A Winter Wiper Fluid Ditty

Driving on Midwestern winter days makes you realize that windshield wiper fluid is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.  Without it, we would all be driving blind, behind windshields coated with winter grime.

Wiper fluid hasn’t received the praise it so richly deserves.  In hopes of remedying this gross oversight, I’ve composed a little musical tribute, sung to the tune of Jingle Bells:

Wiper Fluid, Wiper Fluid

Driving down the road
on a crappy winter's day
Through grit and salt we go
My car looks painted grey
That semi passing by
He's coating me and then
Clear sight lines gone awry
I'd love to see again.

Oh, wiper fluid, wiper fluid
Don't run out today!
I'm driving on a slushy road
It's much to my dismay, hey!
Wiper fluid, wiper fluid 
Through salt, cinder and grime
My windshield's coated dry again
I need you one last time!


My windshield's dark and bleak
The blades leave it all smeared
Transparency is weak
It makes the world look weird
I pull the fluid knob
To get a needed spritz
And hope to God that I won't get
That "fluid's empty" hiss.

Oh, wiper fluid, wiper fluid
Don't run out today!
I'm driving on a slushy road
It's much to my dismay, hey!
Wiper fluid, wiper fluid 
Through salt, cinder and grime
My windshield's coated dry again
I need you one last time!
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The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Driving On Icy, Snow-Covered Roads

If you visit the instructional book section of your local library, you’ll undoubtedly see books entitled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To” software programs, or French cooking, or virtually any other topic you care to name.

IMG_2992I’ve never read one of those books, because I don’t consider myself to be a complete idiot.  (Webner House readers are, of course, free to disagree with that undoubtedly generous self-assessment.)  I wonder, however, if there are such books where the Complete Idiot refers to the writer, and not the intended audience.  I suspect this is so because I spent yesterday navigating highways during Ohio snowstorms, and my fellow motorists certainly were driving like they’d just finished careful study of The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Driving On Icy, Snow-Covered Roads.

From the actual driving techniques I observed, I surmise that the book included the following helpful tips:

*  On snow-covered highways, remain right behind the car in front of you, so you stay safely in the packed snow channels just created by that car’s wheels.

*  Constant, unpredictable lane changes and weaving in and out of traffic will help keep you and your fellow drivers alert.

*  Frequently hit your brakes at random intervals.  The sharp braking motion will jar packed snow and ice loose from your tires.

*  When a car in front of you begins to fishtail, quickly accelerate and try to pass the car on an inside lane.

*  Make lane changes as abruptly as possible, to minimize the time your tires will be in contact with the snow accumulating between lanes.

*  Be sure to call your friends while you are driving, because they will want a real-time description of what it’s like to drive in a snow storm.

Freezing Rain Is The Worst

This morning I looked out the windows, saw the telltale gleaming shine on the driveway and road, and felt my heart sink.   Of all of the crappy meteorological phenomena we encounter during a typical Midwestern winter, freezing rain is — by far — the worst.

Snowstorms are inconvenient, but you quickly adapt to driving through snow and can shovel your way out of most predicaments.  Sleet is grey and depressing, but manageable.  With freezing rain, there is no hope.  You can’t even get down your front steps without slipping, because everything is covered in a layer of wet ice.  The tree limbs and shrubs bow down and sometimes break under the weight.  Streets become like skating rinks because there is no traction, and even the gentle slope of your driveway becomes a difficult, ice-sheathed obstacle.  This morning, on our very brief walk, even the sure-footed Penny was slipping and skidding.  And I can assure you that the quick and unpredictable movements of a leashed dog are not conducive to careful human movement on frozen streets and sidewalks.

So I sit here, secure in the knowledge that today’s commute will be a white-knuckler.  It will take about two times as long as normal.  We’ll see cars that have spun out and crashed into the median barrier.  We’ll be told on the radio that only injury accidents need to be reported to the police.  And we’ll pray that, as we are tooling along, we don’t experience that dreaded initial loss of traction and “here we go” feeling that makes freezing rain the worst winter weather of all.

Snow, Snow, Everywhere I Go

Kish and I traveled to Poughkeepsie today for Russell’s art show — more about that in a minute — but of course the weather interfered with our plans.  We were to fly to Philadelphia, and then to Newburgh, New York.  Our flight to Philadelphia went off as planned, but when we landed in the City of Brotherly Love the snow was cascading down and our flight to Newburgh was canceled.  The next flight was not for another 12 hours, trying to take the train would have involved a delay nearly as long, and we therefore rented a car to drive up to Poughkeepsie.  It was slow going as we passed through some near white-out conditions and snow-covered roads, but finally we arrived.  It is still snowing even as I type this.

I think I speak for everyone in the Midwest and Northeast when I say, Spring cannot get here soon enough.

A White-Knuckle Drive

This morning I drove from Columbus to Cincinnati during a raging snowstorm only to learn, a few miles from the Cincinnati outskirts, that the hearing would be rescheduled for a later day.  So, I promptly turned around and drove back to Columbus.  It was a white-knuckle drive both ways.

The roads were snow-covered, large snowflakes were falling, and there was a stiff breeze.  Still, long-distance driving has its lulling effects.  You begin by driving slowly and carefully, and then you gradually, inevitably increase your speed as the traction seems solid and nothing bad happens.  The danger, of course, is that it only takes a small slick spot to turn your car — going a measly 60 miles an hour, well below the speed limit — into an out-of-control projectile, skidding down the roadway and probably spinning, besides.  It only takes a brief instant of feeling like your car has lost contact with the road to make your bowels clench and force a few fervent prayers (mixed with epithets) from your lips.  Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, so there are no atheists in cars driving miserably down interstate highways in snowstorms, trying to keep their cars on the two tracks in the slow lane, their ice-covered wiper blades slapping but failing to clear off a windshield that is coated with ice and snow and muck thrown by the tractor-trailer speeding by in the passing lane.

I tried to take it easy both ways and managed to get to the Orient area, just south of Columbus, when I saw a series of tractor-trailer/car accidents.  There were cars and truck strewn across the roadway and median as if they had been tossed there by an angry child.  Traffic halted completely and I thought, as I often do in such situations, whether I could have been involved in the pileup if I hadn’t stopped for gas and a cheeseburger.  After a time traffic started up again, and as I drove past a few jack-knifed tractor-trailers I promised to drive carefully the rest of the way.  Fortunately, no one seemed to be hurt, and I was able to stick to my careful driving promise for the rest of the drive.

When I got home tonight I poured myself a glass of wine that tasted very sweet indeed.