Drive Carefully
8:42 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Essay: Pothole Season Has Arrived With a Vengence

You know the drill.

Eyes trained straight ahead – glued to the patch of pavement directly in front of you – picking and weaving and bobbing your way along the street.

Yep.

Pothole season.

That perennial pox of problematic pavement.

This pothole is near Sarah Lowther Hensley's house in Fairmont, West Virginia.
This pothole is near Sarah Lowther Hensley's house in Fairmont, West Virginia.
Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Drivers miss a lot of beautiful scenery this time of year just because we have to focus our gaze straight down and straight ahead.

There’s an illustration making the rounds on social media – you may have seen it. It compares the trajectory of drunk and sober drivers. Normally, sober drivers will drive in a straight line and drunk drivers will bob and weave. In “Pothole Land” -  it’s the sober drivers who weave in and out and snake their way along the road. Drunk drivers just drive straight through the pothole minefield, oblivious - allowing their vehicle to dunk into hole after hole in a strut-busting, rim-rocking wave of destruction.

Truth be told, sometimes – no matter your skill level and experience - you can’t avoid all potholes.

You’re just going to have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll hit some.

I read someplace years ago that the worst thing you can do is slam on the brake if you realize you are about to hit a pothole. I don’t know if that’s true, but if I can’t avoid a pothole, I always do try to keep my foot off the brake pedal at that moment of impact.

Just in case.

For me there’s also a series of involuntary and useless physical reactions to hitting a pothole.

In that moment when I realize I am about to hit one, my arms and legs stiffen, my shoulders scrunch up to my ears, and my hands put a death grip on the steering wheel…bracing for impact - and I actually lift myself up a bit off the seat, as if those actions will somehow soften the blow or keep the car from sinking quite so deep.

I also grimace.

Yeah…

If I hold my mouth “just right”…that dang pothole won’t damage my car quite as much.

It’s worth a shot.

This spring I have four new tires, a new alignment and a healthy respect for the dangers of a hidden or carelessly missed crater.

I’m doing my best to maneuver for minimum impact.

But I’m still hitting my fair share.

With warmer weather, the road crews are out addressing the problem.

And I send out a big “thank you” to the guys and gals working hard to patch up this year’s bumper crop of potholes.

In the meantime, I wish you well on your journey – and in the words of that traditional blessing...”may the road rise up to meet you…”

Sarah Lowther Hensley is a former West Virginia Public Radio reporter and higher education administrator who lives in Fairmont, West Virginia. Her writing appears on her blog Home Among the Hills.