Sunday, February 06, 2011

Snowmaggedon 2011

Just thought I should take a moment while the endless pre-game hype for the Super Bowl is going down to share my story about the monster snowstorm that hit Chicago several days ago.

It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. We were being warned for about a week prior to the storm that it was gonna hit, it was gonna hit hard, and we should be ready for it. But we're Chicagoans, so I think most of us felt like whatever it was gonna be, we could handle it. That's my explanation for why I woke up from the storm and headed to work, thinking that I would be ok. I thought that no one else would be at work, so I should man up and go in and pick up the slack for everyone else.

Flash back to the commute home Tuesday night, Feb. 1. The storm had started about 2P, depending on where you were in the city, so by the time I left work at 5, the conditions were already pretty fucking bad. If you don't know what "white-out" conditions means, let me explain: You can't see shit. It's a blend of snow and very high winds that result in your vision being nothing but a sheet of white in front of your face. If you're behind a windshield, like in a car, you can't see a block in front of you, which I'm sure made driving fun. And if you're in the street commuting like I was, well, my walk to the train was a block long, and I did it with one eye closed shut, and the only reason I didn't have both eyes closed is because I didn't want to surge forward with zero concern about what's in front of me and risk steamrolling some 80-year-old bat. Once on the train platform, a gust of wind hit so hard that if I were on the edge, I would have gone over. It was that hard. I was blown two steps towards the platform edge with no chance to stop myself. And this was the "el" train, which stands for elevated, so I would have landed on the tracks with such force that my 380-lb. body may easily have crashed through and splattered onto the street. I was very happy to step gingerly a half-block on the freshly shoveled sidewalk and make it home, and virtually every other person coming home in those conditions said a little prayer and vowed that they were enjoying a day off of work tomorrow.

Not me. Why? I don't know. Maybe I'm just a dumbass.

So I stood in awe looking out my window at the wild and crazy conditions from which I had just came, and I heard the thunder clap, and I watched the sidewalk disappear before my eyes as the snowfall accumulated, and I went to bed thinking that maybe I should leave for work a little early just in case the amount of snow made it hard for the buses to drive and made my commute a little longer. Again, I think it's a product of being a Chicagoan that I thought the aftermath Wednesday morning wouldn't be so bad. What happened while I slept is that the snow never stopped coming, and the streets and sidewalk never got re-shoveled after the initial Tuesday afternoon onslaught, and by the time I left my house at 7:55A, the official measurement had climbed up to about 19 inches of snow. Yes, 19 inches. That's only 3 inches shorter than my cock! Oh wait, that was a dream I had...

Anyhow, this is how my Wednesday morning went: As most of Chicago called in sick and went back to bed, I opened my front door to a snowdrift almost as tall as me. Once I forced the door open, I looked down the path that leads to the sidewalk, which is about 50 feet long. I could not figure out where the sidewalk was. And my first steps were unbelievable to me, because the snow was up to my knees. It's not easy to walk in snow that deep and soft, folks. But I kept taking big steps, and 5 minutes later, I had made it to the intersection, which normally takes about 45 seconds.

I must walk another block to get to my bus stop. I stared down the block at the sidewalk, completely unshoveled, and I figured that if I walk in the street, where cars have been driving, it should be much easier. Problem was, cars had not been driving down that street recently. The snow was so hard that it rendered my little side street undriveable. Therefore, the snow in the street was almost as deep as the sidewalk. At this point, an old white guy living in a corner house on this intersection saw me standing in the street, big black man with a bookbag on his back, no other human beings out in this insanity, snow starting to pick up again. And the man tried to do me a favor. He had to yell a few times to get my attention because I had my trademark huge headphones on. Once I noticed him yelling at me, I listened to him scream the following: "It's not gonna work! Go back home! It's not gonna work!!" And I stood in that intersection, staring at him, then down the street that I would have to walk if I kept going, then back at my house a few doors away, then back down the street. And I must have stood there for two solid minutes contemplating this man's words. "It's not gonna work! Go back home!" And finally, I decided that I had woke up and ate breakfast and showered and climbed out of my house, and I got this far, so I'm gonna go. I gotta keep going. I only have a block to walk, then I'm at my bus stop, and the hardest part will be over. So I'm gonna go. The old man had gone back into his house at this point, so I couldn't wave an acknowledgment at him, but I did appreciate his concern.

That was the most physically grueling block I have ever walked. The snow was up to my knees with every step. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath. Every time I stopped, I looked down the block to see how much farther I had to go. And each time, it seemed farther away, not closer. I was starting to get dizzy. I briefly thought about how silly it would be for me to fall in this 2 feet of soft snow and not be able to pull myself back up and to die out here trying to do something as inessential as get to my shitty-ass job. But the thing is, the farther I got, the more it became obvious by my logic that I had to keep going. I wasn't going to go that far just to turn around and try to get back. I didn't know if I could even make it back. I was so spent physically that I seriously wondered if my body could even handle turning around. As I got closer to the end of the block, I noticed that the business at the end of the block had used a snowblower to open up their parking lot, and, in turn, had built a snowbank sealing off the street for any other traffic and creating a hurdle for me to climb over in order to complete my journey. At that point, a thin black guy emerged from his house and walked past me, asking if I was okay while I was bent over. I nodded. He saw the hurdle and said that it would be all good once we made it over. Then he went ahead of me and created some footsteps for me to follow so that I wouldn't be climbing over the hurdle all by myself. And with that, I got over and stood at the corner hoping that after all this struggling, the buses were actually running. I also turned around and snapped the above picture, which is the street that I had just climbed over like a mountain. It was 8:08. Thirteen minutes to walk from my door to the sidewalk and then a block.

A bus came along about 15 minutes later, and let me tell you, I was wondering how the fuck was I gonna get back home if a bus didn't come along. So I was thrilled to see the bus. I was a little worried when I got on and saw that the driver was wearing street clothes. Bus and train operators usually have a full Chicago Transit Authority uniform. But I was just so happy to see a bus that I didn't care that it may have been stolen by a civilian. There were two passengers on the bus, a young guy and girl, and they were standing at the front instead of sitting, which I found strange. It soon became clear that they were standing at the front door because they were ready to sprint off the bus at the first sign of a store in order to buy booze. The driver stopped at a 7-Eleven, the guy ran off the bus, and 5 minutes later, he emerged with a 6-pack of beer and a bottle of something in a big brown bag.

I rode this bus to Harlem Avenue, then I caught the Harlem bus after a 15-minute wait to the Green Line "el" train, then took the train to work. Downtown Chicago was dead. There's a very busy expressway that the Green Line crosses over, and I was interested to see how bad the traffic was when we got to that point. I wondered would there be many cars gridlocked or a few cars enjoying an open freeway with little traffic. I was genuinely shocked to see zero cars on this expressway. None at all. And not only that, but it looked like the snow was accumulating on the expressway just like on my side street, indicating that no cars had been there for quite some time. This storm was epic. It was going to be legendary, and everyone was going to have a story about it. Mine was going to be about commuting in the eye of the storm, something very few people did. But I did it, and it was hard and scary and I wouldn't dare do it again if placed back in that same situation. But I guess I'm proud that I survived it. And maybe it will make for an ice-breaker, so to speak, when I move to the much warmer climate of Memphis, Tennessee. Gather round, folks, and lemme tell you a story about why you should never complain about weather here in Memphis ever again...