There is a 2-1/2-pound dumbbell in my glove compartment — and, yes, it's there for a reason.
Last Saturday evening, I was supposed to travel down to Watertown to pick up my son, Michael, at the airport. My wife, a faithful follower of every weather forecast available, had for several days been warning me that the weather would make the trip dangerous, and each fresh report only confirmed her fears.
When it was obvious I was foolishly determined to make the trip anyway, Donna decided to do what she could to mitigate the coming disaster.
She packed our minivan with everything she could think of that might help in one accident scenario or another. We always have a winter survival kit in our car anyway (even in July), but now there were three sleeping bags, four pairs of gloves, two extra coats, a red handkerchief, five extra pairs of socks, a pair of boots, two scarves and a Slinky.
A Slinky? Donna explained that if I ended up in a deep snowbank, I could undo the Slinky, tie the red handkerchief to it and stick it up through the snow so a rescue crew could find me. And just in case the rescue was delayed, she gave me a bag packed with enough food for a couple of days: Oreos, Twizzlers and a dozen two-day-old biscuits. But why the the dumbbell? Well, that was there just in case I slid off the road into Rush Lake and the automatic windows wouldn't open. Donna hadn't been able to find a hammer, so she thought the dumbbell would be just the thing for smashing through a window.
Now I sometimes find my wife's fears excessive and exasperating, but this time, she may likely have saved my life.
Before I left, she showed me webcam pictures of U.S. Highway 12 at Andover and the Interstate 29 junction at Summit. As it turned out, these were the two worst spots along my drive, and being forewarned of potential danger made me extra cautious exactly when I needed to be. Perhaps even more important, Donna had called friends in Watertown to make sure they could pick Michael up if I couldn't get there. Knowing I didn't absolutely have to retrieve Mike meant no unnecessary chances and no excessive speed.
Well, we made it safely, though what should have been a four-hour, round trip ended up taking seven hours, and there were plenty of times along the way that the $250 we saved flying Mike out of Watertown instead of Aberdeen hardly seemed worth it.
When Mike and I walked through the door shortly after midnight, my wife was delighted and (I think) amazed. We had survived despite the ice, despite the snowdrifts, despite the poor visibility — and despite the 190-pound dumbbell behind the wheel.
Art Marmorstein, Aberdeen, is a professor of history at NSU. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views are his and do not represent Northern State University.