About halfway through my drive to work, I caught myself letting my car drift gently from one lane into the other without signalling. Bad habit, I thought. The windshield wipers swished across the glass in front of me, temporarily clearing the melted snow. I signalled belatedly.
As I approached each stoplight, I pumped the brakes, aware of how long it might take me to slow down. I turned the corners with care. I noticed how much easier it was to drive in someone else’s tracks, and how I felt briefly out of control when I tried to drive in a different lane.
I’m an English teacher and a writer: I was already developing a somewhat ham-handed metaphor as I drove – carefully – through the snow. Snow driving and this school year – snow driving and hybrid learning – snow driving and equity work… I shaped the metaphor in one part of my brain even though most of my brain was occupied with getting me to school safely.
Then I saw the truck. A semi, big for the downtown streets, was paused at the corner ahead of me. Wait. Not paused; it was stuck. Or… not quite stuck, but not far from it. I was driving slowly, and now I slowed even more. As I came to a stop a good ways back, a little orange sidewalk plow skittered off the sidewalk and across the street. The driver waved and placed his little plow between two lanes of traffic and the truck, creating a nice gap to let the big rig maneuver. The semi backed up and tried again to move forward. Nothing. The plow driver waved to us again, then turned his bright orange machine so the plow was forward, ran up behind the truck and pushed. I almost laughed at the earnest effort of the little plow coming to the aid of the giant truck. We were rooting for them – and not only because we’d now missed two light cycles. Still, no luck.
Now the little plow backed up, hesitated, then scooted up alongside the truck’s cab. The plow driver gestured, and the truck’s reverse lights lit up again. I’d almost swear that little plow did a joyful little skip as it wiggled in front of the truck and started clearing the offending corner.
Safe now, I drove slowly forward, a line of cars following behind me in a gentle curve around the area – just enough to make sure the truck and its plow had lots of space – and towards the signal twenty feet in front of us. The light turned green right when I got there, but a glance in my rearview mirror showed that little orange plow up on the sidewalk again, spinning around, as the now-freed truck pulled onto the main street.
Who needs a heavy-handed metaphor when a little orange sidewalk plow comes to rescue a truck?