“Honey, come quick,” I shrieked to my husband, Kevin.” That couple in the car across the road is in trouble.”
Standing at our picture window of our living room, I clamped both hands over my mouth to keep from sobbing. My heart hammered in fear, a contrast to the serene blanket of snow on the lawn.
When we relocated from Los Angeles to Paris, Illinois three months earlier to pastor a rural church, we were surprised at the differences in culture. The stores displayed Udder Balm at the checkout counter in place of breath mints. Gas stations sold live bait and mulch right alongside the antifreeze. People waved as we passed their tractors on the highway and spoke to us at the farmers’ market, even though we were strangers.
But no kind greeting or wave could’ve prepared us for the harrowing scene taking place before us now. This was culture shock at its worst.
Careening out of control just fifty yards from our house, the car was a flash of red and silver atop the frosty ground. Our eyes stayed frozen to the window for several seconds, watching the horror unfold. But, what could we do? All of our urban savvy was worthless to this couple, spinning on the snow like a child’s top. I grabbed the only weapon I knew how to use, and bawled out a prayer:
“Lord, deliver those people,” I shouted. “They need Your help right now, before they die, or flip onto the highway and hurt some…”
Kevin placed a hand on my arm to interrupt my hysteria. “Wait, Jeanette. Look over there, opposite from the car. There’s another one spinning in circles, going the reverse direction. I wonder if they could be doing that on purpose. Do you think it’s some sort of winter game they play around here?”
Squinting to focus, I realized he was right. The cars faced each other, revolving in opposite directions, like two steel monsters dancing to the music of “Winter Wonderland.” For several minutes they whirled, grinding their tires into the gravel. Picking up speed, their chrome bumpers reflected light from the pristine ground cover. When they’d reduced the snow to a slushy rut, they stopped. Paused. The drivers appeared to sigh in contentment. And off they blazed, leaving us to stare at each other, befuddled.
The following morning, I worked for several hours before I gathered courage to ask my co-worker what we’d seen the day before. I certainly didn’t want her to discover how dumb we city transplants were. She made it easy for me by reading my thoughts.
“You live six miles south of town, don’t you? I bet you get a lot of teenagers coming out your way after it snows, doing donuts. It’s safer out there, away from the highway” she explained.
I shook my head and grinned. “That’s what you call it: donuts?”
“Yeah,” she chuckled, “young people do it for fun when there’s a good snow. It’s pretty harmless. Just our method of keeping the boredom away during a long winter. I should have warned you about it. If someone from the city saw that for the first time, it might scare the stuffin’ out of them!”
I tried to sound nonchalant as I said, “Yeah, it just might.”
Since that first winter’s excitement twenty years ago, I believe Kevin and I have adjusted well to rural living. We buy our mulch at the Speedy Fuel and say “hello” to people we’ve never met. But, I may never get used to donuts in the snow, rather than my coffee!
The above story is a chapter from my first book Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top
Did you ever have to move, and experience culture shock? What helped you adjust to your new life?