Friday, December 14, 2007

Shhhh, It Can Hear You

So in a big ol’ case of Don’t-Think-I’m-Not-Listening, Winter went a little haywire here yesterday. It wasn’t the biggest or worst winter storm we’ve ever had – in fact, we only got about 8 inches of snow in Boston – but it hit at just the right time to create the worst traffic jam Boston has ever seen. It was gridlock in the purest sense of the word ‘lock’. Thousands of cars just sat on main roads without moving. For hours. If I hadn’t seen it myself I’m not sure I’d have believed it.

The facts were these: (for those Pushing Daisies fans out there)

Every year our Exhibits & Collections department has its own little mini-holiday-celebration lunch. We are the only department in the museum with staff that is permanently located in another building, several miles away from the main museum. So for the holiday luncheon those of us who do work in the main museum carpool over to the Design & Production building, several miles away, in an industrial corner of Boston, nestled between Roxbury and Dorchester. According to tradition it is always a very nice lunch.

We had all heard that the storm was coming, and were beginning to feel our usual meteorological skepticism loosen just a little. “Maybe it really will snow here,” we thought. (Bostonians have learned to let the hype about winter storms fall past us like a misthrown snowball – it’s so often wrong.) But the first flakes started to fall just as we pulled into the D&P parking lot. Apparently this storm was going to happen just as predicted. How unusual. We hustled all the food upstairs and commenced stuffing our faces in a friendly collegial way. Elvis hooted through ‘Blue Christmas’ in the background and we chowed through an impressive amount of chicken parmigiana, salad, chocolate trifle and cupcakes.

By 2 pm we were all getting antsy. Although the snow had only begun to fall about an hour before, there was already an inch on the roads. We all set out for home. (For the record, we all made it home. Eventually.) I rode with my boss. She and I were heading north of the river – she would drop me off in my neighborhood as she drove on to hers. At least, that was the plan. It should have taken us 30 minutes at most.

It took us 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. That’s longer than it takes to get to New York from here. We left at 2. I got to my apartment at 7 pm. It literally took us 3 hours to travel 3 miles. Four hours just to get across the river. We began to pick up speed a little when we finally got into Cambridge and the cars around us peeled off into various side roads, finding their way home. By the time I got home, the storm was almost over, and we had received about 8-10 inches of snow.

For the record, here are some of the many things my boss and I discussed for the 5 hours we were in snowbound traffic together: Project Runway, whether that guy really thought he was going to turn left or not, American’s Next Top Model, the importance of cultural competency in museums for welcoming new immigrant visitors, books by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, backpacking, engagement rings, Christmas shopping, car accidents, pregnancy, kitchen timers, which lane appeared to be moving a few feet further ahead than the other, emergency rooms, how mothers can’t break down while comforting their children but are free to do so afterwards, how glad we were not to be the policemen conducting traffic through the intersections in the storm, how fast the snow was falling, bus rides, how eating sushi on bus rides is a bad idea, the posing and basic uselessness of modern presidential debates, which side roads we felt brave enough to try, and who was going to get out next to scrape the snow and ice off of the windshield wipers.

We get along well.

On the 11 o’clock news last night many of the stories were about the storm and about the legendary traffic jams created by it. People STILL WEREN’T HOME even then. Some public school kids didn’t get on busses until 9 pm because the busses couldn’t get to the schools any faster than that. (Can you imagine the plight of those poor bus drivers taking busses full of caged adolescents home at 11 pm last night, after the world’s longest snowbound school day? To extremely worried parents? Those people deserve mercy, medals and maybe tropical vacations.)

This morning the sun was out and most roads had been plowed clear. Except for the snowdrifts, the crazy puzzle of cars from last night’s muffled and motionless city might never have been.

One other winter beef: sidewalks. By morning most people had shoveled, sanded and/or salted, although the few who hadn’t certainly earned abundant and totally appropriate ill will from passing pedestrians (including me). Legally homeowners have 6 hours after the storm ends to clear the paths in front of their houses. Nothing makes me itch to be a snitch more than having to risk life and limb on someone else’s icy-slippery walk because while they’ve clearly used it to exit the building, they haven’t bothered to clear it for anyone else who may need to walk past. Grrr. Steam rises gently from my ears…

Anyway. I must thank Geekwif for pointing out that cute winter coats are rarely warm winter coats. Since I am far more wedded to the idea of being warm than being fashionable, I will adjust my standards for outdoor gear accordingly. Such a relief.

Hope you’re all warm and well and mobile – and appreciating those states for the joys they are.


Whiskeymarie said...

This year I finally broke down & got the "warm" coat, rather than the "cute" coat.
Best choice ever.

We've had 2 storms here this week. I love winter & I'm from here, but holy cow, enough already!

bonniegraves said...

Should I weigh in from Southern California, land o' wildfires and now exciting mudslides? All's now well up here in Topanga, and the stars are out after some fearsome rain. New Year's Resolution, number????: remember to post comments on friends' witty blogs that I always enjoy reading on starry nights whilst Baby sleeps. Hugs, BG