Saturday, December 28, 2013

Adventures on the Beltline

I saw it coming a split-second before it hit – a chunk of ice, about twice the size of my fist – and it made a huge noise when it hit my windshield and did the damage you can see in the photo above. I’ve lived in Madison long enough to know that when you’re on the Beltline near the Channel 15 tower in winter, you need to be aware that you could be attacked by chunks of ice falling off the tower and guy wires. And, sure enough, when we were on the eastbound Beltline at that spot at around 1:30 Friday afternoon, we got hit.

A lot of my friends say we’re lucky it didn’t sail right through the windshield and either kill us outright or cause me to lose control of my venerable road-warrior SUV and get into a multi-car wreck.

A year or so ago, they had to close the Beltline for about three hours when Channel 15’s tower and guy wires were shedding ice like crazy. The circumstances yesterday were similar to what happened back then: lots of moisture in the air, condensing and freezing onto the tower and guy wires; a nice sunny day with a moderate southerly wind, which blows the falling ice right onto the Beltline.

My daughter and I had gone to see Anchorman 2 (don’t bother; it’s one of the worse movies either of us have ever seen, dishonoring the original movie which was pretty funny) and then to lunch on the far west side. As we were coming home, right across from the Channel 15 studios, the chunk of ice hit and made enough noise to scare the wits out of my daughter, who let out a hundred-decibel yell. When I explained what had happened, I said “take a picture of the windshield”- and that’s the image you see above.

When we got home, I called Channel 15 to see if they were aware of what was going on, and they said Madison police and the State Patrol were in their parking lot “monitoring” the situation, ready to close the Beltline again if it got really bad.  Then I called to make an appointment to get a new windshield, and discovered that it’s essentially a monopoly now. I called a company which I thought was a local outfit, wound up on hold, and when the guy finally answered and I went through the song and dance with him, he told me the earliest they could come would be Tuesday.

Not good enough.

I called another company which I thought was local, and got the same message as the first outfit I called, and got put on hold. I hung up.  I called a third company (these were all local, Madison phone numbers) and went through the rigmarole again, assuming that there’s just one giant glass company which operates under different names. The order-taker asked my zip code (53713) and asked “do you live in Madison, Fitchburg, or……ah……Ma-na-no?” I said “where are you, that you have no clue on how to pronounce Monona?” and he said “Phoenix”.

After some wrangling about my insistence that Tuesday was just not acceptable, the deal was done and set for 2 o’clock this (Saturday) afternoon.

I posted the picture above on Facebook and I’m still getting comments from friends, reminding me how lucky I am! My lawyer said “be sure to file a claim against Channel 15” (thanks, Counsellor….) and several other friends from my days in broadcasting commented on the irony of ME getting hit by ice off a broadcast tower. One messaged me and said it was broadcasting’s “revenge” on me for winning a settlement from my former local employer after I was fired several years ago. My tuba-playing friend Tom from western Iowa, after saying he was glad my daughter and I were OK, asked if I had to change my shorts when I got home! (darn near) 

Eric Franke, my friend and anchor at WISC-TV News 3, posted lightheartedly “I blame it on John Stofflet” – his counterpart at Channel 15. Stofflet replied that he was on vacation, hence blameless, and then was kind enough to say “glad you’re OK, Tim”. I replied saying I was blaming it on Charlie Shortino (Channel 15’s main weather guru).

Gerrit Marshall, a tech wizard (engineer) at Channel 3, posted that he was glad we were OK, and went on to say that on his first day of work at WISC-TV in December of 1981, the Channel 3 tower shed a chunk of ice that took out the windshield of his car in the parking lot!

I also got a private message from my friend Tara, a former news colleague at MidWest who was an anchor at Channel 27 before that, saying she was glad we were OK, and telling me her dad – who is my insurance agent – was up in Minneapolis for the weekend visiting with Tara, her husband Kenny Jay (who’s with CBS radio in the Twin Cities), and their kids, and offering to have her dad call me right away. I thanked her for the offer but said it’s just a busted windshield, nothing that required taking time away from the grandkids!

So, in a few hours, I’ll go get a new windshield put in, and then the REAL fun – dealing with all the administrative paperwork about who winds up paying for it – will be the way I’ll start the New Year.

 When my daughter gets back to New York in a few days, she’ll be able to tell her friends about her great adventure on the Beltline. And we’ll have another tale to tell at future family gatherings.

At least we’re here to tell the story – which could have had a much different ending – about our adventure on the Beltline.


  1. .....and a Happy New Year to you!!

    Glad to observe that you and daughter came through OK. Shorts are cheap, after all.

    1. Thanks, Dad29 - and a happy and prosperous New Year to you, too.