A Texan's Disastrous First Snowy Drive of the Year

Illustration for article titled A Texan's Disastrous First Snowy Drive of the Year
Photo: Seth Wenig (AP)

Let me set the scene for you: it’s the first snow of the year in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. Thick, wet flakes have been piling up all morning—and no one was ready for it. Schools closed, work ended early, and suddenly everyone was on the road trying to get home. Including me. A Texan freshly planted in the northeast.


Knowing the weather was going to be, uh, less than ideal, my boyfriend and I had pre-purchased tickets to see Halloween before its last running. We hit the road at 1:45 PM for a 3:30 showing at a theater three miles away. And folks, we barely made it.

[Full disclosure: I was not driving. My man is Canadian and has a car outfitted with snow tires, so we felt confident hitting the road. Had I been trying to go out solo in my Mazda 2 with all-seasons? Oh helllllll no.]

That meant I got a front row seat for what looked like a goddamn apocalypse of several inches of snow and a whole lot of incompetence.

For those who aren’t familiar, the area to the north of Philly where I live is minorly hilly. I’m not talking mountains—just some inclines and declines. Basic things. Not terrible.

But slap some barely freezing snow on ‘em paired with everyone driving about five miles per hour and suddenly you’ve essentially got a sheet of ice and no way for a snow plow to get through.

I have never seen anything so terrible in my entire life. This was worse than attempting to brave the 5am Black Friday crowds. This was what I imagine the apocalypse would be like, except with snow instead of nuclear destruction. We were driving by one abandoned vehicle after another, traffic jams caused because someone spun their tires and got stuck, and—god forbid—very large delivery trucks trying to make tight turns on residential roads.


I grew up in Michigan. I took driver’s training in the most miserable, blizzardy week in January. I got my license the following winter. It’s not that I don’t know what driving in the snow is like, folks—I’ve done it before. It’s how I learned to drive! But I’ve never experienced the first snow before, when no one is prepared for it and we’re all just learning how to walk again. And then I moved to Texas, and all that disaster driving preparedness just slipped out of my brain.

Please console me, folks. Please tell me how long this insanity is going to last. How many snows does it take for everyone to learn how to get their shit together? How many practice runs on snowy parking lots do I need to figure out what the hell I’m doing?


And here’s my biggest question: how do I get over my fear of slipping and sliding? My boyfriend handled that shit no problem. He’d catch a patch of ice and the back end would come out, and the man just pulled that shit into line like nobody’s business. When I’m in a situation like that, it scares the hell out of me. Consciously I know not to make sudden movements or overcorrect, but my goodness is that hard to put into practice in the heat of the moment.

Northerners, please help me, because if it’s going to continue to be this bad, then I am packing up my bags and moving back to Texas.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.



The sheer number of people who think they can "get by fine" on summer tires is mind-numbing, and I think a good example of a glaring omission in the driver education process (of which there are many in the United States.) That summer tires should NEVER be driven in winter weather should be common knowledge. Not common knowledge to car people, but common knowledge to everyone, in the same way that it's common knowledge that you shouldn't put diesel in a gas powered car.