Updated: Feb 23
I joined my first job in the US at the AT&T Headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Later that week, I rented a room in a home on Skyline Drive, up on a hill, a few miles away.
Stepping out to my old car at 7:30am sharp the next morning, I heard my landlady say, “Do you really think you should go to work today? There’s black ice outside.”
I replied that I had to go, it was a brand new job.
I started to walk along the driveway up to the street carefully. There was no snow at all, but there was a thin layer of ice on the black driveway. If I had any sense, I’d have turned around and gone back indoors right then; I was actually slip sliding uphill to the street level.
Instead, I reached my car, got inside and started to drive. When the road was flat the car was fine. But I was driving down a hill side and the street soon sloped. At the first short slope I realized that the brakes were only partially working. I kept driving cautiously through horizontal stretches and slight downward slopes.
Then came a steep slope and a sharp curve around the hill. I stopped the car before the slope to gauge the situation. Then I inched ahead.
A few yards into the slope I lost control of my car. Full application of brakes did not stop the motion forward. The car was sliding forward. I thought it best to steer the car sharply towards the right sidewalk where snow was piled up. As I did so, I accelerated slightly so that the front right of the car would get buried in and trapped by the snowbank. It did. But the back of the car slid down until the car blocked the downhill lane completely. Then the sliding stopped and the car stood still.
I opened the door and got out gingerly, hoping the car wouldn’t slide further. Closing the door softly I leapt clear to the safety of snow on the sidewalk.
As I stood there trying to envision the recovery process, I wondered if a tow truck could make it up the hill. The man of the adjoining house came out and remarked that I did exactly what I should have done. I didn’t tell him about my landlady’s advice - not to venture out today. He invited me inside but I was terrified that another car would appear at the top of the slope and slide into mine. This gentleman actually brought me a cup of steaming coffee, and went back inside.
I called 911, finished the coffee and stood there wondering how I could resolve the situation, as mobile police units were unable to respond to emergency calls.
Then, hallelujah, a police car, with chains on its tires, appeared at the top of the slope. I ran forward, with both my hands forward to stop it from coming further down the slope.
The officer said that it would be awhile before tow trucks became operational - he placed a call to a tow truck operator - and invited me in to the warmth of his car, as he was going to stay put. I got into the police car. The gentleman was listening to Howard Stern on the radio.
For those of you who have not heard the name, Howard Stern was (is?) a “shock jock(ey)” who became a national name with cutting edge radio ribaldry. (US male residents over 40, please don’t deny listening to him - only in your cars).
At that hour, Howard was describing his encounter with a scantily clad Indian woman in a saree, on the air. The officer was slightly embarrassed, and said that that’s the way Howard talks.
A tow truck showed up a half hour later (with chains on tires) and straightened out my car so that it was now aligned with the road (adjoining the kerb) and not blocking it. The operator expressed an inability to tow my car up (or down) the icy road.
I thanked everybody and walked back to the home in which I had rented my room the day before.
The owner, Doug, drove me to my office in his four wheel drive an hour later, when the ice had melted from the surface of the roads. He also brought me back to my car after work and I was able to safely drive back home.
Hmmmm…..why do I remember Doug’s name and not that of his wife?