a teachable moment, courtesy of Ma Nature

Toronto got its first snowstorm of the season on Saturday. I drove through the early throes of it while heading downtown early that morning to visit two possible wedding venues.

Did I mention The Russian Princess is getting married??? GAH! How did I forget to tell you??

Well, not only is she getting married, but… wait for it… she has asked me to be her ‘person’ at the wedding. I guess technically it’s Maid/Matron of Honour, but given that she is not your average bride, and this is not your average wedding, we can’t get too stuck on technicalities.

For instance, technically she should be the Bridezilla.  And she is decidedly not.

So, since it has been 26 years since I’ve planned a wedding, and the term had not yet been invented, I will assume that duty on her behalf.

Photo credit: laineyslifelessons.blogspot.com

Photo credit: laineyslifelessons.blogspot.com

I am her person, after all. 😉

The RP lives in Denver these days, but her wedding will be here in Toronto, in September. So I’m helping to be her local eyes/ears/feet-on-the-street.

Job one was to meet up with the wedding planner and RP’s parents bright and early Saturday morning to have a walk-through of two venues. We fell in love with one, voted, and the decision was made.

All while the RP was still at home in Denver, in her PJs, enjoying a morning coffee.

We were glad she agreed with our decision. 🙂

I made my way back home just as the wind was starting to pick up, causing snow squalls which further reduced visibility.

It would have been the perfect day to just turn on the fireplace and chill at home, watching the pretty snowfall from the safety of my home.

Sadly I had another errand to run about an hour later. This one would take me about 40 minutes west of Toronto, to a town called Oakville. I live approx. 30 minutes east of downtown.

My planned hour’ish drive took nearly 2 hours.

The snow was really coming down at this point, and it seemed to get worse the farther I drove west. The roads were very slick, and visibility was dicey.

I passed four separate accidents along the way, and found one car facing me as I took the ramp from one highway to another. Luckily the wrong-way car was on the shoulder and not in the main lane of the off ramp. But still. WTF?

All I kept thinking as I drove by was, how are you going to fix that?

The thing that makes me angriest about these accidents, in-the-ditch cars and skidded-out-facing-wrong-way situations is that they probably could have been avoided.

People who don’t adjust their speed or vigilance during deteriorated road conditions are just idiots. Plain and simple.

And don’t get me started on those who decide that snapping a picture of the scene, while driving through it, is a good idea.

photo credit: cp24.com

photo credit: cp24.com

In fairness, the picture above may have been shot by the passenger, not the driver. And I’m hoping that was the case.

While I’m ranting, do you every notice how, more often than not, it’s a big ol’ SUV that’s turned around or in the ditch. I think they genuinely believe that they are invincible in those giant monster trucks. Buddy, unless you’ve got all-wheel drive, your big-ass (likely rear-wheel drive) vehicle probably doesn’t handle nearly as well as my smaller, front-wheel drive.

Yes, that was me waving at you as I drove by. You may have noticed me. I’m the one who managed to stay on the road, and in my lane.

I’m a big advocate of defensive driving. You kind of have to be if you’re going to live in a place where winter starts in November and can last through March.

As a life-long Torontonian, the absolute best advice I can offer is this: avoid using your breaks.

The breaks will be your undoing every single time. Please trust me on this.

Be super conscious of everything around you, including what’s going on behind you. (Sidenote: Have you ever noticed how many people never, ever check their rear view mirror???)  But most of all, exercise control over your gas pedal.

I hit a bit of a slippery patch after I exited the highway in Oakville. My car fish-tailed for about half a second. Yes, my heart raced for a moment, but I breathed deeply, eased my foot off the gas, kept my eyes on the road ahead, and steered gently. The car corrected itself virtually immediately.

Note to self: Try to maintain this type of calm centered-ness through all life’s challenges, not just those on the road.

I’m happy to report that I made it to and from Oakville in one piece, and accident-free.

Once I was settled back home for the night, I realized that there were some interesting parallels to be drawn between driving in hazardous conditions and navigating through life’s challenging moments.

