Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ice ice baby

   The Snowpocalypse that hit on Tueday and lingered on Wednesday has passed us, and by today many of the roads had been plowed and were clear. It was smooth sailing on the way to work. The way home was more interesting.
   I left after 5:00 and took my usual route, 31st Street westbound over Broadway. Well aware of the weather, I was taking it slow. The light at the intersection ahead was red, so I had slowed to about 10 mph and gently touched the brakes.
   In a split second, I realized that the entire street was a sheet of ice, and my car surged forward and accelerated. It felt like I was going 1000 mph and was moving in slow-motion at the same time, and I could tell a crash was inevitable. I had to decide immediately whether I was going to rear-end a line full of cars in front of me, or swerve into the cement barricade on the right. Since insurance companies are so fun to deal with, I went for the barricade, which fortunately had a snow pile left by the plows in front of it.
   My car hit the snow and started to climb up the pile. It stopped suddenly, which I assumed was my bumper hitting the barricade. I was perpendicular to the traffic flow, head-on into the wall. @$%!! My poor car. I got out to assess the situation and prepared to call AAA to have it towed. But as I walked around the car I realized that I hadn't hit the cement: I was about a quarter of an inch from it! There was so much snow in front of it that had been pulled up into my front wheel wells that the wheels were locked up and couldn't move. The snow actually saved me!
   The photo above is approximately where I hit; I took it the next morning. I shudder to think about what would have happened if my car had climbed the snow and over the wall; it's a VERY steep drop... as evidenced by this photo I took from the opposite side:
   Excitedly, I thought, "I can dig myself out!" and grabbed my ice scraper, chipping away at the front passerger-side wheel. A minute later, I heard a woman call out, "Are you okay?" and when she saw that I was, she said, "I might have a shovel, let me check."
   I couldn't believe how quickly someone stopped to help me. She came back with an ice scraper and said, "I'm glad you didn't see me pull up. I was trying to stop to help you, but this whole street is a sheet of ice. When I hit the brakes I slid, and almost slid right into your car! I ended up being able to swerve around you, and I'm parked in front of you now."
   Whoa. Thanks, Kansas City, for your notoriously bad job of making the streets safe. We weren't driving irresponsibly.
   We each took a side and dug. A couple of minutes later a guy dressed in a sharp business suit and brandishing a shovel stopped to help. We dug all the snow out from around the tires and he asked me to get in and try to back out. Problem was, my front driver's tire was totally off the ground: my engine block was resting on the snow. So the woman got in front to push me backward, and the guy stopped traffic behind me. It worked. A couple of tries and I was free!
    How do you properly thank someone in that situation? I gave them both hugs and thanked them over and over. They were so friendly and selfless. They had both arrived within minutes, and the fact that they stopped really gives me faith in people. We should all be willing to stop and help someone in need. They turned a bad experience into a good one, and I left feeling better than before the accident happened. Pretty powerful.
   They took off with me following behind. I didn't catch their names, but the woman's KS license plate said, "MSCOOKE." So, thank you Ms. Cooke and anonymous guy, wherever you are!