This morning, I am watching the news and they are talking about a new “epic” snowstorm that is bearing down on the Mid-Atlantic. But first, they talked about what happened last night when a light dusting of snow and ice on roads that were not pretreated with sand and salt made for bumper-car rides on Highway 66 and the Interstate 95. Four hour car trips home, numerous fender benders and some pretty pissed off people.
I lived and worked in Northern Virginia for 18 years, so I have lived the nightmare. Working for the government, I have experienced the thrills of having the Office of Personnel Management decide that conditions are now bad enough for the entire government to be shut down all at once – creating a commuting flash mob – only to have them sit on the fence at 5 am the next morning over closing the government office or authorizing “unscheduled leave”. The schools announce their closures early, leaving frantic parents scrambling to find all day child care. Sometime the Office of Personnel Management will decide to open the government, only to decide at say, 7 am, when most people have spent 2 hours shoveling driveways, deicing cars and well on their way on the interstate roller derby, that maybe, in fact, it will close. One only need to look to the Office of Personnel Management on a snow day to understand the decisiveness with which the government manages it’s challenges.
Have you ever heard about black ice? It’s the ice you cannot see, yet will cause your feet to slip out from under you and before you know it, you are on your back, wondering what the hell happened. It loves black top driveways, where it glistens so that it appears merely wet, and then slams you to the ground while you are rushing to snatch the newspaper from the driveway. It often lays under the snow. In my case, it loved to lull me into a false sense of security as I backed my Honda out of the garage and gunned it down the driveway, only to find myself off the driveway, into the snow and sliding sideways down the incline of our side yard. And then it laughed as I had to be pulled by my disgruntled husband’s 4 wheel drive truck out of the snow. It exists on the roadway too. You may be driving along fine then hit a spot of black ice that will leave your car gliding over the road like an ice dancer, oblivious to the cars slamming on their brakes around you. “HA!”it says, to your white knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel for life. “Fooled you!” it hisses.
One of the more charming aspects is that the D.C. area is home to people from all over the country, as well as all over the world. That is, until it snows, which means you are now on the road with those that know how to drive in snow, as well as those who feel omnipotent in their 4 wheel drives, and those for whom snow is something that they read about in books. The 4 wheelers are whizzing along, ignoring the black ice layer under the snow. There are those that are driving 10 mph, clinging to the side of the road, clearly terrified; and just like on a normal day, there are those who persist in changing lane continually, convinced that 2 lanes over is moving much faster. The ride to work will take you anywhere from an hour to three hours and when you get to work, assuming you haven’t engaged in bumper cars and that the pay lot at your building has been plowed, you engage in a very productive hour of talking about your experience with 3 other brave souls who have made the trip, and listening to the voice mails and reading the emails of all those who have decided to work from home today, anticipating the arguments that ensue because they aren’t authorized to work from home.
But this is all a memory for me now, almost 8 years removed from Northern Virginia and my working days. In my part of Alabama, we rarely have snow, rarely have ice and it is rarely bitterly cold. No snow shovels, no snow blowers, no reports of the news of what is being done for the roads in anticipation of the weather. Snow here is a magical thing, where everything closes down and children are outside trying to build pathetic little snowmen out of what is not more than a dusting. People longingly say “I wish it would snow”.
Until next time – Elsie