Monday January 28, 2013
SAMBAL ON THE SIDE
By BRENDA BENEDICT
THREE layers of thick clothing (including ski underwear) – check. Woollen socks – check. Thick gloves – check. Mini torch – check. Blanket – check. Hot green tea in thermos flask – check. Large tube of Smarties – check. Kitty litter – check.
I’m sure the last item caught your attention and I will address it shortly.
In case you were wondering, we’re not taking a weekend road trip somewhere. These are but some of the standard items that I either have on my person or with me when I drive out to get groceries or run other errands whenever Germany falls victim to heavy snowfall.
I guess, once (frost)bitten, twice shy. One evening three winters ago, I made the cardinal error of driving out in my track bottoms, a hoodie and a jacket to pick up my husband from the train station. I had foolishly assumed that it would be the standard 30-minute door-to-door drive that I had by then grown accustomed to.
Besides, I reckoned, the car is heated with the added bonus of seat heating. It was a matter of nipping out and back. Well, there was nipping in store for me all right – of the nose and all regions improperly insulated against the cold.
I didn’t factor in the heavy snowfall, the slippery roads and most importantly, drivers who overlook the fact that stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow. As luck would have it, on our way back from the station, someone who had braked suddenly – and you never brake suddenly on icy roads – ploughed right into our rear bumper.
Given the extent of the damage, we had to call the police but given the extreme weather, we had to wait 45 minutes for them. By the time they came, took statements and pictures and ironed out insurance details, my teeth were chattering non-stop and my body was as ramrod stiff as an ais Malaysia. Not surprisingly, we nursed nasty colds thereafter.
It was a cold, hard lesson that drove me to research tips on avoiding getting frozen when inadvertently caught in the cold outdoors. There are, of course, the standard measures like leaving home at least 10 minutes earlier than usual. My advice would be to do some light arm exercises while walking to your car because you may have a tough snow scraping and de-icing job ahead of you.
I also stock a separate set of snow scraper and brush, de-icing spray and anti-freeze at home because sometimes, your boot and car doors may be frozen shut, thus leaving you helplessly trying to heave them open to get to the scrapers and de-icers inside. Pouring hot water over the frozen bits won’t help either because it can crack the glass, or worse still, freeze again on your windscreen or on the ground where you are standing, making it slippery.
It goes without saying that your car has to be fully serviced and weather-ready and that you should be an extremely cautious, defensive driver.
As for the McGyver-like list that I mentioned earlier, other helpful items to pack are a fully- charged mobile phone, first-aid kit, tow rope, warm coat and boots, jump leads (when car batteries die on you), snow shovel, warning triangle, an old sack or rug and the aforementioned kitty litter.
The latter two items were initially eye-openers when I gleaned these helpful snow-proofing tips from a BBC article that quoted the Automobile Association. Apparently, they come in handy if your car gets snowed in or stuck. The trick is to place the sack or rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Ditto the kitty litter that has the same effect as the standard grit or salt that is strewn on major roads and highways after heavy snowfall to give cars traction. I’ve thankfully not had to resort to this yet.
Finally, I assume the Smarties and green tea are pretty self-explanatory – the former to calm frazzled nerves when stranded somewhere; the latter to assuage the guilt for scoffing the former.
Meanwhile, I continue to make like an Emperor Penguin and waddle cautiously on pavements and roads as I try to avoid driving too much and rely more on public transportation.
Given how ridiculously clumsy I already look under the numerous layers I have on, perhaps I should consider strapping on a little pillow onto my back.
That way, it would cushion any fall and thus prevent a drive to the physiotherapist’s.
■ Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in currently snowy Frankfurt. She’d rather be able to skate on ice than drive on it.