Light & Leafy

Driving in the Snow

Posted on: February 17, 2010

Living on the coast in Southern New England generally exposes you to three types of snow: fluffy, sludgy, and Hallmark calendar perfect. Sludgy is the most common, with snow melting when it hits the ground and mixing with the mud and city grime to create a thoroughly icky experience. Fluffy snow usually happens in the beginning of the winter, with huge flake floating through the sky, but melting before they turn anything into sludge.  And the Hallmark snow? Well, it’s rare, but when it happens it turns everything into the cozy scenes you can find on most Christmas cards.

The only problem with that perfect looking snow is that it creates treacherous driving conditions.  Take yesterday afternoon, for example. A storm that was supposed to hit us the night before moved much slower than the forecasts had predicted. I bolted out of my office as soon as I saw that the giant flakes were sticking to the roads and didn’t show any signs of slowing down.  I managed to get home before it got really intense (dumping a good 7 inches).  While driving home, I did what I normally do on Tuesday commutes: I made a mental checklist of what I need to do before raid time. I was being continually interrupted, however, by the need to pay attention to my surroundings. Driving in the snow is a lot different, I find, that driving in any other kind of weather.

And that’s when it hit me like a slushy snowball to the face! Driving in the snow is actually a lot like raiding. And to drive successfully in the snow, you really need to remember a few simple rules:

1. Your car has more than one gear. And so does your raid team.  Some encounters you can rush in all willy-nilly and still manage to emerge unscathed. Others, you need to shift into low and slowly make your way through. As a great driver (or raid leader), you know which roads are safe and which need some extra attention.

2. Go the same speed as traffic.  Driving faster or much slower than everyone around you is a recipe for creating an accident, especially when visibility is poor.  Pushing your friends to go faster than they can may make them feel uncomfortable, especially if they’re having a rough time learning the fight. On the other hand, you really don’t want to spend 20 minutes explaining the precise details of each fight to a team of veterans who have all already experienced it.

3. The on and off ramps are the 2nd most dangerous part of your trip. Issues always seem to abound at the beginning and end of raids. There are too many people signed up, there are too few people signed up, there are problems with the loot system, there are problems with the strategy. Chances are, if you’re going to have a blowout, it’ll be when emotions are riding high (usually at the frustration of a late start or lack of people or after people have been wiping repeatedly).  The best way to avoid an accident, at least that I’ve found, is to always approach the beginning and ends of raids cheerfully and patiently.

4. The most dangerous part of your trip is your driveway. The reason driveways and back-roads are usually so hairy to travel in the winter is because they simply don’t see as much traffic as the main roads. They can be plowed just as often, but without the friction of tires melting the last bits of snow off the road, they’ll still feel 10 times worse to drive. In my mind, these are the fights your team barely sees  because you only get to them at the very end of the raid night. Because of the limited attempts you squeeze in each week, the encounters begin to feel impossible to defeat. And this is where I become grateful for alternate routes. Taking out farmed content is great for gear and badges, but when your team is crunched for time, it’s sometimes helpful to shake up the routine a bit and focus more on fights you normally leave aside for later.

5. Take corners slowly. Actually, I mean this literally in raids too. Funny example: A bunch of us went into Sunwell for the first time, and seeing as we were all level 80 BA’s, we could totally handle anything.   We were bouncing around, most of us not knowing where the hell we were going,  when we got to this room where the path spilt, kind of like the hallways leading to Lady Deathwhisper after Lord Marrowgar , but you could also just jump down into the lower part of the room blindly. A hunter decided he’d just go for it, thinking at worse there’d be a pack of 70 mobs he’d have to solo. He landed on top of the twins and got the first conflagration debuff while everyone was still grouped together. We downed them, but everyone but a tank, a ret pally and a tree were dead by the time we were looking at the loot.

6. There’s always a chance that underneath that fluffy snow is black ice. Just because you have an encounter on farm doesn’t mean it’s time to get sloppy. Raids are full of encounters that can make the RNG monster rear its ugly head and send you fishtailing into a snow bank.  Sure, Lady Deathwhisper is easy…until all of your healers are blacked out because no one took the time to dispel curses. And gunship is not a loot piñata when someone has disconnected while still on the horde’s ship, causing Saurfang Sr. to stack 19 of his special buff that you then have to heal a tank through.

7. Stay calm. I think this is the most important rule to follow. Tensing your shoulders and your neck and gripping on the steering wheel for dear life will not make you feel any calmer. In fact, you’re probably just contributing to your own panic. Raids work similarly; if you’re frustrated and you act upon your frustration, you’re going to influence the other team members. So relax, take a deep breath, and remember eventually you’re going to get home safe and sound.

I have a feeling all the sparkly dust will probably be melted by this weekend. But maybe I’ll stop driving long enough to appreciate the frost covered branches and saronite architecture.

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