Friday, February 12, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away Part Deux: Cars

The Berliners and the foreigners still slide around on the icy sidewalks as the sky keeps on dumping snow and warm spells in equal measure. The snow piles high for days and then it suddenly warms and everything is melted into mush. At night it freezes again and icy sidewalks greet the pedestrians in the morning. The City snow machines can’t keep up and so they don’t even try. Sometimes they just park outside the pub.

Pedestrians compete for the small strips of semi-clear sidewalk that provide the lowest risk. These narrow swatches of pavement contain the least amount of snow and ice and the highest amount of small black pebbles. Often a game of ‘chicken’ ensues; it isn’t always clear who will give way until the last second when one of the walkers takes a chance and veers off onto one of the icy mounds on either side of the safe strip. Invariably the slipping and the sliding starts. Only the children being pulled on small wooden sleds seem to enjoy the icy ridges. But one day their little snow sleighs will morph into motor vehicles and the fun will REALLY begin.

Sometimes a car is wedged in between two snow mounds in its parking spot. The snow from the streets gets pushed into a massive ridge behind parked cars and a second ridge forms in front of the car on the sidewalk side. Over the last few weeks I’ve got to watch many frustrated motorists trying to get their heavy metal out of its berth and on the road. Tires slide and spin and go nowhere. Sometimes whole groups of people have to push and guide the car out into the street. This is the part of the story where I smile at the frustration of others and take satisfaction in the fact that I choose not to drive in Europe. If I had a California highway and a killer stereo in a vintage ride it would be another story.

The other night an Asian woman called out to me from behind a struggling car. I only heard the ‘entschuldigan’ part. The rest I could figure out by looking at the situation. The man inside the car was revving and sliding a bit before he gave up. I looked at the back of the car and the icy mound below my feet. I was well off the safety strip and standing on the Deadly Ice Ridge of Doom. I looked at the beckoning faces of the helplessly stranded. I looked down. I visualized myself pushing the car as my feet slipped and slid away from under me and my brains were bashed out on the trunk of the car. How long would it take before my gray matter froze onto their car? Would they pause to chisel my brains off and be late for the opera? When thoughts like these last more than 5 seconds, I have to stop and admit that I am a paranoid mofo. But I’m sorry: I just don’t want to be that guy who sinks to his icy, watery grave so that one tart can live. That’s just not right.

So something made me grab the back of the car and push. I put some of my own intuition into the push along with the brute force. If you merely push the car forward as the guy revs and spins you will get nowhere. So I applied one part forward push, one part downward bounce push and one part Hail Mary. It worked almost instantly, as if I had owned a car in a snowy place and had done this ritual many times before. I stood there slightly surprised: my brains were safely in my skull and not stuck to the back of the car. The couple grinned and waved and shouted thanks. I stumbled over the ridges and back to the safety of the narrow strip of pebbly/icy sidewalk that led me to the pub.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! A hero in a frozen land!

    That story was filled with suspense, but since you were writing it, I felt reasonably sure that you got out of the dilemma somehow!