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Sunday, December 11, 2005

We see it every year, folks!

Snow does weird things to drivers -- and, well, to people in general. Whenever the weather forecast calls for a large amount of snow in the next day or two, we suddenly get really busy at The Store, as people stock up for provisions or something. It's strange. Snow events where people get snowed into their homes for days at a time are pretty rare in these parts, Buffalo's reputation notwithstanding -- the last such snowfall happened several years ago -- but there the people come, flooding The Store.

As for drivers, these seem to fall into two types (speaking only of the annoying ones, that is). There are the "What's this stuff?" Drivers, who navigate their vehicles as though they have never seen snow in their lives before this exact moment. These folks will drive unimaginably slowly on perfectly plowed roads on days when the temperatures are high enough that the roads are nearly perfectly clear; or they will drive at an acceptible speed but, on a four-lane stretch of road, exactly straddle the center line, presumably because that's the only way they can figure out where they are; they will begin their braking maneuvers for an intersection so far in advance that one wonders how they managed to accelerate from the stop position at the last intersection. And yet, all of this ridiculous behavior is confined to the streets that are perfectly plowed and passable.

The other category of Annoying Snow Drivers are the "Leap of Faith" Drivers. These folks occupy the other end of the spectrum; these are the people who have absolute faith that nothing bad will befall them while they are behind the wheel, and thus they drive with ridiculous abandon. Such drivers will, on a six-lane freeway where snow conditions have reduced traffic to just two lanes in each direction, will still attempt to use the passing lane at the same speeds they would use were the snow not there at all. These are the folks who will turn off a clear "main drag" kind of street onto a barely-plowed side road, and not reduce their pressure on the gas pedal at all, no matter how much they slide or how pronounced their fishtailing is. And these are the people who, when exiting a McDonald's or a Starbucks, will completely ignore oncoming traffic and put the nose of their cars into the road, so supremely confident they are that everyone else already on the road will stop for them.

What's interesting about these two camps of Snow Drivers is that these characteristics are limited only to the manner of driving, and not to the choice of vehicle. I'll see people of the former camp driving their Hummers in snow as though they are driving a vehicle made of eggshells, and I'll see people gallumping about the roads with total faith in their 1991 Ford Escort's ability to overcome all elements. It's bewildering.

Anyway, I remember a time, not too distant, when Buffalo drivers knew how to drive in snow. Where did all those folks go, anyway?

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