As we’re all enjoying unseasonably beautiful weather, I can’t help but think back to nearly a year ago, when the weather was just the opposite. It was January, and I was stuck for hours in a snowy traffic jam on my way to pick up my husband during an evening I thought would never end. But like most adversity, this story also has a silver lining. So here it is, in three parts, the tale of The Great Snow Nightmare…
Part I: The Nightmare Begins
It’s been almost a year since the most ridiculous traffic jam I’ve ever experienced. It was our only real snowstorm of the year, and by Connecticut standards (where I grew up) it was hardly even a storm. Still, it was predicted that the storm would come during rush hour, and my husband was at work in the city.
I don’t even remember now why I was home. We either had the day off from school, or maybe we were released early. All I remember is it was between two and three in the afternoon, and I was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate that was too hot to drink. I had just cleared out our garage—a “two” car garage that fits two cars if one has a degree in physics to figure out how to park them.
I had called my husband earlier, asking him to come home early because of the impending snow, but his boss followed the federal government’s brilliance in allowing one-hour early dismissal from work. (I will stay my fingers not to go onto a tangent-rant about putting faith in bureaucracy. Stay, fingers, stay!)
But I was sitting waiting for my hot chocolate to cool and watching the radar map on my computer when I realized that if my husband left when he was allowed to, he would be stuck on a commuter bus for hours. So I called him, told him to get to the closest metro stop (still twenty miles from our house, but at least out of the city), and I’d pick him up.
It was a moment of decisiveness, and I didn’t hesitate. I packed boots, snow shovel, winter gear, and kitty litter. I left my hot chocolate on the table. I pulled out of my beautifully-sparse garage. I was off just as the first few flakes of snow floated like dandruff onto my windshield.
Growing up in Connecticut, I knew how to drive in snow. I drove cautiously but decisively. I drove well below the speed limit, but I still passed almost every car on the road. I knew I was racing a ticking time bomb, and I knew it would be close. I watched the familiar landmarks fly by. Five, ten, fifteen miles. I watched the snow turn heavy and wet and cling to street signs and traffic lights and license plates.
My husband called. He was at the metro stop waiting and wanted to know when I’d arrive. I was five miles away. I estimated ten minutes and turned on my GPS. It was around that time that the car in front of me—an out-of-state plate from Louisiana—fishtailed widely. I eased on the brakes. That’s when I saw the muted red brake lights like bricks in a wall insisting their scarlet hue through the tenacious wet snow.
Traffic was at a standstill.
Still, it was only 3.5 miles to my turn, and the metro stop was less than a mile from that turn. It was the busy section of Tyson’s Corner, and I assumed the backup was just due to the traffic lights. I called my husband.
“When will you be here?” he asked. “Still ten minutes?”
“No,” I said. “Make it twenty.”
I didn’t realize how wrong I was.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon….