Wipe Out!

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
There's a lot you learn from covering a story.

Take my latest lesson on the Blizzard of '07 this week.

I'm a native of the West Coast -- a child born and bred in sunny Southern California. Mind you, I've covered my share of Mother Nature: hurricanes, tropical storms, droughts and wildfires and winter weather a time or two.

But through the sub-zero temperatures, the wind-chill factors, the icy road conditions that have slipped up the best of correspondents, I now place at the top of my list …windshield wiper freeze.

Heading back from the Windham Mountain Ski Resort in Upstate New York while covering this latest winter blast, my producer and I discovered our wipers didn't work. Funny thing as we drove down the hill, I realized, those contraptions are a complete necessity in blizzard conditions.

It appears we weren't alone. A number of cars appeared to have the same problem.

A word to the wise: you probably shouldn't drive if you can't see out your windshield. I totally get why the Highway Patrols cautions folks NOT to go out if they don't have to. But I'm a reporter, and I had a story to feed back to CBS News, and a little snow storm wasn't going to keep me from doing it.

Did I happen to mention the three-foot snow bank that got in my way?

There in the middle of Highway Something-or-another, we were stranded. I thought of all the stories of people we've covered who've died after being stranded in their cars in the middle of nowhere.

Our situation wasn't quite that dire -- but nevertheless, we were cold, with only a half tank of gas in the car.

Mind you, I was just 200 feet from the nearest gas station and of course salvation. But there was one glitch. It was closed.

So for an hour and a half, producer Jacqueline Barnathan and I attempted, without much success, to free ourselves from the drift of snow beneath our wheels. Finally: enough! I had to find help!

I spotted a man in a pick-up with two shovels.

Here comes lesson number two. Always travel with a SNOW SHOVEL in the back seat if you're in the middle of a blizzard.

Joel was smart, armed with shovels, chains and a winning CAN DO spirit. He, along with the crew we got separated from, came to our rescue.

With the additional brawn (myself included) and a lot of digging, we were free and on our way.

All of that, the cause and effect of frozen windshield wipers. Two such mundane, everyday necessities that we often overlook.

I won't ever again.

Moral of the story: never forget it's the little things in life that can save you…or clean your clock.