White Out

White Out

A Story by Chiquita
"

I was stuck in blizzard type conditions the other day. Here is a peek at what I experienced.

"

The snowflakes were becoming smaller.  What had been large heavy flakes falling in moderation became a fine snow falling with a vengeance.  My thoughts were on getting home before things became to bad.

A car was off the road going up a hill near the country market.  My eyes did not see any cause for it.  It seemed silly that the car would be off the road in the fashion that it was.  My inner voice chuckled at the idea of an inexperienced driver making a poor choice.  The scene was benign.  There did not seem to be any great drama unfolding.  There was no obvious damage to the car and I would be greatly surprised to learn that any one had been injured.  It was a sight that required nothing more than an oops. 

The road beneath my little girls tires were beginning to get slick.  My little orange dodge neon could handle it.  She was a virtual tank.  She was were the rubber hit the road and she could get-r-done. 

All that surrounded me was very familiar.  I knew the piece of road well.  I journeyed it regularly as it was the stretch of road between my house and my boyfriend’s home.   All at once that which was familiar to me disappeared.  Whiteness replaced it in my vision. 

I was still able to see that which was inside the car.  This was the only thing that spoke to me and said I had not gone completely blind.  Everything beyond which was visible inside the car was white.  I expected it to resolve in a mere moment but it did not.  

I had no sense of whether I was continuing in motion or if I sat still.  For an instant the sensation was divine.  Then fear spoke of reason.  If I did continue forward, I did not know where I was heading or where I would end up.  My eyes darted around in search of evidence of my motion’s status.  The speedometer read almost 15 miles an hour.   I was moving but had no sense of it.  This was a bizarre thing for my mind to grasp. 

My foot  found the brake pedal.  Upon stopping, I felt my body lurch vaguely forward and then rock back into place.  How strange was this occurrence.  I had never felt such a thing before.  The idea of being in movement without knowledge of it was intriguing.  My mind pondered this thing.  The implications of a reality that existed yet was not sensed  set my mind in motion.  How many other things existed in my space that I was completely unaware of? 

A fear touched me.  If I could see nothing, then there were others in the same situation.  Perhaps they too were unaware of whether they were in motion or at a stand still.  Visions of being struck by another vehicle made me nervous to be sitting still.  Again, my eyes darted about in search of input from my surroundings.   The dash board with its glowing lights of green and orange were clear to see.  Then there was a bright white that glowed from the reflection of my head lights  on the wall of the snow in front of me.  The white was more dim out the side windows.  I could vaguely make out the guardrail. 

My mind spoke to itself, “Maybe if I shut the lights off I will be able to see more.”.   Blackness replaced the bright white.  Then without thought and with a click of the light controls, the bright whiteness illuminated my space again. 

My eyes held fast to the guard rail that was a muted image out the passenger side window.  The car accelerated very slowly to a speed of twelve miles per hour.  My goal was to remain close to the rail without hitting it. 

The car crept along.   There, in front of me, was a set of head lights.   Though the lights were coming from out in  front of me, I caught them in my peripheral vision as my eyes were trained on the rail to my right.  The optical illusion was that I was to be broad sided.  Again, my mind sorted through data that conflicted with what I knew reality to be.  I found the entire thing strange.  I fought being consumed by the sorting of non congruent sensory data.  I needed to focus and not lose sight of the grand object of the task, to stay alive. 

My foot was gentle on the brake to maintain control of the vehicle.  Again there was a sense of my lurching to and fro with the cession of the cars movement.  I closed my eyes and gently shook my head to disrupt the incoming data somehow.  At the moment, two plus two was not adding up in my mind.  One deep inspiration followed by another steeled my nerves.  My eyes opened to catch the oncoming lights nearing and passing on my left side.  I glanced down to my torso to assure that I knew the direction in which my head faced.  This was a remarkable experience. 

Another deliberate and deep respiration, in through my nose and slowly out through pursed lips, was forced.  Then another and another.  There was no panic or fear present.  It was simply a moment of gathering very basic information from my environment and trying to orient myself to place. 

It occurred to me how dependent we are on vision.  In this case, not only was my vision impaired but it fed me information that did not seem to jive with what was expected from my environment.  At last, there was a settling of the facts and I seemed oriented to my position in the vehicle.  I did not know where on the road I was but I knew that I was sitting and facing forward.  My foot was firmly planted on the brake and the speedometer read zero.  I knew I was at a stop even thought the snow racing toward me gave me the illusion of moving forward at a rapid pace. 

Now I would turn my head to the right again and focus on the rail.  The car accelerated again slowly.  Twelve miles an hour.  Fourteen miles an hour.   Fourteen miles an hour was too fast.  Slow down.  There, a comfortable twelve miles an hour was obtained again.  It seemed like a long while that I had traveled with my eyes focused on the rail. 

In a moment my perception was topsy turvey again.  Suddenly, with knowledge that I was moving forward and watching the rail for guidance, my sense was that I was headed into the rail.  A shift in the wind had left he snow blowing straight in to the sight side of the car.  My perception was that I was headed straight toward the rail.  Instinct placed my foot on the brake.  Experience allowed for  a slow pressure to be applied to avoid a skid.  Again, I sat still on the road.  As far as I could see, I was alone.  Ten feet away could have stood little Bo Beep, Jesus the Christ, or the Grim Reaper.  What I saw was me alone in the whiteness. 