  1. Bigger isn’t always better. Don’t get cocky. Driving around in a vehicle that’s the size of small apartment doesn’t mean you get to speed during a snowstorm. Similarly, even those who seem to have ‘it all’ can suddenly fall from grace. Be humble. Be gracious. Don’t get too big for your britches. When the mighty fall, they make an awfully big thud.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Anticipate how others’ circumstances may impact your own. Are you prepared to respond to changes in your environment?
  3. Be present. Stay focused. Multi-tasking may work sometimes, but not when you’re driving in a snowstorm, or trying to manage a big life problem. Give the situation the respect it deserves.
  4. Take unexpected obstacles in stride. Whether it’s a patch of black ice or some horrible event in your personal life, knee-jerk reactions are sure to backfire on you. Breathe. Stay as calm as you can. Adjust to the obstacle until you’ve righted yourself.
  5. This too shall pass. Know that no matter how bad the current circumstance is, eventually the calm will be restored.

Stay safe out there, friends.

And don’t forget to …Get moving!

xoxo nancy

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41 thoughts on “a teachable moment, courtesy of Ma Nature

  1. eeeek!

    I find it hillarious how many people think they are invincible in the snow just because they have a porsche ceyenne or a BMW x5 or something suitably “fake off-road-vehicle-y”
    My 10 yr old 4×4 land rover discovery and a bit of common sense will beat them anytime 🙂
    mind you…our winters are never *that* bad we generally only get about 10 days where it is tricky to drive over the whole year…

    glad you are safe 😀

    • It’s amazing how people seem to be surprised that their car doesn’t handle as responsively in a snowstorm. Seriously people? Common sense is key, Sam. Winter tires also help. 😉

      • yes 🙂 most people in the snow over here seem either terrified or stupid…or both!

        Winter tyres do help, but we get so little weather worth having them that I generally make do with common sense and a high torque engine and now a 4×4 🙂

      • 4X4 is a godsend in bad weather. I think it’s those monster-truck people without 4X4 that have the problems, because theirs are typically rear wheel drive, almost guaranteeing a fish-tail/spinout situation on slick roads.

      • eeek you are so right!
        we had a rear wheeled drive car last year and it didn’t move at all during the snow, we jsut went everywhere in the Landrovers! (luckily we had a spare!)

  2. Excellent life parallels, Nancy! It isnice to know that once you have learned to drive in the snow, the skill stays with you. I moved from the North East ( Philadelphia, Pa.) to California as a young adult. Was caught in a week of ice/snow in Dallas Texas 3 years ago just before the Super Bowl. The City was shut down due to the conditions. It was dicey, but I managed to make it to the airport to pick-up my sister and get tot the grocery store for much needed supplies. Those skills just kicked in after 30 plus years!! Glad you made it home before someone else decided to skid into you 🙂

    • It’s like riding a bike Joan! I’m so glad your winter-driving skills kept you safe during that snowstorm in Dallas.

      Hope you and the family are well and enjoying the holiday season!

  3. Glad you made it in one piece! They drive like utter maniacs here year round and the snow doesn’t slow them down in the least. I’ve nearly been run over on the PAVEMENT I don’t know how many times because they just never look where they’re going, never indicate and are usually in a monster car like you describe – WHILE ON THEIR MOBILE PHONES! ARGH! 😉 (rant over) 😉

  4. As a small-car driver, I’m all too aware of those SUVs. I’m big on defensive driving, too. You have to be with all these drivers with phones glued to their ears. I was driving on the highway yesterday, and this truck kept weaving in and out of his lane. Drunk? No. Texting on his phone. Arrgghh!

    I wouldn’t know the first thing about helping plan a wedding. Can’t say I envy you on that one. 😉

    Glad you made it home safely last night (or should I say early this morning). I bet you’re sleepy!

    • I allowed myself to sleep in until whenever my body clock woke me up today. That happened to be 9:45 am. 🙂
      I’m feeling WAY better than I did last night. It was a combination of the 22 hour day yesterday, plus the fact that I’d only gotten about 5 hours sleep Monday night due to the 4am wakeup call Tuesday.
      It turned out to be a very good day — awesome meetings — and I’m hopefully good things will come out of it, but boy oh boy that was a long and taxing day!

