Black Ice

It had been snowing off and on for the past week. It was cold, not Wyoming cold, but cold. Snowplows cleared the roads each day revealing the black asphalt, while I cleared the sidewalks revealing the gray concrete, everywhere else was snowflake white. When the sun was shining the roads were wet but not slick, later when the clouds returned and the skies darkened there was no guarantee.

“Can I borrow your car?” he said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Mine’s not reliable,” he said.

“Which one?” I said.

“What?”

“Which car do you want to borrow, the Subaru or the Infiniti?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said.

My son was being polite.

“Your choice,” I said.

“The Subaru then,” he said. “I’m in charge of the music at the wedding. You’re coming, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“The wedding’s at Log Haven in Millcreek canyon,” he said. “It might snow.”

“The Subaru is a good choice then,” I said. . .

The wedding was lovely. We left after the bride and groom danced, but before they cut the cake.

The road was covered with snow on the trip up the canyon, but it was clear as we started back down. I wasn’t driving fast, no more than 25 or 30 miles per hour. We came around a corner, and I felt the car losing traction, I knew instantly it was black ice, and not just a little. It was like finding yourself on an Olympic sized ice rink when you thought you were in an easy chair just watching the show.

I was having trouble keeping the car on the road. The car skidded to the right, I steered right, the car skidded left I steered left, but still no traction. We continued to gain speed. Gravity, and the ice were working together and not to our benefit. A car came around the corner up the canyon. I could see the terrified look on the passenger’s face as we passed just inches a way. I thought we might end up in the creek. I thought we might even roll if we went over the embankment. I thought, this is serious.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join together this car and this bridge abutment.

We survived. The damage to the car was considerable while we escaped with minor injuries. The seat belts may have saved our lives.

A county sheriff told us we were the only ones to have trouble with the ice. He came down the canyon just minutes after us and didn’t encounter any black ice. We should have stayed for the cake cutting.

The news of our close call spread rapidly. A few days later I heard from my cousin.

“I heard you were in an accident,” she said. “ I’m so glad you are ok. Do you remember the tale Granddad B liked to tell about black ice?”

“I don’t,” I said.

Dad was coming home and hit a patch of black ice, slammed into a cow that rolled over the windshield, smashing the roof on its way over. By the time he got home, a neighbor had already gotten through on the party line to tell Granddad about the accident. ‘Course the tale had been a bit garbled by the time Granddad heard it. In the version he heard, it was a guy was hit.

Dad came home, and was asked “Is it true Son? Did you hit him?” My dad laughed and said, “I think it was a she, but yep, I sure did. She rolled right over the windshield, and she’s sure enough dead all right!” He laughed again, and said, “but it’s ok, the car’s a bit dented but drives ok.”

I went to the salvage yard today to recover some personal items from the Infiniti. The insurance company said it was totaled. The change was gone, but the CDs, a sunshade for the windshield, a scrapper for ice and snow, miscellaneous receipts, an air gauge, and a Swiss army knife were still there. It was opening the trunk when the memories flooded back. The bumper sticker told the story. Obey Gravity it’s the law.

I picked up a new car today a Hyundai Elantra, the bargaining was fierce. I offered, he counter offered, I added features that he should include at the same price, he agreed but only on the condition that I buy him a box of Twinkies®.

“What color have you decided on?” he said.

“I’d go with the red, but police ticket red cars more often than others,” I said.

It’s a myth, he said.

“Okay, red then,” I said, “but you pay for any tickets.”

I returned a few days later to complete my part of the bargain, the Twinkies®.

“Thanks,” he said and laughed. “How are you liking your car?”

“I like it,” I said.

“Got any tickets yet?” he said and smiled.

“No, no tickets,” I said, “but a patrol car has been following me ever since I left your lot last week.”

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