Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow in Flanders...

There's two things I like about snow in Flanders. First: Landscapes turning white. Ideal for shooting cool pics. Second: Traffic cameras get snowed up and put out of service. Problem is, roads get pretty icy too, and you'd be suicidal if you accelerated at speeds above camera thresholds. Like you coulda... in the last two days we saw more than 600 miles of traffic jams. And we only had 2 to 4 inches of snow... not the feet(s) thick snow beds they are used in northern US and Canada. Chicken-shit snow, to tell the truth, but enough to take the miserable and out of control motorway system of ours down the loo. The entire belt highway around Brussels was closed down for hours today (true story), not because there was any blizzard or snow storm, no sir, it's been sunshine all day, but someone forgot to pass a message to someone else that the de-icing service had to take an extra round on the northern belt as thick ice was forming. Eventually the motorway had to close down and get fixed. Workers struggled to get to their workplace all morning. God bless Nokia and RIM and Apple and all the rest for making mobile comms available even to the poorest of men. At least some drivers could use the time to do some 'mobile office work'!

I was 'fortunate' to taste the first messy day of the last two snow days real good... that was yesterday. I had to teach class in the campus at the center of Antwerp and had to travel about 50 miles of snowed and icy motorways. The entire segment between Gent and Antwerp was packed in all three lanes... by trucks and lorries on the two rightmost, and regular passenger cars on the fast lane. Took me an hour an a half to do 40 miles. Pretty fast, innit? Anyways, most fellow drivers behaved rather disciplined and the asphalt was somewhat de-iced, meaning we got away without any incidents.

Believe it or not, my worst nightmare came later when I entered Antwerp. De-icing is an entry you can't find in a Antwerpian dictionary. My vehicle was slipping and swaying from side to side all the way to the parking... it moved right with my steering wheel turned all the way to the left, it kept going with my brakes all the way down. I kept rather cool but if I stayed much longer in the car I felt I was about to lose my temper BIG TIME! It was a miracle I didn't get any damage to the car itself and haven't run over any pedestrians. After parking the car (finally) at the campus parking I thought seriously for a moment to book a room and spend the night in town. Just couldn't bear the idea to drive back home after my teaching was over. Thank Moses, it eventually stopped snowing and with some faint mood I managed to drive back to the motorway. Good news there, all lanes seemed mostly free and dry and I was able to get home by 8:30 pm. God bless!

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