By Atiba Founder & CEO, JJ Rosen; This article originally appeared in The Tennessean
As most of us native Nashvillians know well, the mere mention of a flurry in the forecast has always been a cause of great concern. For those of us born and raised here, mad rushes to the grocery store, schools shutting down, and a general sense of fluffy doom are the norm.
The rush to get home before a potential snowfall comes from our Southern tradition of not knowing how to drive in the snow. Natives like myself who get caught on the road in winter weather often end up in ditches, leaving more experienced Northern transplant drivers just shaking their heads.
It wasn’t until the time my mom and I got stuck on “9-Mile Hill” sometime in the late ’70s that I began to see the problem.
As we drove our gigantic Pontiac station wagon up the hill, the snow began falling. It seemed like just seconds after I gleefully exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” that traffic came to a complete stop. Along with dozens of our fellow Nashville drivers, we found ourselves stopped on an icy snow-covered hill with no momentum to go up and no way to turn around.
I thought it was fun when we all began to slowly slide back into each other — my mom was not quite as pleased.
We eventually had to abandon our car and walk home. Irritated and cold, we put the blame on the other “Nashvillians who didn’t know how to drive in the snow” as we slowly made our way to the warmth of our house. I think it was a week later before we were finally able to retrieve our car.
Sure, our Northern transplant friends are justified in their headshaking. Most of us don’t know not to slam on our brakes when we see ice, or that we need momentum to get over a snow-covered hill. Our mild winters don’t give us much practice.
But thanks to technology, the snow-covered playing field is beginning to even out.
Way back when my mom and I got stuck, most cars were rear-wheel-drive with no weight in the back to provide any traction. We didn’t have access to minute-by-minute weather forecasts to help us track when snow would arrive in our specific neighborhood. And if we did get stuck, our only way to communicate was to find the nearest payphone.
If you didn’t own a four-wheel-drive Jeep or truck, the only tech tools available were tire chains and sandbags to pile in your trunk. Those were the days…
These memories were on my mind during the snowstorm last week as I revisited 9-Mile Hill in our kids’ Subaru. With all-wheel drive that compensated for any loss of traction, and a feature to automatically slow you down when going downhill without using the brakes, I easily drove right past the spot where we’d stranded our car over 40 years ago.
With new technology, my poor snow-driving skills no longer mattered quite as much. Still erring on the side of safety, I was at least able to drive to the grocery store and even stopped by our empty office to get some work done.
In business, tech is usually thought of as a tool that makes us more productive. But when leveraged well it can be much more. Tech can offset our weaknesses.
Right-brained people who are good at math use spellcheck to help their grammar. Left-brainers like myself leverage Excel to improve their math. And poor snow drivers (also like me) can compensate with tech in the cars to keep them safe.
I was pondering all of these technical marvels that helped smooth over our weaknesses, feeling quite proud of what a good winter driver I’d become. Then my kid called, saying, “Can I please have my car back?”