Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pulling Belladonna out of a ditch

Today's excitement involved pulling Belladonna out of a ditch.

Mid-Michigan was under a travel advisory.  Our weather went from snow-to-sleet-to-freezing rain-to-rain.  And then it through all of those steps in reverse as the temperatures dropped.

Belladonna went into work to pick up her pay check. She ran into some slush in the road on the way back, did two 360s and planted the back end of the Malibu into the ditch.  She ended up 90 degrees to the road with the nose of the car even with the verge of the ditch.  Belladonna is physically fine even if her ego is bruised.  She fancied herself a careful and skillful driver.

Pulling her out of the ditch was a minor engineering problem, well within the capability of a species that erected Stone Hedge.  I have ample experience in retrieving vehicles.  Belladonna is my third child to learn about winter driving.

She said that she was not talking or texting on her phone.  She was not fiddling with the radio nor was she messing with the HVAC controls.

She was simply driving too fast for the road conditions.

As long as she could keep two of her tires on pavement....even if it was wet pavement, she was fine.  She was marginally stable when all four tires were riding on slush.  But it only took an infinitesimally small perturbation to fling her across two lanes of traffic and into the ditch.  The latent chaos and kinetic energy found a short-circuit to redirect themselves along.  It was not the direction of Belladonna's choosing.

Of course she claims that there was no prior indication that something bad was going to happen.  She can point to no evidence that suggested that she could not drive that fast.  

Those of us with scar tissue and bruises know that she is approaching the problem from the wrong direction.  There was, in fact, no evidence that she could safely drive as fast as she wanted to drive. And there was evidence that she was driving too fast if only she had the experience to interpret that evidence.

Experienced drivers know when things are getting squirrelly by the soggy response of steering inputs. We know by that "floaty" feeling that is hard to describe in words.  We slow down.

The Economy

Charles Hugh Smith has a tightly written little essay discussing the fragility of the US economic situation.  By his reckoning we have one tire on pavement, a diversified economy.  The other tires are skating atop ridges of slush...
  • Intrusive, centralized government
  • Excessive debt
  • Lack of a politically viable "loyal opposition"
  • Recent experience in battening down the hatches and riding out the storms.

I think many of us have noticed the soggy response to steering inputs and the "floaty" feel facts.  Alas, our feet are not on the gas pedal.  The best we can do as individuals is to preserve our ass(et)s by way of prudent allocation of our investments in our families, our finances, our skills, our privacy and our character.

Like Belladonna, we do not know what tiny event will organize all of the accumulating chaos and energy and hurl us into the ditch.  Belladonna passed Windsor Hwy without mishap.  She passed Bridge Street, Vermontville Hwy and Rossman Hwy.  The road was covered with an abundance of slush.  A little bit south of Willard Fox's farm there was a ridge of slush with her name on it.

God was good.  There was no oncoming traffic.  She was wearing her seat belt.

I hope we do as well if/when a critical mass of people recognize the irreconcilable difference between our collective expectations and the mathematical realities.

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