Folks, some of the best advice I ever got in high school was from my shop teacher Mr. Craig, a sideburn donning, Primus listening man who also played the washtub bass in the Cow-Punk band “The Buzzcut Sheep.” The advice was simply the 7 Ps: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.
…Although I rarely follow that advice, that alliteration-rich axiom has always stuck with me and prompted me to write this post. As the sagging mid-section of our nation is hammered by a truly formidable winter storm, it makes me realize that before this winter is over Nashvillans are probably going to have their asses handed to them (again) by a whopping 1 to 3 inches of snow and the Kroger on 8th will, yet again, be out of milk, bread, and eggs. Nashville, I implore you: How the hell am I supposed to make my French toast when the dairy aisle has been wiped out by paranoid Southerners? Hmmm? Tortillas and heavy whipping cream? I don’t think so.
Point being, here’s are seven tips to help get you through those terrifying snow storms.
1) PREPARE – Seriously folks. It’s winter. Snow happens. It sucks, I know – I moved here from Colorado with the mindset that I’d be wearing seersucker suits in January and fanning myself with a copy of the Sunday paper whilst commenting on how balmy it was. Even though we’re below the Mason-Dixie line and shouldn’t get weather like those damn Northerners, it happens. So prepare both mentally and physically – wear the proper attire (girls, as cute as those skirts are, frostbite ain’t sexy) and invest in some essential winterizing equipment and wait it out. The three months of bad weather is nothing to the (literally) almost 8 months of winter Northwest Colorado sees.
2) PACK – Stock your car with some essential tools. Just like you wouldn’t face a zombie attack without a chainsaw, gasoline, and your ever trusty shotgun, you shouldn’t face winter driving without a damn ice-scraper. They’re cheap and can double as a first line of defense against snow zombies or a very small yeti. Leave a spare pair of mittens and hat in your car trunk as well. You never know when they’ll come in “handy” (bad pun, sorry). Finally, if you’re car doesn’t have four-wheel, or you’re a trendy hipster kid driving a goddamn Prius or something of that nature, it wouldn’t hurt to invest in one or two sandbags to weigh your back-end down. This’ll help prevent your car from sliding out of control (more on this in a moment).
3) PREVIEW – Although I trust meteorologists about as much as I trust politicians, see what the weekly forecast is and be prepared for the snowy days. You might be able to beat the rush to Kroger, buy up the milk supply, double the price, and turn a nice profit. Now that’s thinking ahead!
4) PREP – Which is the same thing as “prepare”, but I mean on a daily basis. It goes in hand with number 3. If you suspect it’s going to be a cold day, bring an extra layer. Better to have it and not need it than freeze your dumb ass off.
5) LEARN HOW TO DRIVE – Alright. I’m dropping the whole “P” theme for a minute. Y’all ready for a nice, steamy slab of reality? Nashville, you suck at driving. Really. The DMV must give out licenses like Halloween candy or something. I mean, really? Do…do you even know where the turn signal is? Y’know, that thing on the steering column. No, not the windshield wiper button, that other thing – yeah. No. Those are the light. Yeah, thaaaaat’s the turn signal arm. Do you know why it’s there? TO INDICATE TURNING. Learn it. Love it. Use it. Seriously. I’m not trying to get on a high horse, but I can’t count the amount of times people have just blatantly stopped in the middle of the road and turned with no indication whatsoever. Not even a goddamn arm out the window. Nothing. As a fellow driver/bicyclist on the road, it’s unnerving to say the least. (I mean it’s not even that hard to do! It’s a slight move of the hand! I know it’s hard to remember simple two-step procedures with those skinny jeans cutting off the circulation to your brain, but christ! It makes everyone’s lives a whole lot easier. Use it or I’ll take your side view mirrors off with my bike lock. Pinky swear.) OK. I’m done. Big breath. Moving on.
6) LEARN HOW TO DRIVE IN WINTER CONDITIONS – This is the biggie. You ready for the next bitch slap from Pimp Daddy Reality? Nashville, you suck at driving in the snow. At least this is slightly more understandable. Practice makes perfect and y’all don’t get that much practice. There are some things about winter driving I’ve learned over the years that you can’t really teach, but here goes anyway.
- AGAIN, PREP: If it’s crappy weather, leave yourself more than enough time to get to where you’re going. I realize that’s easier said than done, but A) you do NOT want to be rushing around on icy roads, and B) if some trucker jackass jackknifes his semi in the middle of 65, you’ll want to leave plenty of time to figure out an alternative route.
- IF YOU’RE SLIDING, DON’T SLAM ON THE BRAKES: Bad idea. Though most cars today have anti-lock brakes, slamming on the brakes hard enough and fast enough will cause them to lock up. Which means you’ll start sliding even more and possibly start spinning too. And look like this. Way to go, jackass. What you want to do is pump the brakes and possibly downshift if you drive stick.*
- DON’T OVERCORRECT: Again, if you feel yourself sliding, your instinct is to crank the wheel the other way and slam the brakes, which will send your car spinning and cause you to soil yourself. So now your car’s busted up, and you need a new pair of seersucker pants. What you actually want to do is speed up SLIGHTLY and gently correct the skid. Like noted in this really good article** at edmunds.com “…many oversteer skids can be controlled and a disaster averted simply by releasing the brake and gently accelerating. This transfers the weight from the front to the rear wheels, which allows you to steer into the direction of the skid, gain control of the vehicle and continue safely on your way. If you drive a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, cautions Pearl, be careful not to over-accelerate or the tires may spin and you will oversteer and slide out of the turn…”
- DON’T FRIGGIN’ TAILGATE: Unless they’re going really slow and hanging out in the left lane, stay off people’s asses. That’s just a good general rule of driving etiquette. In winter, it doubles as a good cautionary measure – wrecks happen fast and giving yourself a literal cushion of space potentially saves you from becoming part of the pile up. You have more time to brake and initiate evasive maneuvers.
7) DON’T PANIC: F’real folks. It’s snow. It’ll melt in two days and you’ll be able to go on with your lives. I’ve grown up with the stuff my whole life. Yeah, it’s cold and wet, but it’s not the goddamn apocalypse. Admittedly, Colorado is more prepared to handle a heavy snow than Tennessee, but if you follow that mantra of the 7 Ps and relax, you’ll be fine. (I was going say “chill out”, but I used up my one pun with the glove joke.)
* My friend Matt Holthausen had a good tip via e-mail about braking. Y’all better thank him profusely next time you see him:
I’d also mention that “What you want to do is pump the brakes and possibly downshift if you drive stick” is highly accurate for a rear wheel drive vehicle, but downshifting in a front wheel drive car can cause the front wheels to want to go slower than the back ones, and then the car’s gonna ‘swap ends,’ as it were.
** I grew up just north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where the Winter Driving School mentioned in this article is. Of course, I was too broke to actually attend the school, so I learned my winter driving chops in the school of reality. Sure, winter driving is fun when you have nice snow bank to run into. Try going though someone’s fence at 45 mph. That’ll soil your seersucker.
//Photo by: Cody Badaracca, who did not put that particular truck through a neighbor’s fence. That front end damage was done one night while playing “Pedestrian Population Control” with a friend. Police investigations are still underway.