Some People Just Cannot be Helped

Getting ready to make the left turn into our industrial park this morning, I find that the snow berm in the middle of the road is much too large to try to hop overt, even with a large 4 x 4, so I have to continue on, find a place to turn around and come back from the opposite direction.  In so doing I come across a guy in a sedan with a handicapped tag in his window, and he’s hopelessly stuck in the cold, loose snow, with ice under it, at the edge of the road.

It turned out he’s driving for the handicapped person, and he’s a young, healthy guy.  First problem; get a shovel and learn how to use it, Dude. Second Problem; he’s running street tires– great in the South on a hot, dry day, but worthless here in the winter.

I ask him; “Do you have a tow hook on this thing?  I have a tow strap and I can pull you right out.”

Third problem; “I don’t know” he says, so I crawl down in the snow to look for one.  Fourth Problem; his rig has a stupid f-ing air dam.  It acts as a plow blade, working against his forward progress in the snow.  Fifth problem; no tow hook– everything under the front end is plastic. So I tell him to back up some distance, get a run at it, and try to get up enough momentum to crash through the deep stuff and onto the road.

Sixth problem; I have to alert him to the fact that there’s a car coming on the road, and so wait a second, Skippy.  We make a couple of tries at it, and it becomes obvious that he’s never done this before.  “Stay in your old tracks each time and you’ll be able to get up more speed” I tell him.

“I can’t see my tracks.”  Oh boy.  He’s for sure never done this before.  Ever heard of hanging your noggin out the window so you CAN see, if that’s what it takes?  He keeps closing his window so I can’t communicate with him.

“Do you have tire chains?”

“Yeah, but they’re on so-and-so’s car over there…”  Oh boy…

Then; “Thaaaanks!” comes the voice from the passenger seat.  I’m in the middle of trying to explain how easy it would be, still and all, to get them out and on their way, and again; “Thaaanks!”

OK then.  You’re welcome.  Bye.

Not to brag, since it isn’t bragging if it’s true, but I’ve been in a freaking sedan in the freaking mountains on a freaking logging trail, with more snow than this.  We used to do that sort of thing just for fun, because that was the sort of thing kids did– you go out and see just how far you can push it, then you go a little more, get stuck, and figure out how to get un-stuck and back 15 miles down the trail to a plowed road.  In the dark.  It made for some great adventures.  So yeah; I know how to get this guy out, for a fact, even though he’s made no effort, and no pre-planning on his part.

The conditions are dangerous right here and now, but it’s still what I call Karmann-Ghia weather.  A friend once had one of those rigs, and he’d drive that thing no matter what, because it was all he had.  He made it work.  If you can get around in a Karmann-Ghia with some modicum of planning and experience and some willingness to work a little when it’s required, I figure the roads are fine, they don’t need plowed, and there’s just no excuse.

But as it often happens, the most knowledgeable and capable person present is the very one you endeavor to ignore or actively try to get rid of.

15 thoughts on “Some People Just Cannot be Helped

  1. I require anyone that wants to be helped to do the dirty work. I’ll throw them the end of a tow strap, but they get to figure out where to attach it. If I have to do anything more than gently reverse, it isn’t happening.

  2. Stupid question: would installing a tow hook require a trailer hitch? Also, how do you even use a tow strap without a tow hook pre-installed?

  3. I’m driving a pickup, S. Squirrel. Pickups have steel bumpers, but yes; I have a tow package on it too, so I just throw the loop (that’s on one end of the strap) over the trailer ball. 1, 2, go, and don’t run into my ass end when I stop, ’cause the trailer hitch will go right through your grill and ruin your day. I’ve pulled several people out of bad spots, once while a cop stood there and twiddled his thumbs like the idiot he was, but this guy today couldn’t allow himself to be helped. I don’t know if he ever got out, if he had to call a tow truck, or if he finally figured out how to use a fuckin’ shovel.

  4. I’ve met people like that. I suspect the derision in my tone that implies “dude, are you *really* that stupid?” while the words are “yah, you could do that” was what made them realize that they’d rather be stuck and in trouble than helped but embarrassed. The fear they had of having their man-card revoked, or at least checked, was too much for them. Their loss, fools. They should realize that embarrassment is sometimes the only lever that can force someone to confront their own foolish decisions and inadequacies, and take corrective action.

  5. Rolf; That is a good point. I don’t have a read on this one though. I thought I was being polite and cheerful (altogether unlike this post). I figure one or both of them were afraid of my freaky looks, combined with having no experience with the normal behavior of people around here– if someone is stuck, you stop and help them. That’s just how it is. You could have a tow rig all set up, several people helping and everything under control, and nearly everyone who drives by will still ask if you need help. People are eager to get you out, if for no other reason than to prove they can. That and they’ve probably been helped out a few times themselves. My best WAG is, these people weren’t aware of that rule and got spooked.

