Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
Last Thursday evening, within a nanosecond, three thoughts entered my mind:
1. An expletive that should not be repeated in a family newspaper;
2. One of the few pieces of driving advice I’ve ever received; and
3. At least I have an idea for my column this week.
It had been a good day. Charlotte and I had driven my Mom to Pearson Airport to catch her flight to visit my Atlanta-based brother and nephew, and then enjoyed an afternoon of shopping. Other than the usual aggressive drivers and rush-hour traffic on the 401, driving had been a breeze. Seeing as Charlotte was starting to get cranky as we cruised along the Tavistock Road, I decided to take the Avonton Road instead of No. 7 home so I could get her into bed a little quicker.
I was accelerating onto Line 26 when suddenly — is there any other way? — the wheels of Mom’s SUV caught a patch of ice and I lost control. Hence the expletive. I felt the vehicle whirl to the left and I realized we were going to flip into the ditch unless I did something radical.
Then came that piece of advice: look in the direction you want to go. It’s so obvious that I’m sure my husband said it. I craned my neck as far right as possible, hoping we’d get back on the road, in the right direction. And we did, for my front end soon plowed into the snow-filled ditch on the opposite side of the road. My airbag didn’t go off. Charlotte, secure in her car seat, was more surprised than anything.
Then the third thought arose, with a follow-up: Boy, I’m glad I wasn’t too sanctimonious in last week’s column (I think?). Last week’s diatribe on winter driving originally featured an elaborate retelling on what would be my first run-in with winter driving: a spinout on a thankfully deserted Highway 7 in our old Grand Marquis, an impractical cruise ship of a sedan if there ever was one. Alone in a slowly spinning car, I seemed to have time to accept death and make peace with my Maker before somehow pulling that car back onto the road.
This time was different. There was no time to think, and ultimately, I had to protect my most precious cargo. After checking Charlotte over, I turned on my hazard lights and called Andrew. Our number went directly to his cellphone voicemail: he was unavailable. Calling 911 seemed extreme, so I tried Andrew’s parents, the only people I knew with a CAA membership.
As I was shakily speaking to my father-in-law, a new thought popped up: Thank God for good Samaritans. First, a young man pulled up, after seeing my hazards from the highway, offering a ride to Stratford, all he could reasonably do. Then, as I was finally talking to Andrew, two cars pulled up and began hooking up chains to my fender without my asking.
Brittany and Chris were on their way to Woodstock from Goderich, and Justin Clark, originates from Woodham but now lives in Toronto. Justin got behind my wheel when I couldn’t follow directions from Chris on how to back out of the ditch in sync with his truck. Brittany and Chris said it “just wasn’t right” to drive past a mother and child on a winter’s night, even though they still had an hour’s drive ahead of them. I had nothing to offer in gratitude: the change in my wallet, perhaps, or my young niece’s birthday present. Everyone quickly went on their way after pulling me out.
Last week, I mentioned that there are no such things as car “accidents” — someone has usually done something wrong to cause the collision. In my case, I was probably accelerating too quickly to notice that the road conditions had changed. Three closing thoughts:
1. It wasn’t an accident that I was so kindly treated. There’s nothing like a few hours in Toronto to make one crave how polite small town people are;
2. These folks had nothing to gain by helping me, and didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but they stopped anyway; and
3. We all need to remember their unselfish example when we go about our daily existence.
This recipe is as sweet as the people who helped me. Condensed milk is a guilty pleasure in coffee and a building block of many desserts. Enjoy!
Homemade condensed milk
1 cup instant skim milk powder
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup boiling water
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Cover and blend until very smooth. If condensed milk is too thick, add more hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Best used within five days. Makes one cup.