I was trying very hard not to write about the weather, but Ma Nature gave us an interesting surprise late last week. We received the legendary “mixed precipitation” last Thursday, a treat lasting into Friday morning. We are not amused.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel any farther than my porch and steps during the weather event. Other than checking on conditions and taking a few photos for the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, I bunkered in and gave thanks that I didn’t have to be out on the roads.
People seemed to take the advance warnings to heart and didn’t go skidding around town just for the fun of it. There were a few accidents outside of town, but there is always somebody who needs to go somewhere for an appointment. Most public meetings were canceled a few hours ahead of time.
Of course, there was the usual drama in the media. I don’t watch television, but there were plenty of videos and weather broadcasts online that took up the slack — and then some. The talking heads were making the storm out to be something extraordinary and unseasonable.
“Climate change! Yessss, we must do something to save the planet.”
I had a co-worker some years ago who actually uttered those words in an alt-left evangelist’s voice. It was spooky and decidedly unsettling coming from a woman in her early 30s who sounded eerily like a victim of brainwashing. Even her voice was deep and doom-laden, nothing like her natural speech.
Well, there has always been climate change going on. Until people started keeping track of it back in the 1880s, most folks simply called it “the weather.”
I’m looking at the calendar and think that it’s almost time to crack open my hoary Thanksgiving Eve driving-in-snow story. If you’ve read this before, you can just flip to the next page and look at the pretty ads.
I was 16 that fall and had passed my driver’s exam months before. During the summer months, I had learned to drive a manual-transmission Volkswagen Beetle. And so, on Thanksgiving Eve in 1971, my dad decided that it was time that I learned to drive in the snow.
I think there were six or eight inches of heavy wet snow on the ground the evening that Dad marched me to the garage and taught me how to change tires. Dad was the fount of any number of useful skills, and this was a major accomplishment. But our adventure was just beginning.
You know, you can forget everything that you ever learned in driver’s education the first time that you actually do something different. Judicious braking and allowing the car to do some of the work were alien concepts as soon as I pulled onto a slick and snow-covered Broad Street. I managed to drive a half block before giving Dad and me the ride of our lives.
My family home sets very near the sharp elbow in Routes 28/66 in South Bethlehem. In those days, there was no helpful high yellow curb to keep you on the roadway. If you hit the brakes too hard, you were guaranteed to execute a mythical four-wheel drift into the gas station’s parking lot, just a bit too close to the gas pumps for comfort.
I was shrieking like the 16-year-old girl that I was. My Dad was laughing like the maniacal wannabe mad scientist that he was. Good times.
Of course, I wanted to turn around, pull the car back into the garage and call it a night. Dad refused and made me drive to Distant, turn left onto today’s Pheasant Farm Road and then onto Beautiful Lookout Road. But we didn’t start to have real fun until he directed me to pull onto the back road that takes you to Mt. Zion Church.
For our readers who don’t live in the New Bethlehem area, this is a winding country road full of twists, turns and a couple 90-degree curves. It can be thrilling on a sunny summer day. On a snowy dark night in late November, it was a horror movie on wheels.
We had both had enough of the joys of winter driving for one night. I fessed up to it, but Dad pretended that he was sorry it was over. Somehow, I drove down Beautiful Lookout without hitting anything or plunging over the guardrails, pulled in the garage and slept an exhausted sleep that night.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we never did get the pucker marks out of the upholstery.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]