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Ever Increase Your Stress Level Intentionally?
Categories: From Pete's Desk

Well, I just did.  But for very good reason.  I took my 17 year old out driving in this mess of a snow storm we’re having this afternoon here in northern Illinois. 

Whoa, whoa, whoa…  No I’m not nuts nor is this a written demonstration of bad parenting.  My son has to learn to drive if and when caught in snow, ice and wind.  I don’t like it any more than he does, but my wife and I do NOT want him caught in a driving situation he’s not prepared to handle.

Chicago-land is not the place to live and not understand how to drive in severe winter weather.

I sat in the passenger seat and he drove.  Moving through our street was a good start.  It’s not been plowed.  There’s both snow and ice covering the asphalt.  Instead of standing peacefully and obvious, the stop sign at the end of the street began to loom.  A foreboding warning that we may soon be sliding uncontrollably into oncoming traffic.

He managed only a slight skid to the stop.  Not bad.  Turning left the car moved into position for the steep decent down a hill that ends at yet another stop sign.  That cross-road, however, is a highly traveled state route through the center of town.  There’s traffic there no matter what the weather.  My son gave only enough gas to ease the car into motion, starting our decent.

This time he tapped the brakes light and often successfully bringing the car to a crawling halt at the bottom of the hill.  Well done.  Watching for a graciously spaced opening between oncoming cars and trucks, he picked his moment, turning right into the flow of traffic on the slick slush covered street.

Less than a thousand feet ahead, my son navigated a left turn onto an unplowed road.  Wheels spinning, there was only a slight bit of slip with the over-steer.  Picking a comfortable forward pace as a slow manageable speed, he made his way through the neighborhood on the west side of town.

I decided to have him practice his drive to school.  He’s made the drive many times , but not on roads like this.  All too soon he discovered that the snow piled up into the intersection doesn’t really care if your car is fitted with front wheel drive, or not.  Enter the first ‘stuck’ situation. 

After explaining how to maneuver the car back and forth and around, he placed the car back on the pavement with a little less snow.  We were on our way again.  But wait, another stop sign ahead. 

We were heading back to the main state route that heads both in and out of town.  Traffic.  Oh….! ‘hells bells boy what are you doing?!?’ … He’d decided and acted too late for me to correct him, the moment was his and he had to manage it.  There was nothing I could do but pray, sitting in my seat, along for the ride.

The cars were coming up behind us too soon.  I watched in the mirrors as fishtailing ensued.  The back ends of cars were swinging too quickly into view.  Crap.  “Go!” I said as he began to take his foot of the gas.  “Carefully get out of their way!”

Thankfully he understood what that meant.  Rather than stomping, he eased his foot into the gas pedal and we moved forward just in time for the cars behind us to find their footing, regaining their forward trajectory and composure.  …. Whew….  No accidents.  Just frazzled nerves.

We headed on to the high school’s parking lot.  He learned how hard it was to find a numbered space when there was no visible lines, nor numbers.  Clearing his spot, he managed to park between the lines with only modest readjustments.  It was time to head for home.

I had him go the long way.  Back roads that wind just a bit, fun driving on clear dry days, not so much on days like this.  Hi picked a pace that fluctuated between 25 and 30mph.  Helping him learn to look through the blowing high snow drifts, he maintained his lane position.  At a few more intersections where snow as blowing so heavy that locating oncoming traffic required a phone call to the Psychic Friends network, he learned to watch for lights rather than mounds of rolling steel. 

Finally we turned back onto the street returning us to our neighborhood.  The drive up the hill seemed more nerve wracking than the drive down.  Navigating the right turn onto our street with just the slightest tire spin and front end swing, he pulled off the snow and ice covered corner very well.  He was getting the hang of this.

Finally, crawling back into our drive way, my son let out a very long sigh.  We were both safe, sound, warm and dry.  He’d done it. 

I’m not at all excited about the prospect of him driving to school tomorrow morning, but at least now he knows how to handle snow and ice covered roads.  And, to first, foremost and above all…. Just Go Slow!

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