The driveway leading from the main road to G’s preschool is paved without any good intentions. It has a pretty steep slope, probably about 45 degrees, and is mostly hidden from the sun. Which means snow and ice take an especially long time to melt.
The rumblings started in early November. The other moms would talk about how hard it was to drive up the hill when it was snowy or icy. I hadn’t yet had any problems, so I smugly thought either my little station wagon was alright….or I was an especially adept driver. I watched some of their cars strain and struggle to make it up the hilly drive while mine zipped right along.
But one day Jason came home after doing pick-up duty and reported the same difficulty. Which made me wonder if I’d declared victory over the hill a little too soon.
And last week confirmed I had. Mysterious weather patterns dumped many inches of snow on Calgary’s streets. And it appears Calgary doesn’t have quite the same level of snow plowing/removal as another cold, northern city – Minneapolis. Which means my car spun and sputtered just to make it TO school. And when I saw the hill below, I decided not to chance it. I just parked my car on the side of the main road and walked down the hill to the school.
But on Friday I had to assemble those pesky graham cracker houses. And I hadn’t worn my snowboots. So I had no choice but to park at the bottom of the driveway.
Two hours later, it was time to go home. And I was openly nervous about the car’s (my) ability to ascend the hill successfully. The moms doled out tips: start as far back as possible, gun it, and go wide. When I mentioned that I had actually tried all of those tactics on Wednesday with dubious success, one mom suggested I switch to a lower gear. (Which raises the question.. what ARE all those other gears for….4, 3, 2, L? The only time I’ve ever used N is at the car wash. Otherwise I’m pretty much a P, R and D girl.)
One of the dads suggested I take the alley out to another main street. But a mom cautioned that if there was anything blocking my exit I’d have to reverse all the way back to the preschool. The dad kindly volunteered to drive through the alley and see if it was clear.
With a nervous belly, I headed to the car with G. I spent a few minutes scraping off the layer of snow that had settled over the course of two hours. And then prepared myself for the ‘drive of my life.’ The kind dad reappeared to tell me that all was clear in the alley, should I wish to go that way instead. After thinking about it for a second I decided to stick with that I knew – the treacherous hill.
Before I could reverse my car to the most auspicious starting point, another dad started ‘the climb.’ He’d never done pick up duty before, judging from his unfamiliarity with ‘the driveway of death.’ I chuckled quietly when he briskly reversed his Honda Odyssey from its parking spot – halfway up the hill – and pressed down on the gas. As though his car was actually going to move.
Silly man – he had no idea.
I watched as the van lurched forward and dug in its wheels, refusing to budge despite all manner of turning and twisting. Perplexed, newbie-dad reversed a few feet and started again. He really didn’t know. The gargled sound of the tires spinning in the snow was too much. I jumped out of the car and ran to his window.
I imparted the myth of the hill to him: ‘you need to start all the way from the back, gun it and go wide.’
Perhaps he was embarassed that someone had witnessed his clumsy attempts, for he gave me barely discernible nod. Then he reversed as far back as he could go for attempt number three, which worked. Though none too easily.
I was up next, feeling like an Olympian who needed to earn a 10 to win the gold.
I reversed. Switched to 4 instead of D. I watched as one mom stood on the side of the parking lot, giving me a nervous thumbs up, willing me to make it. I pressed down on the gas, and aimed wide. It should be mentioned that I really couldn’t see out of the windshield because one of the wipers is pretty crappy and actually diminishes visibility. As I was halfway up the hill; the car making furious sounds, and the tires seemingly unable to follow a linear path, I started worrying instead that I’d crash the car into the fences on either side.
But I made it.
I’ll be parking at the top of the hill today.