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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Singing for Emma's birthday

Emma turns twenty-two today. Here's a shout-out from the blog of mwa to her: "Happy birthday, Emma!"

Last night, after practicing with the Washington Cappella Antiqua in Alexandria, I was faced with the drive from there to Front Royal. I had two hours to get from point A to point FR. It could be done...

...and then I saw the snow. It was very light. I got in the car and started the drive. If the drive turned out to be too bad, I would simply not be able to make it to sing for Emma. I'd have to make that up somehow, but since I'm an unimaginative kind of guy, and I had been working with the guys to get something nice to sing for her birthday, I really wanted to get there.

Ken called me: "Anthony, I wouldn't come out if I were you. The roads are pretty bad."

I saw the snow. I saw people driving slow and scared. I saw emergency vehicles. My conscience (what's left of it) and that little voice of common sense (also, what's left of it) were setting off alerts in my head: "Don't do it." I argued back: "I want to. Emma and the guys are counting on me!" An obvious lie, because it's not like we had a piece that we absolutely needed me for. As if to hammer the point home, the SUV two car-lengths in front of me spun out and ended up in the middle median. An omen? "No, obvious lack of skill for driving in snow." I saw three emergency vehicles, another vehicle on the side of the road, and a lot of people just driving really slowly. The hints were there. I just chose to keep going.

Birthday singing went just fine. They seemed to enjoy it well enough. There was applause, and when we were all done, they gave up hot cider. I wanted to take some, but I knew that if I did, I would start to fall asleep on the road -- which is something I most certainly did not want to do, as you can understand.

There were a couple more birthdays, and when we were all done, we passed Emma and Lizzie and two other girls (I think Elizabeth H. and Sarah F.) sliding down St. Catherine's path. "Ah, to experience the simple joys of youth once again," says this old man...

Well, the drive back was really long. I did about 20 on the back roads leading to 66, and 30 MPH almost the whole way on I-66. I stopped in Haymarket to fill up with gas and to grab a quick bite to eat and drink, since I was getting fairly hungry. It was close to 2:30 AM. I got back on the road, and discovered that the streets were getting better. They had been plowed and that chemical had been put down, so the snow was more slush than slippery. This was good. I picked up speed to 40 MPH, and felt no slippery-ness at all. Impressed, I picked up speed to 50 MPH. Still felt very much in control. I did not want to chance going any faster, so I maintained 50, and made it all the way to Highway 28. I know how to drive in snow, so I wasn't worried.

I turned onto 28, and slowed down. I did about 25 mph all the way up to the apartment. One lane out of the three on Highway 28 was plowed. This meant that you could not see the lines on the road. I was being really good here: both hands on the wheel, not passing anyone, no matter how poorly or slowly they are driving. Well, except that one guy. I passed him in an unplowed lane, and then I got the feeling of false charity: "I should stay in this lane, because that'll help give other people an idea of where the lines are." Remember that I said you couldn't see the lines. How did I know where they were? I didn't.

Which is why, all of a sudden, I felt my car's front left wheel slide down onto the center median. This median is maybe all of an inch lower than the road, and it also has a very slight decline. Because of this, it pulled the rest of my car onto the median. The back end came forward, bringing the car into a left-hand spin. I turned my wheels into the spin, but not soon enough. The car went nose-first towards the concrete barrier. At the last possible second, the car began adjusting itself back to the direction that it should have been going. This saved the entire nose of the car, but not soon enough to prevent the front left corner of the bumper from striking the barrier. I was expecting it to not bounce off, and have the rest of the car slide along the barrier. However, my car acted just like a bumper car, bouncing me away from the barrier and back towards the street. I stopped the car, and checked out the damage. The bumper was beaten up, the front left headlight was loose (and dead), and both turn signals had popped out and were nowhere to be found. They probably shattered.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful. I got back into the plowed lane, the feeling of false charity having been smashed out of existence, and made it the rest of the way back to the apartment.

Tack one more onto my list of things that happen the moment I stop paying attention. This can be added to the wreck of the Acura, the cutting off of my finger-tip in the meat slicer, and the burning of my leg on the exhaust pipe of Dad's motorcycle.
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