Hump Day: Don’t be foolhardy during blizzards; just stay home

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

In the past 10 days or so, this area has received two blizzards. Driving has been treacherous. Visibility has been zero. Cars have gone off the roads by the dozens. One officer I saw interviewed even admitted the police had a hard time finding those who had gone off the road due to the whiteout conditions.

Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer sometimes, but what in the world are people doing out in these conditions? For the love of Mike, I just don’t get it. Perhaps it was a one-time thing and people just had to get home? Maybe they were coming home from work after their employer refused to close for the day? I’m not sure.

All I know is that I took that risk once and I’ll never do it again. Years ago, I had a business meeting in Fredericton and decided to go anyway despite a questionable weather forecast. The drive there was OK, but the drive back was snowy, to say the least. By the time I hit Sussex, I was white-knuckling it and driving 40 kilometres per hour behind a transport truck making promises to God, Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul II and even Oprah that I would do whatever would please them if I could just survive that drive.

I should have taken the hint earlier that it was a drive I shouldn’t take. As I was leaving Fredericton, I was driving a bit too fast for the conditions and a car had stopped to turn left just outside the city. This was years before that nice four-lane highway was built. Cars stopping on the two-lane highway to turn onto roads or into driveways were a constant menace.

Anyway, after I figured out that there was no way I could stop, I decided to chance it and go around the stopped vehicle to the right on the snow-packed shoulder. I hung on tight and managed to make it. Eureka! Man, I’m smart — so smart that I continued moving left back into the correct lane and right into the opposing lane with a dump truck coming straight at me.

Needless to say, an adult diaper would have come in handy right at that moment as I saw my life pass before my eyes and openly wondered why in the world I decided not to just stay in a hotel that night and come back the next morning. I had no pets to feed at the time. I had no absolutely necessary reason to get home other than it was a Friday night and I just wanted to relax.

Let’s just say that meeting a dump truck head on during a snow storm isn’t exactly as relaxing as sitting in front of a nice crackling fireplace with a glass of red wine and watching the snow falling gently outside through the window.

So, I did all that I could do and quickly steered my small compact car away from the oncoming dump truck and back into the lane in which I was supposed to be. Oh, and did I tell you that I didn’t believe in winter tires at the time? Way too expensive and overrated, I thought. Didn’t need those silly things, eh? Well, let’s just say that was the last time I didn’t have winter tires on my vehicle. These days, their studded with spikes that dig into the pavement like knives.

When I finally made it home, I can tell you what I told myself as I opened the door to my apartment. “Cured!” That was the first and last time I ever pulled that stunt.

Perhaps these people who were out in the storm on Sunday night and the previous weekend didn’t have a choice. But if you did have a choice and you went out anyway, give your head a shake! Nothing is worth putting your life on the line for.

And what’s up with non-essential businesses remaining open and putting their employees’ lives in danger? Sure, many closed, but did the cinema really need to remain open on Sunday evening? Was business that brisk that they found it profitable to risk everyone’s lives? I don’t know. I do know that they announced online that they were closing early and not proceeding with their late shows. I found myself shaking my head at that announcement and openly questioning whether they should have been open for the early shows, as well. Don’t expect any applause from me for closing many hours later than you should have in the first place.

I understand a pharmacy staying open. I understand gas stations staying open. Then, of course, there are the essential services, such as hospitals and the like. But does anyone really need to get a full order of groceries in a storm? Is there not a pharmacy or 24/7 corner store that can provide the few essentials it would take for 24 hours? And do we really need to go to a restaurant in the middle of a blizzard and keep those poor staff there when they should be trying to get home before they’re stuck?

Oh, I’m sure I’ve done all that stuff in the past. I’m certainly no angel when it comes to pulling those stunts, but as I grow older I become a lot more concerned for those making minimum wage and also being forced to drive home in treacherous conditions because their employers put money ahead of employee safety.

Quite frankly, there should be a municipal bylaw in place to force non-essential services to close if the police decide the roads are too dangerous. Fine the owners and managers of these establishments. If they made $500 staying open, fine them $1,000. Hit them where it hurts. I’d vote for that in a heartbeat.

2 Responses to Hump Day: Don’t be foolhardy during blizzards; just stay home

  1. You’re right Brian. I can’t for the life of me figure out what people are doing out on the roads during a storm, if they don’t have to be out there. I think some of them are trying to get themselves killed!!! Not too bright, that’s for sure.
    I’m just glad I’m here in Florida in the winter and don’t have to worry about driving in that stuff. Just hope my health holds out for a few years yet so I can spend many more winters here. This weather in the winter is so good for a person mentally and physically that I don’t understand why everyone , who possibly can, doesn’t spend their winters here.
    Keep up the good work, love your columns.

  2. The idea of spending winters (or parts thereof) in Florida certainly resonates with me – as I’m sitting at the Tampa airport waiting for a flight back to Canada. Seeing all the reports of snowstorms as I’m spending my time down here in shorts and t-shirts drives the point home,

    In terms of winter driving, I had too many hairy experiences driving in the winter (and several of those were between Fredericton and Moncton).

    Now I keep my winter driving to a minimum and if I have to do an inter-city trip it will only be on a sunny dayp with dry roads. I find driving my motorcycle in the summer is infinitely safer than driving a car in the winter.