Know your tow rope etiquette (Part II)

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I surely missed being around for this week’s snow. Our Overland Park auto service received record amounts of the white stuff but it appears most people took warnings seriously and stayed home. Here are a few funny stories from times when people did not stay home!

One time I helped a couple stuck in a large Overland Park parking lot drift that kept getting deeper as they drove into it. (Let off the gas if your tires spin applies here– and don’t panic.) I was pulling him in reverse and soon as the van broke free he gunned it, heading right for my truck. I gunned it too, and swung my truck out of the way and he whizzed by in reverse. Luckily the tow rope fell loose and he was set free.

I also ask, “Have you ever been pulled out of the snow before?” If they say, “Yes, every time it snows,” I may be dealing with a repeat offender and use more caution here.

When people are a half a block from home they can get pretty frustrated and not listen. I helped one woman with bald front tires get to the top of the hill and her parking spot. I went through my regular speech about don’t turn the wheel and let off the gas if your tires spin. Well, as soon as the rope went tight, I heard the engine revving at wide open throttle and saw her working the steering wheel like she was driving through an Olympic slalom course. I had to wave my arm a bit to get her attention. This time I just said, “You’re almost home, just let me pull you there.” She smiled and said she just really needed a cigarette. (I told her a set of new front tires would help too.)

The best one was a Toyota Prius Hybrid which was stuffed into the ditch at a 90 degree angle to the street about half a block off a main road. She had been sitting there for a while during the heaviest time of snowfall and a couple of guys were trying to dig with makeshift shovels.

The Prius is an intelligent car. It is so smart, in fact, that if the drive wheels begin to spin, the computer senses it and tries to slow you down. This is great design for driving on snow and ice, but not so good once you are stuck. I gave her my regular speech and away we went. I had to pull her backwards and at a 90 degree angle onto the road so she needed to turn the wheel to the right slightly. For some reason she kept turning left. After two tries I walked back to her car and simply turned the wheel to the right for her, and asked her to just hold it there.

We finally got out of the ditch and onto the unplowed street. The Prius is low to the ground and has a very smooth underside, kind of like a snow sled. If the ground clearance was six inches, we now had 10 inches on the ground. Plus, while getting out of the ditch, an Overland Park city snowplow came by the main street, creating another snow wall. Her car was pointed in the right direction, but now I had to pull her like a sled AND break through the snow wall. I had two helpers stand sentry near the main street to watch for traffic. The lady said with confidence, “I can do this!” I told her to hang on and remember to follow my truck. I looked in my rearview mirror twice. The first time as the rope went tight and we began to move, she was grinning ear to ear. The second time as I hit the snow wall to break through, she had a definite roller coaster fear/excitement combo look. I had to make a sharp left once through the wall and the Prius whipped through like a water skier making a wide out-of-control turn. The tow rope fell off the Prius and she just sailed by waving and blowing her horn. I was very proud.

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