Every once in a while I remember a very interesting Christmas eve, from more than 15 years ago. Recently, I remember this more often, you’ll see a bit later why.
It was a snowy day, and I had to drive from my home town, in the middle of the country, to Bucharest. I pondered a lot if I should go or not, because the snow was rapidly transforming into blizzard. The roads were still open, but there were rumors they might close them anytime, so I decided to go, taking advantage of that window of opportunity. Usually, that trip takes about 2 hours, and half of it is on a 100km highway.
I reached the highway when it was already dark and the snow was getting heavier. The blizzard was in full force and it was very difficult to see the road. It was just a cone of light in front of me, in a white continuum, broken every once in a while by lights coming from the other side, or appearing on what I inferred it was my part of the road. The snow was so heavy that even those lights were barely visible.
I didn’t drive a very powerful car, it was 1.4l Skoda, a decent ride in the city, but almost of no use in the middle of the blizzard. And yet, I kept pushing forward, hoping I’d reach Bucharest before they’ll close the roads. As I was past the half of the highway, I started to see cars stopped on the side. Most of them had the lights on, but they were already surrounded by a lot of snow. It looked like those drivers decided to stop until the snow passes. I could’ve done the same, but I didn’t think the gas will last until the next morning, if I had to keep the engine on, so I can have some heating inside.
The snow layer was so thick now that I was sliding at the smallest change of direction. At one of these changes, a gentle turn of the wheel to the right, the inevitable happened: I lost control of the vehicle, slipped a few dozens of meters like a sleigh and then stopped into a big lump of snow. I wasn’t going very fast, so I didn’t feel any impact. Couldn’t tell if I was outside of the road yet, or still on it.
After a few minutes of trying to move the car from that spot, I realized I’m stuck. I stepped down and went around the car to assess the situation. And the situation wasn’t good. Wheels were almost to the half in the snow, I was right to the edge of the road, close to the deep ditch on the side. The snow layer must have been thicker than 1 meter, because I didn’t see the small metallic fence between the road and the ditch, I was somehow on top of it.
I started to signal to other cars, trying to find someone how could pull me out of that place. A couple of people stopped, but after a small conversation, they realized they either didn’t have the tools to pull me out, or they lacked the power. I was starting to get a bit worried and plan ahead for spending the night in the car, when a white van stopped behind me. I stumbled to the driver through the snow and asked if he can pull me. “No, he answered, but if you want, I can push you from behind.” It didn’t take more than a second to answer: “I take it, let’s do it”.
I got back up in the car, took it out of gear and waited for the van to touch my rear bar. I felt a small push and then my car started to move. But the snow was still thick and me turning the wheel didn’t seem to have any impact on the direction. After a few meters, I realized I was heading straight to the ditch, instead of the road. I pushed the brake, rotate the wheel violently a couple of times, left and right, and then, just one or two meters away from the ditch, the car finally started to listen to me and I got back on the road. A small honk to say thank you to the van driver and then pushed the gas pedal.
I didn’t stop until I entered Bucharest, an hour later.
Limited Field Of Vision
The reason I remember this often lately is because of the limited field of vision. The blizzard that night narrowed my field of vision to just a few dozens of meters around the car. And in that limited field I also had very limited options.
After I slipped and stopped, I had to ponder between only two choices: spend the night there, or accept to be pushed out of the white hell. I went almost instinctively with the pushing out. And I congratulate myself every time for that. The next day there were quite a few news about people spending the night in their cars, in the middle of nowhere, who got hypothermic, or even asphyxiated because of the engine emissions. I didn’t have any of those problems. I kept moving on. Cautiously, but I kept moving on.
I find this cautious moving vital when we have limited field of vision. And during the last year we had, at a planetary level, a drastic narrowing of our visibility. Part of it is just because we don’t know how to react to this black swan event (a pandemic which happens only every 5 generations), but part of it is because there’s a lot of confusion and manipulation. As if the virus itself wasn’t enough, a lot of people are trying to align their agenda with various parts of the response, some of them just opportunistically, but other in a quite cynical way, using other people’s fear to permanently limit their freedom (of movement, of choice, of speaking).
So, it’s like we’re in a full blizzard right now. And even if we go slowly, we have to push forward. Step by step, until the blizzard fades.
Otherwise, if we stop, we will be stuck for a long time. We may get “hypothermic”, immobilized inside a small circle of fear, without being able to move, and we may even choke in the emissions of our own engines. And the only way to get out of that place will be other people pushing us out. Even then, there is a big risk of falling down in a ditch – playing other people agenda without even knowing it.
So, as long as we cruise slowly, cautiously, but permanently, we’ll survive this. Just don’t stop, don’t give in to fear, to the opportunistic or cynical currents (in any direction they might be), don’t think that stopping on the side of the road will save you.
On the contrary: stopping now, giving in to fear, will only confine you longer in an invisible, yet very real hell.