Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Snowed Under?

I did the unforgivable. I locked up the brakes and we were sliding, and not in a fun way. Only a few centimeters of snow had fallen, enough to bring cheery smiles to young children, and stark fear to those drivers who view the white stuff as evil. But sliding out of control was like being on the receiving end of a snowball with a rock in it.

I need to explain. I grew up in an area of the country where the first snowfall enticed me to scream down any semi-deserted country lane, spinning tires and fishtailing until my 1967 Volkswagen "Bug" was doing pirouettes. And even if my fearless snow bug went in the ditch, several of us young joyriders could bounce it back onto the road within a matter of minutes. But I seem to have lost my deft snow skills recently. Perhaps it is the Parkinson's, the fact that I am just getting older, or simply a lack of practice. Whatever it is, I don't seem to be able to drive like Mario Andretti on skis any longer.

Case in point: yesterday I slid (not rolled like I too often do) down a snow-covered street in slow motion, through a stop sign, then through the intersection, then to the edge of a 8 foot ditch. Fortunately, it was then that the tires grabbed the gravel under the wet snow, pulling me back to the road. More fortunately, the brown Dodge Caravan that had entered the intersection about the same time, complete with shrieking family, had swerved to miss me and passed behind me by a foot. After a quick look in the rearview mirror to see that the family van continued on its way (as opposed to turning around to follow me in order to curse me to my face), I gingerly drove on. Immediately my heart was pounding on the inside of my ribcage demanding to escape the chest of the suicidal maniac driver. Of course, my normal shaking took up a sympathetic rhythm reminiscent of our washing machine on the high-speed spin cycle. Clearly the pumping of adrenaline does not short-circuit the depletion of dopamine cells.

After a very controlled reminder by my long-suffering wife that I needed to slow down, my mind jumped to the analogy between driving too fast on snow and living a life that can far too easily careen out of control. Of course, the most obvious area of life that needs to "heed the speed" is my work. I have always been guilty of taking on too much ("overwhelmed" is what the "o" in "Bob" stands for). It was work that was on my mind that afternoon, rather than driving, which resulted in slowing too late in the snow, forcing me to brake too hard, thereby narrowly avoiding a crash under a tree for Christmas.

It is not uncommon to be “snowed under” at work this time of year, as every client seems to need their particular matter finished before Christmas, or at least by New Year's. Often the inability to shovel out from under the avalanche of assignments leaves me exhausted and with limited ability to enjoy and celebrate the Christmas season, as I would like. This year is no exception, with too many late nights and early mornings. Now I am not really complaining; being blessed with wonderful clients who trust me, and actually pay me to help them solve their problems is nothing to grouse about. But some days it seems more difficult to manage the "snow" like I used to.

Just as in my recent “cars on ice follies” incident, I need to learn to slow down. Believe me, when it comes to work, it is not easy. I feel like a sled dog that enthusiastically steps into the harness, ready to run the race, even if it is the Iditarod. To slow down, resist the “harness”, somehow feels like I am giving in to the disease, as if I was snowbound. Of course, it is not so much resignation, as recognition of reality. Parkinson's disease, like aging, does slow you down. A realist acknowledges that fact. Resisting it may be laudable, but it also may be foolish. There is a delicate balance between enjoying the snow and ignoring its dangers, thereby risking serious harm to self and others.

So I have decided that, in driving and living, I need to learn to slow down a little. But let me be clear, even if I propose to think twice about overdriving my snow-skills, I will not be giving up the occasional snow doughnut in a deserted parking lot.


  1. Thanks for sharing Bob. I wanted to let you know that people are reading....Rozann

  2. Wow sounds scary. Those close calls in the winter are not soon forgotten. Unfortunatly those aweful memories tend to be stored in the back of our minds and we find ourselves doing them again and again. Sloooooooow down, But in a good way!