I spoke out loud to myself to tell myself the truth.  “I am on my way home from Michael’s.  I am not lost.  I have driven here a thousand times.  I am upright.  I am in my lane.  If I look to the right, I can see the outline of the rail.  It is only two feet away.  I am sitting still.  The speedometer says I am not moving.  It looks like I am moving because the snow is blowing.  Take a deep breath.  You are fine.  You were fooled by an optical illusion.  Now look for what is real and can be proven.”.  

“Put your foot on the gas but go slow.  Stay close to the rail.  That is how you will know you are still on the road and on your own side of the road.”. 

Time and physical distance were passing.  My eyes watched the rail and my voice spoke to me to keep me oriented. 

A brief letting up of the snow allowed me to look out the front window and make out some details that allowed me to know where I was.  It was odd in deed.  My vision told me I was headed up a hill that was fairly steep.  I had no sensation that I was headed up a hill.  I thought back.  I had not sensed going up or down any hills.   Having identified where I was at, I knew that I had been up and down hills and around corners.  My mind had only registered flat and straight passages of space.   I felt as though I had lost time.   I had no remembrance of traveling to the place that I had identified myself to be.  I did have memory of following the rail but it seemed separate from the journey that would have brought me to where I knew I was. 


The lights of the houses and businesses, that had allowed me to identify my location , were gone again.  Whiteness held me captive.  The guard rail was my navigator.  I traveled without sight of anything but the rail.  I knew in my mind that I was supposed to be going up and down hills.  I sought to feel when that would happen but felt nothing.  Slowly I crept.  An occasional set of head lights would appear as oncoming and pass me on my left.   

As I was nearing  home, the bright white surrounding me gave way to that which was familiar again.    I am left to ponder the idea that our reality is nothing more than our perceptions of that which is in our immediate environment.   Yet, reality is what it is regardless of how we perceive it.  In fact, went up and down hills and around corners with no perception of it.    The only reconciliation I can make of this is that there is reality.  Then there is our own personal reality which is just a perception of that which is real. 

© 2008 Chiquita


Author's Note

Chiquita
I think I want to make some changes to this but it is what it is for now. Tell me what you think.

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Reviews

Omigod,
What a captivting story. I was transfixed. Your philosophical insight made the story even more compelling. I've heard od white out, but I don't think I've actually encountered one. I've been blinded by snow, but not to this degree. Wow. Rain..

Posted 13 Years Ago


oh, wow! I can only imagine how incredible the experience must have been. . .

Posted 13 Years Ago


I lived in Florida and learn to drive in rain but snow was a whole different experience and I was scared. You took me on a journey with you and I was scared I'm glad you made it home safe! =)

Posted 13 Years Ago


I think there is an incredible surreal, creepiness to this...especially because I have myself experienced similar things while driving in snow. Well written. Believable, yet scary on a visceral level.

Posted 13 Years Ago


Wow, you always have a way of giving the reader the opportunity to take each journey with you. Having driven in such conditions myself over the last week, I completely sympathized with you. I love the way you described not only what was going on around you, but also the way you were thinking at the time. Great write. As well, Whew... glad you made it home safe!

Posted 13 Years Ago


I had read this days ago - when the snow and ice were playing havoc with my internet connection. wouldnt let me leave a review for nothing! I found this such a descriptive write - you've captured all those sensations or lack thereof amidst a white out perfectly. youve put the reader in your place , and dropped them there. leaving them to put along beside the guard rail in a world of white. very well done.

laura

Posted 13 Years Ago


Your first paragraph made me quote the American Indian line on snow: Big flake means little snow, small flakes means big snow. Well, so I paraphrased. But, for me, the intensity came in just as the little flakes did. They mean trouble. I'm glad this ended up without major incident, I was quite at the edge of my seat waiting for a tragedy. Thank God there was none. I like how you turned a piece about snow into a piece about life in general, and about the differences and ocassional parallels between reality and our sense of it. I do recall a happy time, when I was a young driver, and you'd get into your parked car after a storm and you were completely surrounded in white. It was like a fort, made me feel like I was hiding under the sheets. This story, though, is quite haunting in that it surely is an unnerving and extremely dangerous situation to be driving in. I've driven through some rain-outs, where you couldn't see an inch in front of you, but never a white out, yet. I can relate to the flakes flying at you making it appear you are moving at lightening speed....I am a bit of a hazard while driving in the snow...because I'm like a deer in the headlights, I just want to focus on all the incoming flakes hurling towards the windshield instead of the road my tires are cruising me on. So glad you made it home alive, no harm to the orange tank, and you learned a valuable life lesson to boot. Now what could be wrong with a story like that? Well, just a few minor typos here and there, nothing a quick read through can't fix. Good job. Love the guard rail.

Posted 13 Years Ago


You've certainly built up the danger and identified ways to deal with a real life driving hazard. I would re-read and change what doesn't sound right or makes you stop to check your self as your reading. There were a few sentences I thought could use some restructure but as for content I believe you've done an admirable job.

Thank you.

Dave

Posted 13 Years Ago


I too have found myself behind the wheel during sudden white out conditions. It is an experience i will never, ever forget, It is exactly as you describe but I would add one more thing, it is scary as hell.

Thank God for the rail, just thank God. I'm glad yer alright my friend!

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on February 12, 2008
Last Updated on February 13, 2008

Author

Chiquita
Chiquita

About
My 40th year has begun. I have started my life over many times. I find myself in a place where I am starting over yet again. I hope that my writing will find a place in my new life. I have fancied.. more..

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A Story by Chiquita



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