Tag-Archive for ◊ Montana ◊

Author: aaron
• Thursday, December 18th, 2008

We’re having our second “snow day” in a row in Seattle (this one with actual snow). Every time we get a hint of winter weather out here it causes most folks to FLIP out. Growing up in MT I’m pretty accustomed to getting around in the snow (especially considering I delivered pizza for 3 years while in high school… all season long). Anyway, when people freak out around here about the snow I usually try and contain myself and not go all, “you think this is winter weather?!? you have no idea what it’s like to drive ice encrusted roads in a rear-wheel drive station wagon with bad tires all winter long!” I try to just smile and nod and watch the funny weather people on TV and kind of roll my eyes when nobody’s looking.

But today, I’m allowing the indulgence.

So, my penultimate winter driving story goes something like this. These are the facts as best I can recall them (my brother Jason can back me up, he was there too).

It was the first day back to school after Christmas break, my senior year of high school, which would have been Jan of 92. We’d gotten pretty socked in with snow over the break, a couple of feet I believe. It was starting to warm a bit and the streets were getting slushy, but then all of a sudden this cold front moved in and EVERYTHING froze over. I’m talking like an inch or so of solid ice on all the roads and temperatures well below zero.

The official word from the school district was “we’re not taking attendance today”. Not to be confused with “school is cancelled” because it wasn’t cancelled. People were there, teachers were teaching, classes continued. Just if you didn’t happen to show up it wouldn’t count against your attendance record. Well, that’s sure considerate of them isn’t it? If I get stranded and freeze to death on the side of the road please don’t be bothered to call my parents because I didn’t make it to school. Also, bear in mind… this is the early 90s so cell phones were still pretty much a novelty.

My brother Jason and I dutifully bundled up and piled into that 1980 Mazda GLC wagon I mentioned earlier. I had started the engine warming up about 15 minutes prior, and we were as ready as we’d ever be. I spun the car around (literally) and started creeping up the street towards Rattlesnake Drive (yeah, that’s really the name of the street). We slowed and slid to a stop at the stop sign, blinker on, checking the traffic and ready to make our way towards school. Just then, the engine died. Fine, no problem. I crank the key in the ignition in an effort to get us going again and what do you think happens.

The key breaks off in the ignition.

It was THAT cold. The metal was brittle enough from the cold that the key just snapped when I tried to start the car. Fortunately, the car was old enough and the ignition loose enough that I could just pull the remaining bit of key out without any trouble. In fact this was a handy technique that I used when delivering pizza. I could pull the key out with the car running, lock the car and run the pizza up to the door. Very handy when it’s like -20 degrees outside.

Now, if I were a “Seattle-ite” back then I would have done what any good Pacific Northwesterner would do… abandon my car. But no, by God we were going to make it to school! I told Jason to stay put, pulled my hat down a little tighter over my ears, flipped up my collar and started walking back to the house (I was totally having visions of Luke Skywalker on Hoth at that moment and was hoping someone wasn’t going to have to come along slice open a tauntaun to keep my half frozen self alive). Unsurprisingly though, I made it (the 2 blocks) back to the house, got the extra key and ran back to the car. The new key hadn’t had the chance to freeze yet and started the engine right up.

Jason and I made it to school on time.

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