I saw a sign the other day that said, “Do what you can where you are with what you have.” It’s great advice, especially since you really don’t have any other choice. Oh sure, you can spend your time wishing you were an accomplished surfer in Waikiki with a frosty Mai Tai waiting on shore, but if you’re actually idling in your car on a frozen I-20 with fumes in the gas tank, the sooner you come to terms with it, the better.
It’s all about survival.
A friend of mine recently completed his military training at Camp Pendleton. He can’t talk about it, of course, but I imagine that the drill instructors taught him how to ford a raging stream, pick his way through a snake-infested swamp and shield himself from scorching desert sun. For all I know, he may be able to rappel down a steep escarpment on a section of dental floss, but I’m here to tell you that if he were stranded overnight at a Huddle House with a 2-year-old, a newborn and only one diaper, he would have to call on an entirely different skill set to survive.
When I was a child at Girl Scout camp, the counselors tried to teach our little 8-year-old troop how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. Complete failure. It may be that we lacked that rudimentary skill, or maybe we just weren’t all that motivated, given that we were only steps from the dining hall where our fried chicken was already on the stove.
Luckily, so far my life hasn’t required me to huddle around a stick-rubbed fire. I haven’t had to tie a half-hitch or distinguish between edible and nonedible berries, either, but I have to tell you, when Harold and I were inching our way home from his doctor’s appointment during the snowstorm, I was mentally shifting through everything I had ever learned or read or seen on an episode of “MacGyver” that might help us to make it home safely.
Do what you can where you are with what you have. Where was I? In the car, on one frozen roadway after another, trying to piece together a maneuverable route. What did I have? A half tank of gas, two cell phones and a baggie of granola bars. I had a coat and some gloves and, most important of all, my husband Harold behind the wheel.
I’m going to pause right here to brag on Harold. He spent nine hours doggedly inching his way forward, checking the traffic updates on his phone, turning in the direction of each skid, patient and determined, and we made it.
I couldn’t have done it. I would have pulled to the side of the road and cried two hours into the trip. The police would have found me the next morning slumped over amongst a stack of frozen Kleenex.
Maybe what we need is a Camp Condensation, where they put you out on an ice rink and teach you how to drive in such conditions or at least maneuver your vehicle safely to the side of the road so as not to interfere with rescue efforts. Sand and salt application, shovel deployment, giving aid to stranded motorists who are running out of granola bars. I’d sign up for that.
The freak snowstorm of 2014 left us with stories of fear and failure, generosity and heroism. Do what you can where you are with what you have. And we did.
But it helps to have Harold by your side.