The ice level

Two weeks ago we had a stretch of super-cold—by Pacific Northwest standards—super-dry days. (My poor hands, which normally dry out a fair bit during the winter, were cracking all over the place; I quickly learned to use a whole lot of moisturizer.) At the end of the week California sent some wet air north, which translated into freezing rain last Friday night.

Marin and I were both home by the time the freezing rain hit, so I didn’t really pay it much mind. Then, as I was headed downstairs, I noticed a car outside my house with its hazard lights on—and a guy standing next to my porch. Curious, I went out to see what was going on.

As I’ve mentioned from time to time, I live on a hill. The freezing rain had turned my hill into a deathtrap. Some poor Vietnamese woman driving a van had foolishly tried to drive up the deathtrap without any sort of traction device, and was now stuck just below my driveway with her back end stuck in the middle of the street at a jaunty angle.

The guy was next to my porch because he was making his way down the hill, and had discovered that it’s easier to walk on grass and under the dry parts of people’s driveways than to fall repeatedly on the sidewalk.

It was apparent that the van lady had no experience driving on ice. I don’t have any experience either, and on top of that I had the damnedest time understanding her. It was clear that the only way she could go was to slide back down the road—but there’s a house at the bottom, and so losing control had the potential for a massive damage score bonus.

On top of that, one of the sons of my neighbor across the street was trying to cross the street below her. He had two surfboards (?), which he had long-end down for stability as he tried to shuffle across the road. His crossing took something like ten minutes, and involved him getting frozen to the road twice. As he was halfway across, the van lady started making motions like she was going to start back down the hill—panicking both me and the guy trying to cross.

Thankfully, another one of my neighbors is a firefighter, who came out to drive some friends home (he has something with four-wheel drive and chains). He and his friend were able to navigate the lady’s van down the deathtrap safely, and also gave her a ride to her house afterward. Still, it was a hell of a half-hour.

…which leads me to my ice guarantee: I may not be able to help you, but I’ll stick around and call 911 on your behalf if the need arises.


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