White and Black…Snow and Ice

From generation to generation, it seems inevitable that some major event – of dramatic proportions – will forever imprint itself in the collective psyche. Fifty years later, for example, people still remember where they were when JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. And, while I am too young to recall that tragedy, I do have a few of my own…

On January 28, 1986, I was at an IBM class in San Jose, California when the space shuttle Challenger exploded into thin air just a couple of minutes after take off, killing its seven crew members. On October 3, 1995, I was grabbing lunch in a local sandwich shop when I learned that O.J. Simpson was found ‘not-guilty’ of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. And, I was standing in a Kinkos near my office, casually watching the overhead television as I waited for my order to be ready, when each of the World Trade Center Twin Towers crumbled into a puff of nothingness on September 11, 2001 as a result of an Islamic extremist terrorist attack.

Though not of the same caliber by any means, this week’s events definitely will fall into the category of “where were you when…?”

*   *   *

At the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning, my husband kissed me goodbye as he left for the airport for a business trip to Los Angeles. He’d be gone until the wee hours of Friday morning.

Unable to doze off for another hour before I had to get ready for work, I lazily reached for the TV remote on the nightstand and turned on a local news channel. Already they were predicting a bit of snowfall for late in the afternoon. I smirked to myself. Atlantans simply don’t know how to drive or function if there’s a mere dusting of white fluffy stuff on the ground. So, I decided to get up and out early because – odds were – the workday would be shortened.

In fact, it was announced that the office was closing at 2:00pm. I rescheduled some meetings, packed up my stuff – along with extra work “just in case” – and headed for my car at 1:15. The snow was coming down in a steady stream and I was amused to see my black Prius all covered in white. Armed with a folded newspaper and an infrequently used credit card (uh, we don’t have real scrapers here!), I proceeded to dust and scrape off some of the “crunchy” stuff that already had accumulated on my car and windows. It was nice to learn that the front and rear defrosters actually worked well as I watch the snow quickly melt away.

Thanks to offices and schools closing at just about the same time, Atlanta’s roads and interstates were inundated with a volume of cars, buses, and trucks that they couldn’t handle. It didn’t help that the temperature was dropping and thin layers of “black ice” were forming beneath the snow, making traction impossible. In no time, accidents and gridlock were being reported all around the metropolitan area. Even before I left the parking lot, I learned that the highway I usually took home was at a virtual standstill. So, I planned another route and hoped for the best.

I got lucky. My son called from his office in Chicago (where it’s REALLY been frigid this winter!) and served as my human GPS. He helped me navigate back-roads and enabled me to cover the distance of twenty miles in just under two-and-a-half hours.

Others, unfortunately, didn’t fare as well. It was reported that some commutes lasted eight others or more. Cars ran out of gas and were abandoned on the streets. People gave up and sought refuge in nearby hotels, stores, gas stations, or friends’ homes. Children, teachers, and even some parents hunkered down and spent the night in schools. Some folks stayed at their places of employment – avoiding the drive home altogether – and enjoyed dinner out of vending machines. But interestingly — instead of frustration or anger — acts of kindness, generosity, understanding, and patience triumphed.

*   *   *

The city has been shut down for the past two days. (Miraculously, no one seems to have lost power.) There has been no mail; no trash collection. Temperatures didn’t rise above freezing, so the snow and ice remain; . No one has gone anywhere. I haven’t seen a soul or left the house. I have been a hermit; a recluse; a shut in. I haven’t even bothered to get dressed or put on make up. (I have a new respect for people like my Nana – may she rest in peace – and my single friends who live alone!)

Truthfully, I haven’t minded. A well-stocked pantry kept me fed. Technology and work have kept me connected to and busy with others. My dogs have been great company as they’ve followed me from room-to-room. Friends and family have called, emailed, and texted to ensure that I’m still alive. But, I have missed “flesh-and-blood” human contact.

*   *   *

Tonight, I finally took a long hot shower and changed into fresh pajamas. I cleaned up around the house. My husband will arrive home before I wake up in the morning. He will have missed the excitement, but will always remember that he was in LA during the week that my friend calls “Snowmageddon.”

Tomorrow it’s back to school and work. The temperature will rise to fifty-four. The snow and ice — the white and black –will disappear, but the memories of them will linger.

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