I work at a gourmet food store, as a bakery manager. Much like grocery stores, when there’s a severe weather scare it can get very busy. Snow and ice were in today’s forecast, which made Friday a hectic day for our entire staff as well as the high volume of customers jockeying for position in our little store. This sort of behavior happens anywhere in the country – store shelves get emptied when big snow storms and/or ice are on the horizon.
But there are some differences between this southern city and the snow-acclimated Pennsylvania in which I grew up. (The New York-native meat cutter and I had a brief laugh about the behavior and comments of the locals today.) It’s funny how after only about two inches had fallen the locals were getting worried about how bad it was. My baker from Atlanta was nervous, too. But when I heard a produce clerk ask if a young lady had 4-wheel drive because, “There’s like two inches of snow out on some of those cars,” I really had to exercise discipline and not start laughing out loud right then and there. (Heck, if I knew so few inches were big to southerners I would’ve dated more southern girls in college.)
But his comment also reminded me of a universal misconception. Although it was just a light, powdery snow at the time, there was ice in the later forecast. 4-wheel drive is not the solution to hazardous driving conditions. Just because you have it doesn’t mean all is well with your commute. Sure, a 4-wheel drive SUV is better equipped to handle snow-covered, slick roads than a rear-wheel drive sports car, but ultimately it is the driver behind the steering wheel who determines the overall safety of the driving. I’d trust an expert driver in the sports car over a reckless driver in an SUV any day of the week. I’ve seen more than enough 4-wheel drive SUVs in ditches to know the car can only take you so far.
So, how was my drive? The roads were covered with both packed powder and slushy, wet, grey muck. There was plenty of opportunity for slip-sliding away. Well, in my front-wheel drive minivan I made it home just fine. I kept it slow and steady the whole way – years of experience in PA helped with that. No 4-wheel drive necessary. But, due to my history, I guess I just had that different perspective.