  6. Karmann-Ghia weather doesn’t have to be that nice. With their light weight and engine over the driving wheels they actually were very capable in snow if they had decent tires. They would go a lot farther than the standard rear wheel drive sedan of the 60’s and 70’s.

    But what you describe is a person, all to common today, who has done little in life other than organized, structured and safe activities. Teenagers no longer get stuck in fields or up mountain roads because they would be charged with trespassing or fined for environmental damage if they did. They no longer go out and walk along or jump across streams, drainage ditches, or swamps just to see if they could because parents freak out that they might get a scrape, west nile or Lymes disease. it is through such unstructured activities that people learn to be resourceful, inventive and solve problems. As well as learn a little self sufficiency.

  7. My car is all plastic up front, but there is a little piece you can remove & there is an eye bolt in the bag with the lug wrench. You pop off the little plastic piece, stick the eye bolt in there, find the threads, and tighten it up–voila, somewhere to tie a towing strap! I’d be willing to bet he’s got some similar kind of setup–in which case it’s a matter of RTFM, which is always about the 1st thing I do when I buy a car. You never know when you might need that (so far, so lucky).

    I also attempted (as a pedestrian) to help push some dude up Stadium Way once, but his tyres were so bald that there was no way he could get more than about 6 inches from where he was. No chains, of course. The best we could do was get him sort of over to the right & tell him to get new rubber and chains, at a minimum.

  8. Indeed, some cars will have a tie down point especially if they were built overseas and shipped here.

  9. Lyle,

    Thanks for trying to help the “people” out. I hope you’re around if I ever need it. Been kinda nasty, but not too bad for a 4×4.

    I’ve got 4 chains, two shovels, sleeping bag, coats, water, axe, jump box, and maybe a gun or two in my rig.


    Stadium way is especially bad due to all the folks who don’t think snow/ice changes the driving situation. At all.

  10. Lyle:

    Growing up here in Minnesnowta we used to learn how to drive on snow or ice by going out onto a lake in January or February and “playing”. We didn’t actually realize at the time that we were learning how to find the point at which the rear end would break free in a turn, or how to recover from a skid without spinning out, we were having fun. The unfortunate fact is that most parents don’t let their kids play with the cars out on the ice anymore, and so they don’t develop the feel necessary for driving on ice- or snow-slicked roads.

    Heck, I rarely see people in empty snow-filled parking lots teaching their kids how to recover from a skid. That’s where my Dad taught us; he’d wait until we had a good dump of snow on a weekend and find an empty, unplowed lot and set up courses. We’d go through it at increasing speeds, until we lost traction, and then see how well we’d recover.

    Yet another problem is the prevalence of front-wheel-drive cars, which require completely different recoveries than the old rear-wheel-drive cars with which I grew up. And now AWD and 4WD is available to everyone who wants one, and people seem to think that the ability to get GOING directly translates to abilities to turn or stop.

    As for getting stuck, both my wife’s car and my truck have scoop shovels packed away. They’re big, but don’t actually occupy much volume. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled over to help shovel somebody else out of a plow-turd or snowbank that didn’t have a shovel.

    P.S.: IMHO, the best snow tire (“tyres”) on the planet are made by Nokian, a Finnish company (not to be confused with the cell-phone maker). The “Hakaapelita” (“ice-chopper”) is a low-temperature-only dedicated snow tire, and can be had studded (if that’s legal, which it isn’t here in Minnesnowta). They also make the worlds best all-season radial (I think it’s the “WMR” or some such). We put those on my wife’s little Ford Escort, and it was like driving a totally different vehicle. I could get through ANYTHING with those tires on. Which can get you into trouble when you rip out the brake lines going over and through a 2-foot-high frozen plow-turd at the end of an alley…

  11. Ghia, nah, super beetle and a 411 fan here, we used to go all over the place on Vancouver Island in the winter in those things, they work well if you know what you’re doing.

  12. >But as it often happens, the most knowledgeable and capable person present is the very one you endeavor to ignore or actively try to get rid of.

    Or as I’m fond of saying, “The squeaky oil gets the wheel.”

  13. I’m always astonished at people who just freeze up and don’t do anything in situations like that but sit on the side of the road.

    I would like to point out again, however, that living anyplace where snow regularly collects on the ground is collective insanity. Might as well live on one of those island where you are constantly dodging lava.

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