Monday, January 19, 2015

Slip Slidin' Away

Did you see televised footage of cars and trucks skidding on icy roadways across the country Sunday? It was further validation of the reason Gilda and I chose not to live in one of the river towns of Westchester when we moved here 37 years ago and a reminder of one of my scariest moments driving a car.

During the winter of 1973 I was a reporter for The New Haven Register. My beat covered the suburban towns of Seymour and Derby, Conn., two communities along the Naugatuck River, separated by the larger but still small city of Ansonia. Municipal boards met at night, after which I would drive about 15 minutes to the Register’s bureau office in Ansonia, type my story and transmit it before midnight by Scan-a-tron to copy editors in New Haven. 

After a city council meeting in Derby ended around 10 one wintry, freezing-rain night, I headed my usual way to the office. It was a switchback route, each leg of the trip descending deeper to the bridge on Division Street, the link to Ansonia. But when I made a right turn down one sloped road I quickly noticed cars lined up not parallel to the street but rather perpendicular to it. In fact, three were wedged across the width of the entire street, each about 15 feet above the other. 

Immediately after hitting the brake, my Buick Skylark started slip-slidin’ away on the ice. Seconds later it, too, was perpendicular to the road, coasting sideways downhill. Amazingly, the car came to rest snugly secure between two parked cars. Not a scratch or dent suffered by any of the cars. I was not out of danger, however. 

Suspended midway down the street, I was the bulls-eye (did I mention the color of my car was red?) for the next vehicle that was bound for Ansonia. I didn’t have to wait too long. Once more I watched in amazement as that car as well skidded into a perfect fit between two parked cars some 15 feet above mine. 

The police finally arrived, though they could do nothing to free our cars until the freezing rain stopped overnight. They did get me home to Seymour. 

A few years later, after I started working in Manhattan and Gilda and I decided to move to Westchester, we looked at apartments in Hastings, Tarrytown, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, but the steep hills of those river towns reminded me of my night of terror. No way would I knowingly subject either of us to a similar escapade on icy, steep roads.