Saturday, June 18, 2011
DRIVING ON ICE - A FATHER'S DAY REMINISCENCE
I wanted a story for Father’s Day, so I stole this from “I Used To Be Stupid” my unreleased second book (I’m waiting for the excitement of my first release “Maybe It’s Just Me!” which has sold 38 copies, to die down)
DRIVING ON ICE
A Dad does much for his family, most of which goes unnoticed by his children. My father was no different from most fathers. He worked hard. His hours were long, his commute to New York City from the suburbs was miserable, and he had to deal with a boss who was not as smart as he.
As children, we lived in nice houses. We were well fed. We went on nice vacations. Dad’s labor put all three of us through college. His example and his parenting kept us out of trouble and on a road towards becoming responsible productive young men.
Dad taught me how to catch and throw a ball. He taught me to bowl and to play golf. When I played football, he was at the top of the stands filming the game. He used two 8mm cameras. One was always loaded and ready so he never missed a play. Dad did so much, and yet what do I remember the most? What did Dad do that made me the most proud? Dad knew how to drive on ice!
One winter in 1957, on Manhasset, Long Island, we had a huge snow storm. Our next door neighbor, Mr. Newman, got his car stuck trying to bring it up the driveway and into the garage. Mr. Newman had shoveled his driveway and then taken his 1955 Chevy Belair to the store for provisions. By the time he returned, a layer of snow on the driveway slightly melted from the sun and then refroze. This was followed by another 4 inches of wind-driven, drifting snow and several feet of newly plowed snow pushed against the front of his entrance.
When he returned, Mr. Newman tried to pull into his driveway. His front wheels barely broke through the snow plow barrier. He moved five feet up the slight incline of the driveway when he spun his rear wheels into the snowplow residue and the layer of snow/ice on the driveway.
The more Mr. Newman tried to get up the driveway, the more he spun his wheels. The more he spun his wheels, the more the rut he was stuck in got icier and deeper.
The entire neighborhood came out to help Mr. Newman move his car into the garage. People pushed from behind. Cardboard was shoved under the wheels. There was much pushing, much grunting, much of that roaring sound that only spinning wheels on ice can make. In 45 minutes, the whole block of good Samaritans had managed to move poor Mr. Newman’s Chevy about 4 feet closer to its destination.
Neighbors pushed in shifts, all to no avail. Everyone was taking a break, tired, sweating, and frustrated, when my Dad came to the scene.
“Stuck pretty badly huh?” My father understated.
“Yup, she’s not going anywhere,” was Mr. Newman’s response. About 15 neighbors nodded and grunted in agreement.
“Give me a shot”, was Dad’s reply.
“It’s hopeless; what can you do?”
“I don’t know, maybe a little trick.”
Dad replaced Mr. Newman at the wheel, waved all the neighbors away, and started to rock the car on his own. He slammed the Belair in low, moved forward an inch, and then slammed it in reverse. Back and forth he rocked the car again and again until the car rocked out of the groove which had imprisoned it.
Out of the groove, Dad then put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway onto the street.
“No, no!”, came the anguished cry from everyone as they watched the auto give up the four feet which they had labored so hard to gain. The shocked throng was about to severely chastise my Dad when he calmly put the car in low gear and moved forward at a controlled speed careful to not let the wheels spin. When he passed the snowplow barricade and the imprisoning grove, he slightly gunned the engine and the car did a quick fishtail up the driveway and into the garage. The entire process took him all of about 45 seconds!
The entire neighborhood, myself included, went from slack-jawed amazement to enthusiastic applause.
“How did you do that?” Mr. Newman asked.
“Well, I went to school at Penn State”, Dad replied, “lots of snow there. You can’t fight the ice. If the wheels spin, you’ve got to stop, back up and try again. The only thing that can beat the ice is momentum.”
Dad provided food, shelter, love, guidance, and wisdom, but I was never more proud of my Pop than when he showed an entire neighborhood how to drive on ice!
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