badly enough that he’ll be in walkin’ like Captain Ahab ‘til the tulips come up.
My sister fell and broke her pelvis.
And I caught two toes on a piece of medical equipment at the doctor’s office – in the doctor’s very office! – painfully spraining them both.
Someplace in there, chiefly out of a sense of compassion for my salt-and-sand encrusted vehicle, I pulled into our local carwash, but did so such a way that the two guys manning the place began yelling and waving their soapy long-handled brushes around wildly.
Why? Why were they yelling? They were yelling because though I had glided nicely into place, settling my wheels just so in those two wheel-receiving troughs they have, I had then proceeded to throw the car smartly into Reverse and step on the accelerator.
Then, in the ensuing panic, I stepped on the brake and leaned on the set of four buttons that open all the windows.
So now every time I go to the car wash, the guys there take one look at my approaching vehicle and start yelling right away. “Neutral!” they go, waving their funny brushes. “Put it in Neutral!” They get so worked up every single time jeez Louise.
But me, I just look at it like this: At least I didn’t try going in sideways.