80-Ding, Fries Are Done!

Okay, one brief aside before I get to the real article. Have you ever thought, “Hey, this is a fun site. I’d like to do something for them, as long as it didn’t cost me anything!” Well guess what? Now you can!

Lena entered an art contest the other day to draw a cute baby alien for a toy company. There are a couple of cash prizes and if you’re picked they make a toy out of your illustration. It’s driven by votes and I would consider it a personal favor to me if you guys would go take a look, decide which is best, and then vote for Lena’s entry. Here is thewebsite, and here is a picture of the baby.

Thanks in advance.

Let’s see, it was almost the Christmas of 2000, and we were driving out to Arkansas to visit Lena’s dad for the holidays. We stopped for the night in Tupelo, and woke up around five in the morning, decided “What the hell?” and got back on the road. At 5:00 A.M. in the middle of winter the sky was still pitch-black, and we thought to get a jump on the seasonal traffic. Just leaving town we came almost immediately to a standstill as a line of cars slowly rounded the sprawled form of an overturned semi laying across the road. There was a light rain.

Now, I am from Florida. I am used to rain. It rains all the damn time here, and people almost don’t even see it anymore. If you get wet, the cool-off is usually a welcome relief, and driving is more or less unaffected.

After the semi, things speeded back up, and soon Lena and I were starting to get hungry. We stopped at a Waffle House (there being no IHOP) and breakfasted. While there the other customers were complaining bitterly about the weather outside and we began to pick up that Something Bad was on the way. Not New Coke bad, but something Stephen Kingishly bad that would send any sensible person packing back to Florida. We acknowledged that we had seen an overturned semi and that it had been a little creepy in the dark, but we were used to dealing with hurricanes and besides, our destination was only four hours away at the outside.

Once back in the car Lena turned on the radio and tried to find a radio station to give us some idea of what was going on. It was lighter outside, but only by the amount that makes people think they can see when they really can’t. As we made our way back to the highway, I noticed a large four-door on the other side of the road whose car was traveling the wrong way. It was pointed forwards, but it’s trajectory was headed straight into mine. I took my foot off the gas and tapped the brake, not wanting to get rear-ended either, and watched the four-door slide across his lanes, the median, and our lanes to land unceremoniously in a ditch on our side of the road.

About this time Lena found the radio station that was reporting that Memphis was off. The whole city. The government was urging all non-emergency personnel to stay indoors, do not go to work, do not do any last-minute Christmas shopping, just stay the hell put. Also they were asking anyone who thought they might want to head into Memphis not to. Go away, nobody home. Somebody said something about Black Ice.

Now us Florida boys don’t know nuthin’ ’bout no black ice. Ice isn’t black unless it’s dirty and the only ice associated with weather here is hail— which is white. And if it’s raining, it isn’t hailing! So what’s the problem?

The problem is something people in Florida never have to consider. Freezing Rain. I myself had never even heard of it before, thinking that rain somehow automatically turned into snow when the temperature went below freezing. I could not have been more wrong.

300,000 residents of Arkansas lost power during this storm. Clinton declared huge areas to be National Disaster Areas. Phones and water outages were common as well. It was the worst ice storm on record since 1819, one hundred eighty one years earlier.

And we were driving right into it.

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