“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I hate driving.  If my town had any reasonable kind of reliable mass transit, I would give it up in a heartbeat.  When I take my bi-monthly trips to Washington DC, I do not rent a car and I happily take the Metro and buses everywhere.

This does not mean, however, that I can’t drive.  In fact, it is a skill that I consider myself, with a certain level of self-conceit, to be pretty damned good at.  My father, who occasionally reads this blog, may consider this to be hereditary, but I think it has more to do with not being able to date a boy that I share a town with.  I have logged a lot of hours in a car, under a lot of inclement conditions.  I have (with the exception of Baton Rouge, my cartographical Achilles heel), an excellent sense of direction.  I rarely get lost, and I never lose control.

It was a good skill to have this past weekend.   Arkansas was subjected to one of its occasional freak ice storms, and lacking any extensive road-clearing infrastructure, I was forced to travel over icy roads the twenty miles to my office to meet a promised deadline.  It was slick, but at a reasonable, steady pace, it was hardly insurmountable.

The key to driving on ice is to avoid acceleration, keeping in mind that acceleration is a change in velocity over time.  And velocity has both a speed and a direction component.   In practical driving terms, this means, just don’t change your speed or direction very quickly;  keep it all slow and steady.  Stay in your comfort zone.  Don’t overestimate your safe speed.

In application, however, the laws of physics runs smack up against the law of diminishing returns.

Translating,  if your individual speed of comfort on the ice is FIVE MILES AN HOUR, it is better for your personal safety (and for that of the rest of driving humanity) to please, please, please, JUST STAY HOME.

Five miles an hour does not provide enough momentum to navigate any kind of incline whatsoever.  Which requires acceleration.  Which violates the best practice of avoiding changes in speed or direction.  The net result of which is having your vehicle simultaneously spinning it’s wheels and sliding backward with ME (who is behind you, driving a prudent speed sufficient to take me up the less than 5 degree incline) frantically making maneuvers to avoid hitting YOU, while simultaneously trying to avoid quick changes in either speed or direction.

Do you see the inherent conflicting mandates here?

I completely appreciate that you are not overestimating your own ability to control a car at imprudent speeds.  I applaud you for that.  But, when I can get out of my vehicle and walk around in front of your moving car and reach a stop sign two blocks away before you do, I truly question the necessity of using a vehicle at all.  Walking would be faster, and have the added side benefit of removing a one-ton, sliding, careening, road hazard for those of us with a higher margin of safety and experience.  Just think of it as another law;  the law of common sense.

Isn’t it nice when so many laws come together at one point so logically?

And really?  Who wouldn’t just rather be at home on a cold day?

February 3rd, 2010 at 1:05 pm
2 Responses to “Iced in (or, the virtues of home on a cold day)”
  1. 1
    jodifur Says:

    bi-monthly trips to Washington DC?

    Ummmmmm, why have I not seen you again?

  2. 2
    Kat Says:

    I want to like button this post.

    Also, after visiting NOLA, Boston, even Phoenix… I have to totally say Little Rock’s public transportation system sucks. It’s only topped by the completely absent public transportation system of Jonesboro, AR — a town unable to be negotiated in any reasonable amount of time or safety on foot.