Friday, January 24, 2014

I drove in possibility

Driving in imaginary snow is demanding.

When we left Amesbury, MA for the 440 mile trip to Wellsboro, PA early Sunday morning with four or five inches of new snow on the ground, it was snowing and in the thirties (F). Our street had been plowed in a way that increased its treacherousness—not quite clearing the street and compressing the wet snow undersurface into ice. Elm Street, an important artery in the city of 16,000 , was essentially clear with some snow in the gutters, but it was very wet. A percentage probability of rain predicted for that morning had been long ago proved wrong and silently changed.

The route we were taking, angling down through central New York, is notorious for snow, and a 50% probability of snow showers through there (Oneonta, NY was our metonymic location) seemed like a slim chance for a smooth trip. I was gripping the wheel tightly, anticipating a Buddhist-nightmare drive where the ambiguity of the road surface would require me to be alert for danger that more than likely did not exist except in my head.

We went from icy and snowy on our street, to very wet and slightly slushy on Elm Street to wet on I 495. As the miles on the wet-but-possibly-icy-at-anytime interstate (driven at closer to the speed limit) passed under us, the wetness of the road became less puddled until light strips of dry pavement showed where vehicle tires had gradually peeled off the moisture in the right lane. Eventually, the road dried completely, and the sun shone intermittently. On a dry road, I let go of the threats posed by the road and settled back into the threats posed by the drivers on the road, me included. The dangers posed by sentient beings seem more manageable, primarily because there is a chance that the negative effect will be softened by rational motivation. The probability of that characteristic in the weather is zero.

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