Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter Weather Advisory

I was one of the Christmas travelers that braved the wintry weather last Tuesday to try and make it to a family holiday gathering. If weather is a factor I will usually put off traveling, but in this case we had a winter weather advisory in place with a winter weather warning issued for the following day.

With city streets snow-covered and slippery I didn’t hold out much hope for Highway 41. The butterflies got going in my stomach and pretty much remained with me through my 4-½ hour trip. The forecast the previous evening gave me the impression that the further north I traveled the better the conditions would be. Well they were wrong.

During the trip I saw at least 50 cars in the ditches along Highway 41 on both the north and southbound sides. I tried to imagine how fast they were going and whether they literally flew off the road. Some were freshly off the road because I could see people still in them. Sixty-five is the speed limit on Highway 41, but I rarely approached that as cars and trucks creeped along around 50 miles and hour and some times closer to 20 depending on whether law enforcement officials were responding to a traffic accident.

Probably the worst was just north of Green Bay. There was a six to ten car pileup on the southbound side of the highway. It was tough to make out how many cars and trucks were involved because I was trying to keep an eye on my side of the road. However I did make out a couple of ambulances and at least six squad cars. Further north traffic was diverted off the southbound lanes. I hope no one was seriously injured, but some of the cars looked pretty bad.

Conditions didn’t improve much as I moved through the southern portion of the U.P. I slowed down as semis approached in the opposite lane because they were throwing up so much blowing snow that it was difficult to see in their wake. Eventually I got behind a utility truck with a cherry picker on the back of it. When it got several car lengths ahead of me I could only see its taillights glowing. It kept me company for about 25 miles to the outskirts of my hometown.

When I arrived at my Mom’s home I looked over my car. The back end was coated with snow and there was no way you could see the license plate on back. Had I gone into the ditch it would have been difficult to figure out whom the car belonged to from a distance. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. I had to battle through bad conditions on my way back to Fond du Lac several days later too. A winter weather advisory was issued that morning as well. Some of the cars I saw in the ditch on my way to the U.P. were still there. That’s not much of a Christmas gift for those unfortunate souls.

For New Year’s the longest trip I plan is to my refrigerator. Happy New Year’s!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Naughty and Nice

I don’t envy Santa’s job of deciding who should go on the naughty list and who should go on the nice list. That’s got to be a tough job. For instance the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush? Which list would you place him on? Although the President laughed it off, some people in this world would put that guy on the nice list. Probably not the U.S. Secret Service.

Test yourself with the following examples. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? His foul-mouthed wife? Big Three automakers executives who went to Washington in their corporate jets during their first request for a bailout? Big Oil company executives? Okay so those are probably clear-cut naughty list entrants.

Every situation also has to be scrutinized. Let’s ponder the Brett Favre retirement saga from earlier this year. Should Packer officials have been placed on the naughty list for not allowing him to return to the team? What about Favre himself?

Locally there were a few fine lines this year as well. Bars and restaurants in Fond du Lac who have to deal with a smoking ban at the end of next month probably would like to put City Council members on their naughty list, but health advocates would probably place those same Council members on their nice list. People would also probably be split on the Council not allowing a question about fluoride in the City’s drinking water to go to a referendum question.

Some decisions aren’t as tough. Anyone who provided some assistance or help to their neighbors in the wake of June flooding would go on my nice list. Any group, organization or individual that has helped out the needy during the downturn in the economy makes the list. Any employer who has struggled, but made sacrifices to keep workers on makes my nice list.

The nice thing is the redemption factor. Even though someone made the naughty list this year, they can redeem themselves next year. That’s the nice thing about the naughty and nice lists; they aren’t permanent. Hopefully you’ll end up on someone’s nice list this year. You’ve already made mine for reading this blog. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Black Friday

I’ve never really partaken in “Black Friday” practices before, but this year was an exception. I arrived at one of the big retailers early, shortly after 6 a.m. I wasn’t one of those who waited in line. The store was giving away a little memento to the first 500 shoppers. Apparently there were plenty of people ahead of me.

One thing I did find out is that most shoppers have a plan. They scout out their aisles knowing full well what they are looking for and where to find it. My game plan was incomplete. I was only looking for a few items and had no idea where in the store they were going to be. Fortunately they were still there and a few of them were actually on sale.

I could say that one store was my limit. Well practically after that brief shopping experience we went to Schreiner’s Restaurant. My mom was visiting from the U.P. and I wanted to take her to one of Fond du Lac’s traditional eateries. The place was packed. There was a mix of regular patrons, hunters, and shoppers. Two women sitting a booth down had Christmas attire on. Reindeer caps and t-shirts that proclaimed they were, excuse the expression, “Christmas Hos.” You get the drift.

We eavesdropped on a few conversations. One older gentleman was telling someone it was the only place he could go to get away from his wife of 52 years and enjoy himself. Another talked about the joy of finishing up chemotherapy. God Bless them. The food was good, but the drifting conversations were better.

Afterwards we hit a grocery store for some odd and ends we neglected to pick up earlier in the week. Then it was off to home. We watched a few Christmas programs, wrapped some gifts, and I even managed to fill out some Christmas cards.

“Black Friday” wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be. Then again I wasn’t camped out in line at 3 or 4 a.m. To those victors go the spoils or rather early bargains.