Snow Day! Well, we have about an inch but the way the Dutch roads have ground to a halt makes you think we had at least six feet. Driving into The Hague this morning was easy – driving out after four hours of continual snow was not.
The roads which had been clear and relatively fast-moving at rush hour had turned into skid pans. By the time I got back to the car, I was amazed there wasn’t a parking ticket flapping under my windscreen wiper. Not that I would have seen it as the windscreen was, of course, buried under snow. It had covered the parking tag, technically violating the ‘parking ticket must be visible at all times’ rule.
I brushed dry powdery snow off all the windows, climbed in the driving seat and started preparations for pre-ignition countdown. Front and rear wipers working – check. Front and rear window heaters, there were buttons somewhere I knew there were, but the instruction manual was in the trunk/boot… okay, found them – check. Heated seat button, essential for comfort, well-being and sanity of driver – check.
A flask of hot tea would have been nice, but I only had 6 km to travel. I realised that might take some time as I’d been sat in the car for ten minutes and still hadn’t started the engine.
My parking time had expired, I needed to get moving. I saw a traffic warden approaching. Not that he seemed worried about me, he was too busy moving from lamp post to trash can to anything he could grab hold of to keep his balance. I have to admit to a frisson of pleasure at his discomfort. Mean, I know, but I have been on the receiving end of a traffic warden’s wrath and it was a humiliating experience.
Right. Ignition sequence. The car burst into life, Houston would have been proud. I manoeuvred into the traffic, never easy in The Hague with so much going on in a relatively confined space. The bikes for one thing – it was way too dangerous being out in that weather in a car, let alone on a bike. Do the dutch have a death wish? They were all over the place, ignoring the bike lanes and weaving and wobbling everywhere.
And was it necessary for the elderly Dutch to take their Zimmer frames out in conditions like that?
Mirror, signal, manoeuvre, there were no loud bangs, crunches or screamed obscenities (amazingly dutch curse words are very similar to english ones – too much foreign TV) launch sequence was succesful. We had lift off.
Unfortunately, I had not pulled out fast enough for White Van Man who was screeching up behind me. I swear he had not been there thirty seconds before. For a moment I wondered if his trajectory was intentional or whether his ABS had failed, resulting in a sideways skid. Sorry, not my problem. As long as he didn’t careen into the back of me of course.
It dawned on me I could override the automatic gearbox and put it into manual, giving me better control of the car, and debated whether the centre of The Hague, in snow, was the best time to initiate the changeover.
Thinking this through I navigated a traffic circle at a bizarre angle. I was trying to figure out how the roads were frozen and slushy at the same time. It was -5°C (21°F) outside. I checked the wing mirror and my eye caught the glint of a switch to the south-west of the steering column marked ‘snow’.
I had no clue what it was for but it looked interesting and rather seasonal.
The car was going up a slight incline and there was no traffic around. The snow was deeper here, perhaps because of the higher altitude, so I went for it and pressed the ‘snow’ button.
Sheer, sheer bliss. I. Was. In. Heaven. It was an adrenalin rush of pure pleasure. A heady mix of fear and excitement. Okay, so this was a side road in The Hague and I was actually only doing 40mph, but I felt like Toad in his new sports car.
Heading into Wassenaar the roads were worse and it was wonderful to steam along the empty frozen tracks of what had been busy thoroughfares only a few hours before. The car felt more like a John Deere than a car, but who cares, it was fun. Bring on more snow, I’m sooo ready and the forecast for tonight is looking good…