Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Edge

luck (onemorehandbag)

There is a German proverb saying that who goes on a journey will be able to tell many tales upon his return. Well, the same seems to hold true for business trips.

The boss, the Empress and myself had a customer meeting near Innsbruck earlier this week. As the place was more than 20 kms outside and we were booked on 3 different return flights, it was decided that a rental car would be the more economical option than several taxis. As I was the last to fly back a day after the other two, the car was to be rented in my name. To be honest, the idea of driving with a new car in a town I'd never been to by car is somewhat out of my comfort zone, but the prospect of navigating in greater Innbsruck wasn't too scary, after all.

Well, although I had booked the smallest type car, we got upgraded to a huge SUV, a Mitsubishi Outlander 4WD. Still not scary as I had learnt to drive in my granddad's Mitsubishi Pajero, which was of a similar size. As we were approaching our destination, I noticed that the ABS kicked in really fiercly every time I braked in a roundabout. Odd. I should add that there was slush on the roads and it was snowing heavily.

When we arrived at the village where our client's HQs are, we were almost an hour early and decided to go grab a bite to eat. The boss spied a promising looking sign and said we follow it uphill. It was not a terribly steep or curving road, just your typical Austrian mountain road, the likes of which your typical Austrian has driven many times in order to get to a ski resort. The roads, however, were completely covered in snow and the snowplough had apparently not made its rounds recently. As we were getting higher and higher up the mountain and there was still no sign of a restaurant, I said I'd rather return and stopped at the roadside of one of the broader hairpin bends. The boss wanted to carry on and volunteered to drive. I agreed and we got out of the car, almost falling down on the extremely slippery ground. After we had swapped seats, he turned on the engine and...steered the car into snow because the tyres had no grip whatsoever. Said snow formed a natural barrier on the side of road, preventing the car from toppling over, James-Bond-movie-style. "Get. Out. Of. The. Car. Please." a white-lipped Boss instructed us. We were happy to oblige. Thankfully, the postman and a snowplough came up the road a minute or so later. Assessing our situation, they shook their heads and the snowplough driver towed us out with a hemp rope which promptly tore. Our car came to a standstill facing downhill. "Those are summer tyres!" the postman shouted upon which I called the car rental company to give them a piece of my mind and ask them how on earth we should get away from there without snow chains or a tow truck. Well, apparently they were not summer tyres after all, but highly unsuitable anyway for a car that massive.

The local guys strongly advised us not to attempt to drive downhill with those tyres. Nonetheless, the Boss wanted to chance it. We crawled at a 5 km/h pace, seat-bealts unfastened so we could jump out quickly should we need to. The right front and rear wheels were in the fresh snow at the side of the road for some desperately needed natural brake effect, the left ones on the slippery road. Thus we slowly slid downhill, the Boss's hand firmly on the handbrake. It was deadly silent in the car and while I felt the colour of my face draining, the Boss had developed a pretty convincing carribean "tan" by the time we had made it to the village, just in time for our meeting.

Yesterday, before returning to Innsbruck airport where I finally got rid of that monster car, I went into the village church to light 3 candles...


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