Before I came out as a t-girl, for business travel, I drove an old Volvo back and forth across the Sierra Nevada mountains, pretty much twice a week. This included Donner Pass at 7227 feet of elevation, which means A LOT of snow in the winter. Life was hard back then. And no, the heater didn’t work. And no, I didn’t have money or time to fix that.
Putting snow chains on the Volvo was a miserable task. It was cold and dirty and messy work, and clearances were tight. If I screwed up then it could take a looooong time to get the situation unscrewed, and until then I couldn’t move my car, and my fingers would be getting ever colder and number. Some of the work was too intricate for the gloves I owned at the time. Forget about breaking a nail — one bad session could break them all.
It’s happened that during this process, it was also dark, plus late at night, plus the storm was getting worse, plus slushy snow was pouring down, plus the temperature was plummeting, and I still couldn’t get the stupid chains on.
There was no leeway for panicking or throwing a fit. Self-control was the only way. It was me vs. the mountain, and the odds were not in my favor unless I kept calm and got the job done.
After I had the chains on, I still hadn’t won. Unless I managed things just so, the chains could come loose, or break. And that might mean going off into a ditch, or having to wait by the side of the road for a tow truck to show up and find me, ideally before someone else ran into me.
After the snow cleared, I had to take the chains off again, or they’d break. If that happened, I might need a tow truck and they might also have destroyed part of my car in the process.
Now and then I’d take my chances and see how well I could do without them. On a two wheel drive, rear-wheel drive car, the odds were rarely in my favor. One late winter storm about fifteen years ago, I chanced it. Bad idea. Visibility got worse and worse. Eventually it was essentially zero except high up, I could dimly make out the red lights of the large truck-and-trailer in front of me. If I could stay behind him, fine. If not, I could die. I could not see the road or where it was.
If I kept driving there was no reason to believe I wouldn’t end up in a ditch, freezing to death. If I stopped I’d have to guess where the side of the road was, and in the process of slowing down I might run into a person, car or truck by the roadside. If I guessed wrongly I might stop in the roadway and have trucks smash into me from behind. It was a likely-fatal no-win situation unless I could keep up with that truck. I desperately tried to stay right behind the truck, but I could feel the Volvo’s rear tires losing traction, then barely regaining it. Had they lost traction, I would not be here today. Where I’d be is debatable depending on your views on what would have happened after I’d frozen to death. I might have become worm food, or have taken up playing a harp, or be dealing with 17 virgins, or be in a too-hot climate, or have come back as a grasshopper (bad) or as Sophia Loren’s underwear (good).
So, this morning, many happy years later, I came back from a drive in the Monterey area, and having happily blossomed as the girl I am. Even so, I was nevertheless on the wrong side of the Sierras, trying to get home to Nevada. The freeway was closed due to the snow storm. Nobody could get through, chains or no chains. Later, the road was open but the flashing signs made it pretty clear that chains were required. And I’m not taking any more chances on this sort of thing again.
I pulled over, put on my elegant warm leather jacket and color-coordinated gloves, and unpacked the chains from their carry bag. These were brand new and I hadn’t ever used this kind. I was studying the instructions, untangling the mess and trying to figure out how to use them.
I had my long blonde hair down, and I was wearing some pretty black high-heeled boots, an elegant skirt, black tight-fitting leggings and a pretty black top with spangly insets. I also wore a matching silver-ish necklace, along with the elegant tight-fitting black leather jacket.
I was a study in black-and-white, elegant, coordinated clothing. Even my underwear matched. My make-up had been carefully applied and my skin moisturized. I was bright-eyed and well-rested with a good breakfast in my happy tummy, and I was well-hydrated besides. I felt good. I don’t always look good, but this morning, I looked good. Not that this was the best attire for getting snow chains on a vehicle … or was it?
Indeed it was.
I didn’t want to rush the process. I calmly laid the chains out, and stood reading the instructions. I was actually having a good time, trying to figure out this puzzle, and feeling proud that I was driving a high-quality almost-new vehicle, I had new and high-quality snow chains, I had pulled over while the weather was more warm than it would be higher up the mountain, and that I’d found some thin but pretty, comfortable, warm black gloves to wear.
Behind me was parked a big truck-and-trailer with two young-ish guys in it. I suppose they were getting a show though I wasn’t actually trying to show off or strike saucy poses. Even so, I have a good posture and I tend to move elegantly. With my large (fake) boobs I probably was interesting to look at.
Pretty soon, they came over and offered to put the tire chains on, for me. Yay for gallantry!!
It’s quite possible that if I’d looked like Mother Teresa on a bad day, then maybe they’d have helped me too, but maybe not…