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The First Snow: Hazardous Conditions

There's only one thing more dangerous than snowy roads — the drivers on them.

For most of my adult life, I thought of the first snow as a giant pain in the butt. All that yadda, yadda, yadda about pristine beauty was great only if you didn’t have to get in your car and drive somewhere. But as soon as the first snow hit the ground, I might as well have painted bull’s-eyes on every side of my car. It didn’t matter how much driving experience people had. Everything they knew about driving on snow seemed to have evaporated with last spring’s thaw. Come winter, they were starting over from scratch.

Apparently, the most problematic part about driving on snow is that it requires steering the car with something other than a knee or an elbow. Cellphones and designer coffees, coupled with the old standby, the cigarette, have made driving quite a challenge. We just don’t have enough extremities!

And people cannot understand the concept of slowing down. Everyone is in a hurry. I’ve seen drivers risk life and limb to cut someone off just to be first at the drive-up window at the fast-food restaurant. They fly through intersections at the tail end of yellow lights, worried there might not be enough time to stop for their morning latte. Certain their 2-ton behemoth will crush the tiny snowflakes into submission, many drivers feel absolutely no need to begin braking sooner than usual. They act surprised when they slide into the middle of the intersection as the light turns red.

Now that I’m retired, I feel good knowing that when the first snowstorm of the season arrives each year, I don’t have to participate in the demolition derby. I curl up in front of a cozy fire with a cup of tea and a good book. No matter what appointments I had scheduled for the day, I change them. After all these years, I finally get to be the person admiring the pristine beauty of it all.

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Barbara Burris is a Bulletin reader from Burlington, Wis.

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