I have an entrenched fear of sliding in a car. Perhaps it's because I grew up in California and never had to drive on snow or ice. Perhaps it was getting hit by a drunk driver in a snowstorm in the middle of nowhere three decades ago.
Perhaps it was twelve years ago not knowing that I shouldn't use cruise control when the roads are icy and hitting a patch of ice and sliding across the road into the ditch and needing my neighbor to pull me out.
Over the years Keith tried teaching me the basics of winter driving but I wasn't a good student. One slide and my adrenaline spikes, my hands grip the steering wheel, and my heart races.
If you're ever driving on a bad weather night and come up behind a car going 30 miles per hour, that would be me.
Two years ago I blogged about getting our young friend's car stuck in the snow. This is the same friend we dressed up like a candy cane and who broke Christina's nose last spring.
The subject came up recently and he said that all I needed to do to get unstuck was put the car in reverse, crank the wheel, and step on the gas. I'm real visual and couldn't figure out from his description what he meant.
Two weeks ago the subject came up again and I asked for a demonstration. 11:00 at night and we went out in front of our house and he spun his car around a few times. I wasn't scared because it was his car and he seemed to know what he was doing.
He asked if I wanted to try.
Ummm...NO. But not wanting to appear chicken, I asked more questions about what to do when you're sliding around.
He finally said the best way to learn is to spin donuts.
I did mention that I don't like to slide around, right?
I finally decided that I'm not getting any younger and if someone is willing to let me experiment in their car, maybe I should try. I asked if I needed my Drivers License. He said he didn't think so.
We went to an empty parking lot and he showed me what to do. Then it was my turn.
Oh boy. I made sure to have the seatbelt on, put the car in reverse, cranked the wheel, and stepped on the gas.
Oh my goodness. 52 years old and I had just spun my first donut. I have to admit it was kind of fun so I did a few more. I mentioned to our young friend that he might feel funny if someone asked what he did on Friday night and he said that he was teaching his Pastor's wife how to spin donuts.
I'd like to say I'm cured of being afraid, but I can only say I'm better. When I turned into our church parking lot the other day our big faithful red van slid and I didn't feel that spike of fear. The girls were shocked when I smiled. They asked if I did it on purpose and I said of course not.
So last Saturday we were invited to a birthday dinner. I was a bit apprehensive about the icy hill I needed to drive up. I swallowed my fears and plunged ahead and did my best but couldn't make it all the way up. I got about 15 feet from the top and that was all she wrote.
That meant I had to back down the icy hill. Thankfully my recent driving lessons helped me not to panic.
Not even when the van slid sideways towards the ditch. The van swung around and came to stop. At that point I realized that I'd much rather go down the hill forward than in reverse. So we drove down the hill and went a long, circuitous route to go around the hill.
This may not seem like to much to some people, but if this had been a race, I had just run my personal best. I had slipped and slided and whipped around on a icy hill, nearly missing a ditch and had not panicked.
I was nervous going back down the hill two hours later, but not as bad as I normally would get. I tried to inch down the hill but gained momentum and couldn't have stopped if I had wanted to. Thankfully no other cars were on the road. I finally stopped near the bottom and the main roads were fine.
The moral of the story is you can teach an old dog new tricks and make sure your Pastor's wife knows how to spin donuts so she won't be afraid to slide backwards down icy hills.