  5. I hope you have a blast planning with your friend’s wedding plans! You covered all of my pet peeves regarding winter driving too, nothing worse than a big SUV with loads of misplaced confidence and no skills blocking the road for the rest of us. It can even be scary to walk on the sidewalk when some of them slide by. 😦

  6. Yay Russian Princess Bride! I hope you will keep us updated on all the details as planning progresses. As her Person and Official Bridezilla, it is your duty.

    I cannot drive in snow. I admire anyone who can, and I happily let them. As a small car driver, I feel scared enough every time I get behind the wheel. I am usually the tiniest car I see.

    • I admire your level of self-awareness, and wish others who can’t drive in snow just wouldn’t. It’s scary to know that as careful and capable as you might be, you’re still at the mercy of everyone driving around you.

      The RP is the most laid back bride in the history of brides. 🙂 Ahh the beauty of getting married after 40. She is so not riled up about anything. I love her!

  7. Hi Nancy! I am so-so-so glad we left all that snow and stuff behind years ago. After about six years living in Colorado we both decided we were fair-weather Californians and returned to whence we came. Don’t miss it one tiny bit. Oh, it was only about 80 degrees and lovely here in the desert today….stay warm 🙂 ~Kathy

    • The nice thing about snow is that it often brings milder temps immediately after the snowfall. It’s the weirdest thing. The past few days have been relatively mild (for Toronto). I’ll tell you I felt pretty ripped off during my last trip to Vegas (last wk of Nov/first wk Dec) where the temps plummeted to the high 30’s. If it’s going to be that cold, I expect snow goddamnit! You guys also had that cold spell (well the entire country, minus Florida, did) that week. Glad to hear you’re back up to the balmy temps. Lovely!

  8. The “person” of the wedding! Congratulations – you’ll have lots of great posts to write 🙂 I so agree with you about the driving in bad weather…I still laugh at my son who got an old Explorer as his first vehicle at about 16-17ish and thought he was invincible until the winter came and he had to drive on ice. He almost hit a telephone pole on our grocery store’s parking lot. That almost was an excellent lesson at the right time…

  9. Oh my goodness, the majority of cars we saw on the side of the road, in ditches, and FLIPPED UPSIDE DOWN while driving through the snow a few weekends ago were trucks and SUVs. It was nuts. Also: so many people would slam on their brakes just as they drove over an icy bridge. I wanted to commit violent crimes.

    PS- I’m calling you when/if I have to plan a wedding 😉

    • Aussa, I hear you! I seriously wanted to roll down my window and tell some of these idiots to FUCK.RIGHT.OFF. I hate it that their nonsense can impact all the other safe drivers so profoundly. Bastards.

  10. I once took seven hours for a one hour journey in the snow from Norwich to Ipswich in England. I am so over that kind of thing. Greetings from Florida! And your five tips for driving in hazardous conditions? They apply to driving. Period. Pay attention! Still. The wedding sound like a nice distraction.

  11. Those are great lessons, Nancy!
    I was the annoying Floridian driving in snow when living in Chicago years ago, but annoying because I poked along so slowly and carefully terrified of spinning out all the time! I eventually got the hang of it, and getting the proper scraping tools helped alot, It’s really hard to scrape ice off of your windshield with only gloved hands I quickly learned. haha
    Planning a wedding sounds fun, and I love that you’re her “person” 🙂

    • Oh yes, an ice-scraper and snow brush are key. Heated seats and steering wheel don’t hurt either. 😉 My ‘chore’ that day was actually reassigning my lease to a new buyer. It seemed pretty stupid that I was driving around in a luxury car, while unemployed and concerned about finances. So back it went. But man, oh man, I will miss that heated steering wheel. 😉

  12. Pingback: lessons learned in a kitchen disaster | my year of sweat!

  13. That’s sooooo true about the braking. When I was learning to drive my boyfriend at the time took me onto a bumpy dirt road and said “Drive. Just take it easy. If you feel like you are losing control don’t brake. Just ease off the accelerator”. I’ve never forgotten it and now I always ease off the gas first even to slow down if there is the distance and the time. I noticed it made my brother nervous on my recent trip though. I got “Brake, brake. Brake” on one occasion. I wished I’d thought to explain myself properly then instead I just said “There’s plenty of time” which makes me seem a bit incompetent lol My foot alwaus hovers over the brake when I make this choice but mostly it really isn’t need until I want to draw to a complete stop at the end.

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