Good week everybody. I hope you do have a good week because mine is not starting very well here. I am very nervous and I have good reason to be. In a few hours’ time I will be driving out in the typically sedate Minneapolis traffic to run some errands since I will not be on set today. The difference between today and the typically boring Minnesota traffic is that it snowed here last night. What I go out there to face on the icy roads is a stark reminder of the terror I faced two weeks ago, and the new perception I have of the Minnesota driving experience.
I am an avid driving enthusiast. I love to drive in all environs and strive to do so in whatever country I visit, just so I can get a feel of the pulse of its natives. The added challenge of driving on the left hand side of the road, which is the case when I travel to countries like the UK, is one, or mad cities like Paris where cars are used to nudge other cars – with their occupants still inside them- out of the way so they can fit better into parking spaces , or the mad mad Lagos traffic where the proclivity to having an accident is almost entirely dependent upon whether one has a loud functioning car horn or not. Like I said before, Minnesota traffic is boring. One never exceeds the set speed limits on its roads without the risk of getting speed tickets from bored policemen under pressure from overstaffed stations to rake in as much revenue as possible to be able to keep their jobs. Roads are wide and the traffic is sparse. Rush hour in Minnesota means driving ten miles (sixteen kilometres) in twenty minute; in Lagos, rush hour means driving sixteen kilometers in three hours. And traffic jam? Well, let me put it this way. On my way home one day, I hit a traffic jam not two kilometres from my home. Since I was already near, I relaxed, unperturbed, and waited. Three hours and two hundred metres later and almost tearing my hair out in frustration, I pulled over to the side and went into a peppersoup joint. Two odekus (big stout) and two bowls of goat meat peppersoup later, I got into my car and got back in line three cars behind the car that was right behind me when I pulled over at the joint TWO hours earlier. Enough said.
You can then understand my low opinion of the Minnesotan rush hour which Benitez, our operational manager who takes us about to places we need to go, continuously complains about; that is until a few weeks ago when the snow finally fell for the first time. It fell on a Saturday, as had been precisely predicted by the weather forecasters five days earlier and as always, the soft look of the brilliant white sheet over everything thrilled everyone in the room; everyone but the battle hardened drivers in the group who knew what the fluffy innocent sheets portended. We drove out unto the crunchy ice of the just fallen snow on the quiet side streets jabbering animatedly. There were four of us in the car and the plan was to drop the other two passengers off before me because I lived the furthest away. We turned the corner into the main road listening to a tale of some vitriolic prima donna who loved to give waiters a hard time when suddenly we noticed the two cars in front of us were struggling to stop. We followed suit and to our horror, well my horror actually, realized we were on a smooth sheet of ice and car wasn’t going to stop. I watched mesmerized as our vehicles slewed all over the place and ours finally came under control when our quick thinking Benitez turned the wheel towards the pavement (sidewalk) brushing the tyres against the kerb, giving us much needed traction and bringing us to a complete stop. My participation in that conversation ended there. My next and continuous focus of interest was the traffic around me, half expecting to be rammed into from behind by some heavy truck or being T-boned by some out-of-control vehicle that couldn’t stop at the lights. In the course of our two and a half hour journey we observed no less than six serious accidents on the road – it was later to climb to a record four hundred and eighty by the next day). Amidst all this, cars kept whizzing past us like it was summer. I will not lie to you, I was scared **itless.
As I make up my mind to venture going out there on my own, I do with nervousness and a certain thrill of adventure. If others can do it, well so can i. I will not go out there armed with foolishness though; I have asked for tips on how to drive on black ice and how best to control my vehicle when the inevitable occurs. Finally I don’t bloody care what anybody thinks; I am going to drive like a ninety year old grandpa out there. Pray for me somebody and see you hopefully next week. Have a great week everybody!