Peterson: Each winter, it's mind over windshield
It was the great experiment over the forces of cold.
It was the last resort, in fact.
Drive all the way from Woodstock to Crystal Lake and back without the heat on and the window cracked to let the 8-degree air circulate inside the car. Meanwhile, I froze.
But if it meant not having to scrape thick frost from the windshield the next morning, the bitter cold all would be worth it. It’s not like I was driving to Iowa in 8-degree weather. We all have our limits.
Ever since it started getting cold a month ago, frost started appearing on the windshield and windows of the Impala. And it takes 5 to 10 minutes to scrape holes big enough to see through to drive to work.
And by holes, I mean pretty much all of the glass area because I seem to have this idea that it is the law. The spouse of a co-worker was ticketed a few years back for having a fogged up windshield. Which was bad enough. But he was getting off his third shift – his last one because he had just found out he was laid off. Which is really bad.
It wasn’t that cold that morning, just enough apparently to create a little windshield fog. How the officer saw this – it was dark – I don’t know. Why he wouldn’t let him off with a warning given the circumstances is beyond me. No compassion.
But I know I don’t want to get that ticket, and I think of the poor guy every morning when I am scraping the ice off my windshield. I mutter under my breath.
I used to have this piece of hard clear plastic about double the size of a credit card that fit perfectly into my hand to scrape frost off the windshield. It came off an old machine from 25 or 30 years ago, and it worked great. It was just sharp enough and broad enough to scrape the window clean rather efficiently.
But it’s been four or five winters since we’ve had a second car, and I’ve lost track of that makeshift scraper. It’s somewhere on the messy bench in our one-car garage, and it won’t surface until spring, I’m sure.
It’s always a crapshoot when you buy ice scrapers at the store. Inside, they might look like they are sharp and thick and strong, but invariably they don’t conform to the slight curve on the windshield, and they scrape away scratches on your windshield rather than patches, kind of like if you were to use your fingers to scrape the ice away. And the very thought sends shivers down my spine. Fingernails across a chalkboard. Only frozen.
You would think the “they” would have come up with the perfect scraper in the hundred years we’ve been driving cars.
I mean, I had it in my hand – just a extra piece of clear hard plastic from a broken-down machine. If I had been thinking, I would have gotten a patent for new, improved, never-fail ice scraper, but I wasn’t a visionary. My train to fortune pulled in and out of the station before I knew what to do. That separates the Edisons from the Petersons.
The next best thing is to let the car warm up on cold mornings, but I’m afraid to let the car idle unattended in the driveway. Seems like an invitation to theft, although the only people to walk by our house are students going to the corner to wait for the school bus. I suppose one of them could make a break for it.
We used to have a car with a remote that started the car while it was still locked. That way worked great to clear a frosted windshield, heating the inside of the car. That worked great until it started starting on its own, which was disconcerting. It could start almost anywhere – never a good thing. We had it surgically removed. That was one sweet gadget.
But the experiment to keep the inside of the car as cold as the 8-degree temperature outside failed. It got down to about zero that night, and there was frost on the windshield, although it was lighter than usual. Normally my drive from work to home is only a few minutes – not all the way to Crystal Lake and back – and that might be short enough to prevent any stray body heat from beginning to warm the inside of the car. What body heat? I’m shivering.
I will continue experimenting. There has to be a connection between the inside temperature of the car and the amount of frost on the windshield. If I can keep them even, I should be able to avoid frost. I’d rather shiver than scrape.
• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.