It is barely dawn in Holland Michigan and I am hauling my rolling suitcase out of a shabby but clean national chain hotel (no names but they have the chocolate chip cookies). My laptop is in a backpack slung over my shoulder and a giant, hideously overpriced purse hangs from the crook of my other arm.
The "aw shucks" news guy from the local station gave repeated warnings about "black ice" on this morning's early local news, entitled "Howdy Holland" or some such perky, folksy title. Black ice? It's 26 degrees out, not nearly cold enough to create a real black ice problem. Yet another reason this guy is on "Howdy Holland", or "Great Day In The Morning" or whatever the hell the show is called rather than the 6:00 news in a major market. On the plus side, (no pun intended) the local stations in Holland seem to allow female anchors and on-air reporters get older gracefully and put on a few pounds. In larger cities local news stations seem to believe that age and weight gain are afflictions that may only be tolerated in male employees.
I lug my case through the lobby and across the ice encrusted parking lot like a pack mule. I have had men tell me over the years, "I'd never let my wife travel all over alone like you do." This brand of sexism rarely extends to statements like, "can I help you with your bag?", or "let me get that door for you."
I've never bothered to really analyze any statement about how my work may make my role as wife, mother, partner, family member "non-traditional". I'm not sure if the man who makes such proclamations about the unsuitability of females traveling on business blames my husband for being too weak to keep me home, or me as loose, a bitch, just plain selfish, all of the above? Though never analyzed, my women friends and I have yucked it up over statements like this while enjoying a glass of wine. I know to many right- and left-coasters this type of statement seems so dated as to be nearly unthinkable. You've clearly never spent time in the middle-of-nowhere South Dakota.
But I have, thus my knowledge of "black ice" which isn't created by the drizzle currently falling on my head and has frozen shut the trunk of my while rental sedan. American of course, as this is Michigan and I have been scared off by stories of leaving a business meeting to find an overturned Nissan in the parking lot. I don't know if such things really happen any more but I am not taking any chances.
Black ice is apparently created when warm car exhaust (or any warmer air source) hits the cold roadways the type of which we experience most of January in my neck of the woods. The exhaust condenses and forms a nearly imperceptible layer of ice on the road catching the unwary off-guard and sending their SUVs into ditches.
I don't mean to pick on SUVs but it always seems to be SUVs and pick-up trucks that I see in the ditch on days such as this. Generally driven by men between the age of 25 and 40 who think their four-wheel drive vehicle makes them impervious to sliding off the road. And sure enough, the first vehicle I spot off the road is an enormous pick-up truck. The kind made by the formerly American-owned (no one is really sure owns this company now but I have heard rumors that they are owned by an Italian company. No names but the one that makes the horrible little boxy cars not the company that makes the cool sports cars) automaker that while the whole rest of the industry was experimenting with new fuel blends and electricity they focused on putting a "hemi" in everything they built. I'm not sure exactly what a "hemi" is but I think it can be used inter-changeably with "gas guzzling".
Anyhow what I do know for certain is that truck didn't go in the ditch because of black ice, it was plain ol' regular ice. Somebody may want to report this to the folks over at "Howdy Holland".