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I Plowed Forward

Story ID:3393
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
Year:1988
Person:Me
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I Plowed Forward

Through the snow and ice-covered windows of our office, I watched a car slide
around a corner, swerve and gain control, before moving cautiously down the street. The
twin beams of its headlights penetrated the swirling snow, like two lighthouses on a
foggy night. Two people, probably from a local bar that closed early, used the pole of a
street light for support, as they waited for a gust of wind to subside. When it did, they
continued their slippery journey up the sidewalk that climbed the hill beside our building.
I turned back to my console. The red LED’s of the clock read 11:45 PM. I had a
little over an hour before my relief arrived, and I could go home. A blast of wind rattled
ice pellets and snow flakes against the window behind me. A plow rumbled by. The wind
lifted the snow disturbed by the blade. The flakes spiraled in circles at the back of the
plow before being carried off into the frigid night. The flashing lights of the plow
disappeared from view. In a few minutes the road was covered with snow again.
It had been snowing since the early afternoon. The weatherman said we’d had
twelve inches with another six to fall before morning. I stood in front of the window
again. The only movement was the snow. Big flakes flew horizontally passed the street
lights. “Hey, Mike!”
I jumped and turned. It was my relief. “You scared me half to death, Richard.”
I started to breath again. “You’re early.”
“I thought you’d want to get out of here. It’s getting nasty out there?”
“Getting? What do you mean getting? Will I be able to find my car?”
“There’s a big white lump in the parking lot. I figure that must be it.” He
laughed.
“Not funny!” I gathered my book and lunch bag, stuffed them into my backpack.
“Thanks for coming in early, Richard. I was ready to spend the night in the lunchroom.” I
looked out the window again. “This is not going to be a fun drive.”
I held the railing and waded through the snow covering the steps leading to our
building. It was a slope of smooth snow. I placed my feet carefully, let them sink into the
snow, and felt for the next step. On the other side of the steps, Richard’s tracks were
already half filled with snow.
A plow had cleaned the parking lot an hour before. At the back of the lot was a
large white lump – my Chevrolet Chevette. I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat.
The covering of snow blocked all sound. It was an icy tomb. When I turned the key, I
barely heard the engine cough, sputter, and stall. On the third attempt, it started. While it
warmed up, I cleaned the snow and ice off my car and cleared away the bank of snow the
plow had left in front.
Back in the driver’s seat, I blew on my hands, and switched on the lights. I
took a deep breath and put the car into drive. My struggled up the hill, tires spinning, out
of the parking lot and onto the street.
I crawled through the empty city streets – two narrow, snow-covered lanes,
where there used to be four. I was alone but for a few taxis, plows and emergency
vehicles.
Thirty minutes later, I left the city behind and turned onto the Trans-Canada
highway, which is the equivalent of an interstate highway in the USA. Back in 1987,
that part of the Trans-Canada hadn’t been twinned yet. It was only two wide lanes.
The only light came from my own feeble headlights. They did little to penetrate the
falling snow. The snow on the highway was untouched. It was obvious, no plow or car
had passed through for several hours. I was alone. The snow scraped the bottom of my
car, as I plowed forward. Ahead of me were nothing but swirling flakes of snow. My
headlights penetrated only a few car lengths. My only guide were the dark trees that lined
the side of the highway and the flat white expanse in front of me. I steered to the center of
the highway and used the darkness of the trees as my guide.
I gripped the steering wheel with fear. Sweat formed on my face and dripped from
my chin. I opened my window and reached out. When my wiper blade came within reach,
I grabbed, lifted, and let it slap against the windshield, to beat the caked ice from it.
“I should have stayed at the office.” I whispered to myself. I switched on the
radio. The announcer said the plows had been pulled off the highway until conditions
improved. The wind blew the falling snow over the crusted surface like twisting snakes
crawling on sand.
I plowed forward, keeping a steady pace. If I slowed or stopped, I’d be stuck. The
only thing to do was move forward. I’d made my decision. There was no turning back.
In the distance I saw a glow. It was the streetlight above my exit. The swirling
snow looked worse in its brightness. I pulled onto my exit, bounced over a buried ridge of
ice and snow an earlier plow had created. No cars approached, as I rolled through the stop
sign.
After more than two hours and twenty miles, I walked through the door, beat the
snow from my boots and with shaky hands, poured myself a stiff drink. With my drink in
my hand, I sat in my chair, and tried to relax. I’d made a stupid mistake. The roads had
been terrible. I shouldn’t have left the office. Once I was on that road, there was no
turning back. It was an area where help was miles away. If I’d attempted to turn around
or even stop, the deep snow would have held me tight.
“How many times have I found myself in similar situations?” I asked myself. I
knew the answer – too many times. I’d make a dumb decision, find myself in deep
snow, and have no way of turning it around. The only thing to do was plow blindly
forward and steer away from the darkness on each side.

Michael T. Smith