Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chain Gang

Morning. Early morning. A young, energetic teacher is dreaming of an alarm clock going off. In her dream, she is dismantling the alarm clock piece by piece, and yet it does not stop ringing. Eventually, after 8 minutes of blaring beeping, she figures out that in order to silence the alarm clock, she needs to wake up and turn the actual one off.

Recalling the forecast from the night before, she immediately looks out the window. The weather is not bad at all! It's wet, it's fuzzing, but the itty-bitty flakes aren't even accumulating yet.

Still, she leaves for school 20 minutes early, just in case. No problems as she exits the neighborhood and gets on the freeway. Then, as her car begins to climb the mountain, the snow begins to accumulate.

The traffic on the other side of the road is heavy. On her side, there are not too many cars, and the ones that go by quickly pass her. This is normal - her car is not that great at mountains.

The road turns slushy as the steepness increases; then, impacted. Suddenly, her wheels lose all grip and she slides. She keeps it on the road, but the car refuses to go uphill anymore. She slowly, windingly, slides off the road onto the shoulder of the just as she comes around a corner to see two police cars flashing their lights at a car accident in the median.

Young, Energetic Teacher: Huh.

Wheels: Whirrr. WHIRRRR.

Young, Energetic Teacher: Huh.

She watches three snowplows drive by on the opposite side of the road. There is no one going the direction she's heading.

She opens her car door and looks at the inch of snow on the ground. She pops the trunk and gets out the snow chains. Groping in the murky pre-dawn light, she puts on the chains. She tries to drive back onto the road, and the chains slip off the wheels and onto the axles.

Young Energetic Teacher: Huh.

Snow: HA!

Just then, a bundled figure approaches from the direction of the police cars ahead. He carries a flashlight. Our heroine gets out of the car and tries to untangle the chains to try again. The policeman shines the light at her.

Policeman: You okay?

Young Energetic Teacher: Yeah, my car just slid off the road. She manages to unhook one of the chains and yanks it out.

Policeman: You should try to stay off of this part of the road He indicates the snowy shoulder with his light, this part's better to drive in He aims the light at the road proper where her sliding tracks are still freshly imprinted. She tries to find the other side of the hook by touch alone, since she can't see anything in the dark.

Y.E.T.: Cheerfully, reminding herself that if she gets grumpy, he's less likely to help her Well, I wasn't trying to go on this part of the road Laughs. Alone.

Policeman: Looking around Yup. It's snowing pretty hard.

Y.E.T.: Indeed. She wrenches the chains loose and resets them.

Policeman: You sure those are the right size?

Y.E.T.: I sure hope so! I don't know what I'll do otherwise.

Policeman: Well, you could get towed out. Or you could leave your car here and get a ride with someone. He watches her hook the chains on again, much tighter this time. You know anyone who could tow you?

Y.E.T.: Nope.

Policeman: Huh.

A second policeman walks over. He joins his companion in watching the young, energetic teacher rub her hands together to try to get enough feeling in the fingers to hook up the second chains.

Y.E.T.: Do you know what the weather's like past here? She points in the direction of Mountain Town High School.

Policeman: 'Sposed to be bad. Worse. I'm heading up that way to another accident. I'd go back if I were you.

Y.E.T.: I might, but I'd need to get my car going, first.

Policeman: You might need a tow.

Chains in place, she gets back into her car and tries again. This time the chains stay put and she starts making her way onto the road. She looks at the constant stream of cars heading towards her home, and figures she can't turn around here anyway. She starts to rattle up the mountain.

Y.E.T.: Yelling out her window at the policemen Thanks!

She continues up the mountain as cars passing her slow, noisy car. She doesn't care - she's got chains. She calls her school, principal, and principal's secretary to try to see what the weather's like ahead. No answer. She rattles past Conifer, and the snow stops. The road is merely wet. With no shoulder, she drives on her chains for another 10 miles before reaching a gas station. Chains removed and tossed onto the floor of the passenger seat, she hits the road again, almost going the speed limit.

She reaches the school at 7:30, exactly when class starts. She parks her car and dashes in to the building, calling out a thanks to the secretary who arranged for someone to be there for her first period. The students greet her cheerfully as she runs into the room. She tells them the story, showing off her muddy, greasy, scratched, and bruised hands.

The students tell her that's what she gets for living in town.

After speech practice, she heads out to the nearly-empty parking lot. The roads are wet and it is snowing still. She eyes her car warily.

Y.E.T.: Now. You got me here this morning, and I'm glad. You're going to get me home now, right? She gives her tires a particularly strong LOOK. They do not respond. That's what I thought. Let's do this!

The drive home is better - she only slides once. Many, many cars pass her. She decided to spend her one free day this month shopping for snow tires.



A student comes into second period. She smiles when she sees the teacher and exclaims happily.

Student: You're here!

Y.E.T.: Smiling back I'm here!

Student: I heard you weren't here today. That made me sad. I'm glad you're here!


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