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Wintry Sisyphus

25 years in Southern California can make a body forget to check the weather

The scene of the author's epic struggle against snow and self, already being obscured by the elements just minutes after its conclusion.
The scene of the author's epic struggle against snow and self, already being obscured by the elements just minutes after its conclusion.

It doesn’t much matter how I came to be in my recent predicament — stranded in the Evanston, Wyoming, Comfort Inn, just over the Utah border, staring out of the second-story window at the parking lot that separates the inn from both the Romantix adult warehouse and the combination restaurant/bar/liquor store/betting parlor that offer to service its residents, watching the snow pile up on the hood of my woefully unequipped Prius, and marveling at the way 25 years in Southern California can make a body forget to check the weather before setting out on a journey. What matters is what I saw once I was there: someone whose situation was even more predicamental than my own.

His black Audi sedan had lost its hold on the thoroughly encrusted lot surface and drifted down an exceedingly gentle slope into a snowbank. Now he was knee-deep in the soft stuff, bracing himself and heaving at the car’s front bumper while his unseen companion gunned it in reverse. Up and back, up and back, like a wintry Sisyphus. I watched him and cursed my luck. It was night. I was into my second drink. I had the original Thomas Crown Affair on the laptop. But I had seen him, needy and near at hand, and now I had to go down and try to help.

“Need a hand?”

“Sure.”

Well, okay then. What followed was a paradigm of problem-solving as I have experienced it. Starting then, with brute force — if some was good, surely more would be better. We heaved together, slipping and sliding as soon as we pushed the car any distance from our footholds in the bank, watching in shared but mute despair as the car surrendered once again to the laws of physics.

Eventually, a sensible woman — in this case, the one behind the wheel — offered some advice that drew upon humanity’s long experience with tool usage and ran inside to get a shovel. Fine. It was tedious and tiring work trying to dig a track in the slick, frozen snow — there was just the one shovel, and guess who got the first turn? — but we did inch the car a couple of feet up the incline.

I was scolding myself for wanting to offer a word of “you’re on your way” encouragement and head back inside when a local arrived on the scene. Or if not a local, someone with some experience and expertise. “Your best bet now is to try and run it that way,” he explained, pointing to the expanse of white immediately adjacent to the bank. In other words: Make gravity your friend. You’ve backed it up enough to drive downhill and steer past the obstacle. Then he shouldered in alongside us for one final push…and it worked. I thanked him profusely; because of him, I was free.

I trudged over to the liquor store for a restorative reward. The clerk had been watching our adventure. “I was just gathering some cardboard to put under the tires,” she assured me.

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Skateboarding toward a musical horizon

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The scene of the author's epic struggle against snow and self, already being obscured by the elements just minutes after its conclusion.
The scene of the author's epic struggle against snow and self, already being obscured by the elements just minutes after its conclusion.

It doesn’t much matter how I came to be in my recent predicament — stranded in the Evanston, Wyoming, Comfort Inn, just over the Utah border, staring out of the second-story window at the parking lot that separates the inn from both the Romantix adult warehouse and the combination restaurant/bar/liquor store/betting parlor that offer to service its residents, watching the snow pile up on the hood of my woefully unequipped Prius, and marveling at the way 25 years in Southern California can make a body forget to check the weather before setting out on a journey. What matters is what I saw once I was there: someone whose situation was even more predicamental than my own.

His black Audi sedan had lost its hold on the thoroughly encrusted lot surface and drifted down an exceedingly gentle slope into a snowbank. Now he was knee-deep in the soft stuff, bracing himself and heaving at the car’s front bumper while his unseen companion gunned it in reverse. Up and back, up and back, like a wintry Sisyphus. I watched him and cursed my luck. It was night. I was into my second drink. I had the original Thomas Crown Affair on the laptop. But I had seen him, needy and near at hand, and now I had to go down and try to help.

“Need a hand?”

“Sure.”

Well, okay then. What followed was a paradigm of problem-solving as I have experienced it. Starting then, with brute force — if some was good, surely more would be better. We heaved together, slipping and sliding as soon as we pushed the car any distance from our footholds in the bank, watching in shared but mute despair as the car surrendered once again to the laws of physics.

Eventually, a sensible woman — in this case, the one behind the wheel — offered some advice that drew upon humanity’s long experience with tool usage and ran inside to get a shovel. Fine. It was tedious and tiring work trying to dig a track in the slick, frozen snow — there was just the one shovel, and guess who got the first turn? — but we did inch the car a couple of feet up the incline.

I was scolding myself for wanting to offer a word of “you’re on your way” encouragement and head back inside when a local arrived on the scene. Or if not a local, someone with some experience and expertise. “Your best bet now is to try and run it that way,” he explained, pointing to the expanse of white immediately adjacent to the bank. In other words: Make gravity your friend. You’ve backed it up enough to drive downhill and steer past the obstacle. Then he shouldered in alongside us for one final push…and it worked. I thanked him profusely; because of him, I was free.

I trudged over to the liquor store for a restorative reward. The clerk had been watching our adventure. “I was just gathering some cardboard to put under the tires,” she assured me.

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