Today’s spring snowstorm and my habitual nesting that accompanies it, reminded me of a snowstorm twenty-five years ago. It explains why each prediction of heavy snowfall sends me scurrying to the grocery store to “stock up” as well as to have food prepared and cooked in case the power goes out. While today I’m not so concerned about having a supply of candles, I do have an inventory of assorted batteries for numerous flashlights. My phone and laptops are also fully charged and at the ready. My 4-wheel drive vehicle is gassed up. And then I watch the snow with no concern whatever.
The spring snowstorm of years ago started shortly after I arrived at the office. Snow had been predicted, but I had way over-dressed that morning for the bus commute to work. I wore leggings under dress slacks, two pair of warm socks in my snow boots, a turtleneck shirt covered by a sweater covered by a Aussie-style, walkabout coat. I loved that coat. It was khaki green and long, a great windbreaker, durable and stylish to boot. I topped off this ensemble with my “outback” leather hat, a warm scarf around my neck, and thermal gloves on my hands. I was ready for the elements!
The company decided to close early that day to allow employees to get home before the roads became dangerous. I redressed into my gear, walked to the bus station, and awaited the arrival of my chariot for the 15-mile journey toward home. The highways were already a challenge for drivers, including the one at the front of our bus.
As we approached the exit ramp, the incline of the highway and the ice on the road made it impossible for the bus to go any farther. One of the passengers, a female flight attendant who must have been a cheerleader in a former life, rallied the passengers to gather near the back of the bus. The theory was that our combined weight, concentrated over the rear wheels, and then jumping up and down together to the commands of our cheerleader attendant, as the bus driver slowly engaged the gears and tires, would allow the bus to creep up the exit ramp. Thus, we could make our bus connections or get to our cars, and she could get to the airport to make her flight. It worked for a few hundred feet, but the highway’s incline won. The bus couldn’t make it up the hill or to the car park ahead. It was stuck on the highway.
For those individuals who needed to get up the exit ramp, unbury their car, and join the insane traffic jam that traversed both sides of the road over the highway and the bus below…it was time to leave behind the warm bus and the motivating echoes of the flight attendant. I cinched the belt around my coat, secured my backpack and hat, and stepped out onto the edge of the highway and into a biting wind filled with snow, ice and cold.
A few of us made our way up the exit ramp together, crossed the intersection to the parking lot, and then went our separate ways. I stood inside the three-sided bus shelter, wondering if the bus to take me on the final leg home would actually arrive. Could it even get through all that traffic, let alone manage the icy road conditions? Since these were the days before cell phones were common, I had no way to let my then-husband know where I was. I just prayed he and my daughter were safe at home, and that I would get there before too long. It was already dark and the temperature was dropping.
I waited for at least 30 minutes, glad I had over-dressed and wondering if I’d get home faster by walking those last two miles rather than just standing there in the blowing snow and icy wind. There was plenty of traffic, none of which seemed to be going anywhere. Finally, the bus for my route pulled into the parking lot, escorted by two police cars as a way for it to get through all the traffic. I don’t remember if anyone got off the bus, but I know I got on as quickly as I could. There was standing room only, but it was warm. The crowd was friendly, everyone supporting the driver’s efforts and each other. There was no end to the travel stories of the past few hours. This commute had already lasted more than two hours for me and I was definitely ready to see it end.
Our bus left the parking lot and pulled into the crawling traffic, trying to make its way across the overpass and the highway below. The first bus had left by this time. Cars and trucks and snowplows slowly crawled the four lanes below. My new driver suddenly announced that the road conditions were making it impossible to complete his route. He had been instructed to divert the bus to a Red Cross shelter at a local church just up ahead.
I knew where that church was located and it would take me close to, but in the opposite direction of, my home. I made my way to the front of the bus and begged him to please let me out when he reached the corner where he was going to turn the bus toward the church location. I told him it was very close to my home and I could walk from there, please. That was the truth; it was only about a quarter of a mile to walk. I could tell he was concerned for my safety, so I begged a little more. When the bus turned off the main road, he stopped, opened the door and I got out. So did a couple other people before the driver pulled back into traffic toward the church and emergency shelter.
The snow was already a good 18 inches deep with drifts up to my waist. I was grateful I didn’t have miles to walk. I was rather pleased with myself for being so over-dressed that morning. It was perfect for the current conditions. I felt strong. I was used to walking and thought this to be a good test of my strength and stamina. It was. I wrapped my long scarf across my mouth and around my neck, readjusted my backpack, and headed toward home.
After 30 minutes of trudging, slipping, falling and getting back up (my foot went down an open curb gutter buried beneath a deep drift; I thought I’d lost my leg), I finally made it into the townhouse complex. Another few minutes of dragging my body through waist-deep snow and I was standing in front of my gate and home.
I was greeted with hugs and many questions about my extremely long and cold journey home. My four-year-old daughter had been so concerned. After taking off my layers of wet clothing, all I wanted to do was to hug her and cry. I was so grateful to be inside. I chec
ked my leg for bruises, changed into some dry clothes, and, together, she and I started cooking.
We made several entrée dishes and baked other goodies in less than an hour…just before the electricity went out due to the heavy snow on the power lines. It came back on and off again throughout the night, but never long enough for us to get cold. We were going to be okay. We had food. There was plenty of snow for refrigeration, if we needed it. And I knew I could walk the distance to the convenience store if I really had to. I spent the evening reading bedtime stories by candlelight, cuddled in warm blankets and lots of love.
Snowstorms. Over-dressing. Nesting habits. They all go together for me. I want to add something else… Gratitude. That experience was the first time I remember truly listening to my intuition (to over-dress for the day and then to cook quickly when I got home). I’m thankful that I paid attention. I’ve never doubted the messages since. Today’s snow is a good reminder to keep listening.