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Ain’t that just the way….

There I am, driving home from a place that I’ve never been before, after dark, with directions quite different from the ones that got me there, those, thankfully, having been researched by an usher at church (during the service?); Divine Providence all the way, considering the amount of construction going on in the neighborhood—potholes anyone? AND it’s the first real snow of the season—not that I’m complaining about the delay—meaning that every bloomin’ street sign, road sign, stop sign and billboard in the tri-county (Portage, Geauga, Summit…can I count Cuyahoga too?) area is obscured by sticking snow. The effect of street lights was reduced too. It was nearly as hard as finding Buster Miller’s Sale Barn up off of Nash Rd, more house lights and no buggies though.
Luckily, the directions were pretty straightforward and I returned from the radically-transformed municipality of Reminderville with nothing more dangerous than a dirty car and vicious taco breath from partaking of the Mexican viands at the Garfield volleyball end-of-season festivities. Getting there was worse, in the end, than coming home, what with the blowing snow and the roads that might, at any time, be way more slippery than expected. Sitting out in the parking lot, the car windshield acquired its first smattering of ice; ditto for the rear window.

Seems like every year we—or I, at least—must relearn the whole winter driving routine. I mean, it’s not as though we’ve all just returned from an extended South Seas vacation or anything. It’s SNOW, right? Been there, done that. A shine on the roadway may very well be ICE, right? Can’t see more than ten feet in front of your hood ornament? SLOW DOWN! Right?

My goal this week is to remember to put the snow brush/scraper in the car before I actually need it. Ice on the windshield was dealt with in a timely manner by the defroster this time but another outing into the teeth of a storm might have a different result. I can recall a harrowing experience in my misspent youth when I had to periodically pull the car off to the berm and clear the glass with my sleeve. Not a good experience. Luckily, it was only on the short jaunt between Hiram and Garrettsville. Carlisle Hill is still fixed in my memory on that one.

Same for a night returning from a football game in Newbury, somewhere in the late seventies, I think. (I’ve told this story before; somebody check me on particulars.) Anyway, we—band, cheerleaders and I—went up to Newbury—Snow Belt Territory—for the ball game…slowly, we went slowly…but by the time we got there, the field was under six to ten inches of snow (As I recall, the linesmen were trying to shovel snow off of the lines) and a state highway patrolman approached the bus driver to tell us to turn around and go home before it got any worse. So we left.

Going home wasn’t any faster. Visibility was very poor, what with the swirling and all. The bus driver was a new guy, never had done this before. Very quiet. Wore a cowboy hat. Coming up the hill into Hiram was a little suspenseful, but the big test was coming up and we all knew it. We took the curve out of Hiram at a very stately pace then straightened up for the climb up Carlisle’s Hill. The snow was still blowing; the lights had minimal penetration. We started up.

Ever been on a bus full of cheerleaders, band members, assorted teenagers going to or from an athletic event? It’s not an atmosphere suitable for meditation or contemplation.
This bus was approaching such a level of silence. Everybody on the vehicle—with the possible exception of the bus driver—knew this hill and what it was like in the winter. We started up.

About halfway up, the bus stalled. Dead silence…in the bus and from the motor. The driver never flinched; he took a minute (Probably for prayer) then turned the key. A click and a cough, a small lurch and the bus started again and began creeping up the whitened roadway. When we got to the top of the hill and could see lights leading into town, there was a collective sigh of relief; someone actually spoke, we’d made it.

We got back to the school. There were no cell phones then; probably half of the riders on the bus had to call somebody to come get them. The other half had to clean inches of snow off their cars and maneuver their way home as the snow continued. Nobody went fast. It took a while for the lot to clear out. I don’t know when the team returned. I don’t even remember whether or not we won the game…or if there was one, really.

We never saw the bus driver again.

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