Al Batt: It’s a snowstorm — quick, everyone into the ditch

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

The Loafers’ Club was meeting at the Cafe.

“Getting stuck wouldn’t be a problem if everyone drove as I do,” said one. “I’ve never once been stuck.”

Al Batt

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The rest of us shuddered at the thought of driving like him. The man has the memory of an elephant with a poor memory. He once used the flashlight app on his cellphone to find his cellphone.

Every bump becomes a slippery slope even for high-steppers like us in the winter.

Most people become stuck in the snow while driving, but a friend of mine, who I’ll call Lola, didn’t need a car to become firmly entrenched in snow. Lola, who was vertically challenged, took a shortcut over a windrow of snow piled high in the middle of the street and needed to be rescued by the local Avalanche Rescue Team, otherwise known as the local banker on his lunch break.

Another friend, who I’ll call Al, owned a tow truck and kept busy when blizzards hit. He rescued a family from Mississippi on their first visit to Minnesota from a ditch. The car driver’s first words were, “Which way is south? That’s the way I’m going.”

I’ve been pushed, shoveled and pulled out after becoming stuck. I’ve pushed, shoveled and pulled others free. Stranded cars become social media gold when snowstorms bring people together to watch cars trying to become unstuck. By this time, many Minnesotans have lost their affection for snow, even though shoveling the white stuff is winter aerobics. It’s not a winter sport because there is no puck, but it’s an opportunity to put our opposable thumbs to good use while communing with nature.

In the murky past, I tried to get to the farm to do livestock chores. I didn’t have a snowmobile. I became seriously stuck three times within a mile. It wasn’t the kind where you are stuck and unstuck repeatedly while gaining little ground. I know a guy who got three speeding tickets in one day. Getting stuck in the snow three times is better. I had a real shovel, a scoop shovel, I knew enough to straighten my wheels and to resist putting the pedal to the metal if the tires were spinning. I rolled down my window to see what my truck was seeing. I shoveled it out thrice and was freed by June.

Improved traction aids in seeking freedom from a snowbank or any bank. To be on the safe side, drive on roads surfaced only in carpet scraps, cardboard or kitty litter. Remember, salt melts snow. Salty words or warm thoughts don’t.

If I don’t count being stuck in that clinging beanbag chair and stuck with restaurant checks, I haven’t been stuck this winter. Knock on wood. It’s a common superstition for people to knock their knuckles on a piece of wood to bring good fortune or ward off bad luck. There is little agreement on its origin. The Celts may have knocked on tree trunks to rouse the spirits and call on their protection, people might have knocked on wood to chase away evil spirits or prevent them from listening, or it may have come from a children’s game called “Tiggy Touchwood,” a type of tag where players were shielded from capture when they touched a door or a tree. I prefer the superstition of saying “rabbit, rabbit” aloud before saying anything else on the first day of the month to bring good luck. Gilda Radner said “bunny, bunny” to ensure laughter, love and peace. FDR said “rabbits.” If you forget to say “rabbit, rabbit” the first thing, say “tibbar, tibbar” — “rabbit” backward. I hope that will ensure you’ll never have your tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole like Flick who was triple-dog dared to lick a frosted flagpole in the movie “Christmas Story.” I asked the school nurse how many cases of tongue to flagpole she’d encountered in her career. She asked if I wanted the numbers just for my family or for all students. The tongue and the ego are used to being hurt. The tongue heals faster.

Keep your wits about you if you become stuck in snow or to flagpole. If you have no wits, borrow some.

Be prepared. Don’t forget to say, “Rabbit, rabbit.”

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.