Monday, March 1, 2010

Snow Drive - pt 1

The cancellation flashed across the laptop screen and the choice instantly popped into my head. The flight to Charlotte tomorrow morning was now canceled, and I wasn't going to make my very-important meeting. Well, on the one hand, I could have made a few calls and see about getting the meeting re-scheduled for a different day. Of course, nothing is ever so black and white. Logic doesn't apply when money has been invested, people from other parts of the country are awaiting your arrival, the meeting had already been postponed from two weeks ago, and the window was closing - very, very fast.

The weather outside my window looked exactly as the forecasters had predicted. Snow everywhere, winds whipping and visibility like McMurdo Station. A quick check on Google. 10 hrs. That was the drive time from Brooklyn to Charlotte. A quick check of the weather. Well, it looked bad but mainly in Jersey and Pennsylvania, and of course New York. If I left before the worst hit NYC, I could possibly do the drive in about 12 maybe even 14 hrs.

I calmly called my wife. Told my partner, and the sales guys in Charlotte. Packed and squeezed in a quick ramen lunch. 2 pm and I was in the car on the way out of Brooklyn.

The 1st 30 minutes was so easy. No cars on the road. Blizzard conditions, yes, but manageable. I had a long drive ahead of me and I drove as cautiously as possible. No sense rushing if the goal was to make an 11 am meeting tomorrow. I was at the Holland Tunnel in what must have been record time for such adverse conditions. New Jersey never looked so manageable. Once on the interstate things started to deteriorate, albeit very slowly. Driving 30 mph was fine until it dawned that even that was an unsafe speed. Semis, SUVs, sedans, trucks, coupes. All manner of makes and models were on the road with me now. But what was normally considered a rather empty interstate was now a one lane snow-covered country road with the occasional side lane for passing. Still, I was encouraged by the fact that I was moving and making good time in this tempest of a snow storm.

Was I scared? I didn't really have time to think about it. I was so focused on the road, the cars around me, and the ice that kept creeping up the lower part of my windshield. Plus, wiping the excess condensation off the inside of my windshield every minute.

By now, I was probably about two hours or so into the journey and approaching the Jersey - Pennsylvania border. Looking ahead, the sign said "Last Exit in Jersey". Wow. I was doing ok. Then I looked around and realized that there were no cars around me - front or back. The Interstate was now one barely there lane with snow banks that were about a foot high and rising. I couldn't even see more than 20 feet around me with all the snow coming down, blowing around and swirling. Michael Kay described it best when he said that it was like being in a snow globe of New York.

That was my first moment of real fear and regret. I had driven in impossible conditions alone, and now for this desolate stretch I was really alone. The snow seemed to eat up every bit of road ahead of me and the tracks of the cars that had passed before were rapidly disappearing. I was scared. I didn't pray. I thought about choice and how I had made my choice to risk my life. I thought about how I needed to not dwell on my mistake and keep focused on the task at hand. It wasn't about getting to Charlotte at this point, it was just about driving in survival mode.

A good 30 minutes passed before I made it into Pennsylvania. I thought that the worst was over and I was well on my way to Charlotte. But as I've learned since - it 's probably in my karma to be tested beyond what my feeble understanding of my mental threshold is. My sixth grade teacher once told me that she thought I was one of the better students of that particular class of hers, but that I had never really been tested so I would never know what I was made of - until my back was against the wall. I've spent the following years trying to live up to her expectations and tackling every challenge like it was the penultimate test.

Perhaps that's why I chose to embark on the drive in the first place. I needed to pass this test.

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