What I Learned from Black Ice

Black ice

This past Saturday evening, I made the mistake of venturing to a Christmas party. Not because I hate parties or people or Christmas, but because of what happened on the way there.

Bringing up Google Maps from my friend’s home, I observed an accident on the route it was taking us. Of course, I clicked on the alternate route and headed that way — a back road with winding turns I had driven before, so I wasn’t concerned. But I should have been.

About two miles down the road, at the beginnings of a long curve, the two cars in front of me started to slide, hitting each other. Then, I hit the ice. My Northern-Michigan-trained-for-slippery-roads self kicked in and I did what I could, managing to just sideswipe one of the cars before safely making it to the ditch.

For the next two hours, I was surrounded by a dozen cars that all had the same fate. Luckily, my car had little damage — although the estimate I got yesterday on the cost of fixing it says otherwise… yikes! That’s what I get for buying a yellow, sporty car.

But wandering from vehicle to vehicle, strangers came together to try and make something happen. When the police finally arrived, we managed to make it out past the slippery area of the road. I ended up watching a movie at my friend’s house, never making it to that Christmas party.

Why am I telling you about my woes? Well, it helps me process. And what better than a public platform to process on?

In all seriousness though, I think there are a couple lessons to take away from this incident:

  1. No matter how much I wish I had seen the black ice or gone a different way, I didn’t. I can’t change the past. What I can do is be thankful no one is hurt, that I have car insurance and move forward from there. Challenges, roadblocks and sometimes-impassable sections of life’s journey come our way. We can’t live in stages of regret, wishing for a different outcome. What we can do is determine our response and move forward from there.
  2. Teamwork really makes the dream work. From my friends who were in the car with me, to strangers I will never see again, to the cop who coordinated it all — it was a team effort to get our cars away from the dangerous section of road. We had to listen to one another and forgive each other for hitting our cars. We had to trust and communicate with each other, working for the greater good so we could all get out. It was sort of a beautiful picture of humanity I got to see, people coming together in a time of crisis — albeit how small the crisis actually was, it’s one of the first true ones I’ve been a part of. It makes me think about how I respond with my team when stressors hit or print week comes. Do I try and calmly resolve the problem? Or am I rude and bossy since I don’t have the fact I’ll be stuck in 20-degree weather all night motivating me? It makes me — and hopefully you — evaluate my responses amidst stress.

So, there you go. That was my adventure for the weekend. If you learned nothing else, then learn this — evaluate your risk, choose your route and go for it. Don’t regret what happens, except to learn from it and move on. You might be surprised what you take away.

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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