This post is in response to Brian Lageose at  Bonnywood Manor and his post on idiots driving in the snow.  Being from Ohio and after living in Northern Indiana for six years, I can concur with him 100% in his opinion of such people.  My concurrence comes from two stories that reflect his comments on how these people act when they see snow.  Both are personal experiences from 1989 while I was living in Santa Clarita, CA.

My wife and I had only been married a few months when we decided to build our first house together.  This was a second marriage for both of us, and we were excited it was under construction.  I worked for IBM and she was a local real estate agent.  My office was in Santa Monica at the time, which meant (if you know anything about southern CA.) I had to travel the 405 freeway.  That, in and of itself was a chore.  But what happened one day made that drive look relatively easy…we got 10 inches of snow in the valley.

It was quiet snow; no wind; no blowing; no storm warnings – just snow.  When I woke up that morning to let the dog out, there it was all piled up on our townhouse patio.  I woke up my wife to show her and immediately told her I was staying home that day.  When the dog came back in, I crawled back in bed for some extra sleep.

About 9:00 o’clock, I woke up again, and we decided to take a walk in the snow and go see what progress had been made on the house.  I took my camera to record our visit and snap some shots along the way of the snow.  As we left the house to walk to the new one, I saw (and heard) cars doing donuts in the school parking lot; people weaving down the street in the snow way faster than they should have been, and adults having snowball fights with their neighbors.  We got pelted a few times along the way.

When we got to the new house, my wife asked me if I had called into work yet.  No, I hadn’t.  When my boss answered I told him we had 10 inches of snow on the ground and I would not be at work.  He laughed and said, “What’s the matter Hoke, can’t you drive in the snow anymore?”  I suppose he was trying to be funny, knowing  I was from Ohio.  I replied, “Ya, I can still drive in snow, but you stupid Californians can’t.  People are doing donuts in the streets, driving too fast for conditions, and acting like idiots.  When the snow melts, I will be back to work.”

When I returned to work, I learned my comments had not gone down so well with him  He seemed offended by them in fact – I wouldn’t know why?  My mom always taught me to tell the truth, and that’s what I did.

Later that day, I ran into a CHP friend of mine who relayed a story of his own.  When even the slightest dusting of snow falls on the Grapevine, (the pass between Santa Clarita and the San Juaquin valley), the CHP sets up mandatory chain inspection/installation checkpoints on both sides of the pass; institute escorted caravans across the pass, and get real chicken shit about letting anyone go across on their own.  That is until this day.

My friend told me a guy from Indiana pulled up in line for the next escort and got tired of waiting.  He got out of his car and approached the officer to ask what the hold-up was.  When he was told it was too slick to be going over the pass alone, the Hoosier went into a fit.  He could see there was nothing more than a dusting of snow on the road as far as he could see, which was a long way up the hill.  He told the officer, he was from Indiana, and this was nothing to him; he drove in feet of snow all the time at home.  The officer rebuked him saying he wasn’t in Indiana anymore, and he was in charge – he wasn’t going anywhere without an escort.

My Hoosier friend persisted to argue his point, trying to get going rather than waiting on a caravan.  The CHP officer finally had enough of his arguing and made him a deal, probably hoping the guy would fail so he could arrest him.  The deal was as follows.  

  1.  The officer would let him go by himself and give him no further hassles as long as he abided by these rules.
  2. He had to make it across the pass without incident – no sliding off the road, getting stuck, crashing, etc.
  3. He had to check into a CHP station on the far side of the pass within one hour from the time he left his current location.
  4. The CHP station would notify the officer he had made it across safely – if so, no further action would take place.
  5. If he did not make it across; if he found the guy in a ditch somewhere along the way; or if he neglected to check-in, he would be arrested on sight by any CHP officer that spotted him thereafter.

The Hoosier agreed and off he went.  About 30 minutes later, my friend got a call from the other side of the pass, telling him the guy had checked in all safe and sound.  While California drivers had to be escorted, my Hoosier buddy went merrily on his way.

I’ve told this before, but I got my driver’s license in Mishawaka, IN in January of 1962 in a blizzard.  Prior to my test, my driver’s ed class instructor had us drive in a local city park that was unplowed except for three areas where he had the city deliberately pile up snow.  He would instruct the driver to ram into the snow pile, and then get himself out by rocking the car via shifting from drive to reverse repeatedly.  His number one rule was, “You are now stuck in a snowbank.  Get yourself out and remember, the instructor does not help push if you can’t.”  He was very deliberate in his methods of teaching us to drive in bad weather.  There were no such things as canceling road time due to weather – we drove in all kinds.  Mr. Hill was one of the best instructors I had.

It was snowing like crazy when I arrived at the test station, fully expecting them to cancel my appointment.  The guy who was to be my tester, told me, “You have to drive in this as a licensed driver, so you might as well show me what you’ve got right now.”  And off we went, for a 20-minute drive in the snow.  He made me parallel park in it; he made me navigate going up and stopping at the top of a hill; he made me navigate unplowed streets to see how I handled deep snow.  I passed the first time out.

I can fully relate to the 10 traits of idiots in the snow Brian mentions in his post.  I’ve seen my share of them up close and personal.

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