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LJ Idol week 2: uphill, both ways, barefoot

After college I did a year’s internship in Baltimore.  It was as far south as I had ever lived, and I enjoyed the warmer fall and winter weather. Compared to the weather in my Wisconsin hometown, it was positively balmy.   Then, in early January, it snowed. 

It was a reasonable amount of snow -- about 7” by the time the storm was done.  The city shut down and started digging themselves out, and I made extra money shoveling out the front of the theatre and the parking behind the actors’ housing.  It was a fun day with the occasional snow ball fight mixed into the work; it felt like home.

But then the next day the schools and many businesses were still closed.  Only half the streets were plowed, and most people hadn’t bothered to shovel their walks at all.  On the fourth day, just about everything was STILL closed.  This seemed truly bizarre.  It had only been 7” of snow. 

That night, as I was hanging out with some of the other interns, we started telling stories…

My senior year of high school, an early December day dawned slightly overcast and unusually warm.  There were storm warnings and many schools in the area had closed just in case, but not mine.  I walked the five blocks to school as usual that morning, dressed in only a sweater to take advantage of the nice weather.

During second period I looked out the windows and realized that it had started to snow – a lot.  It was coming down in big heavy flakes and the ground was already white.  The school was abuzz with the idea that we’d be getting out early.  Finally the announcement came; the day would end at 11am.

My brother and I met up at Mom’s office after the last bell, hoping for a ride home, but she wasn’t sure when she could leave.  That was when we found out that the school closure wasn’t going quite as planned.  The owner of the busing company had made a decision; the roads were too bad.  The buses weren’t moving.

Mom suggested that we each find friends who ordinarily bused home who might want to walk to our place, and asked us to call when we got there.  Paul and I each found a few friends willing to brave the weather and we set out on the walk home.

By the time we got across the school parking lot we needed to stop, ducking behind a car.  The wind was whipping the snow at us, stinging our hands and faces, and it was so strong we had to lean into it to move. Of course, we were all dressed for the mid 40 temperatures of the morning.  We discussed going back, but decided that spending any extra time at school was too horrible to contemplate.  So despite the cold wind and the snow, we pressed on, ducking behind parked cars, decorative hedges, trees, or anything we could find.

After taking 25 minutes to walk four blocks, we were within sight of our house; cold, wet, and aching.  We were hiding behind the last wind break we’d see before our porch.  At a signal from my brother we all took off, sprinting across the street and over the extended lawn.  The snow was already ankle deep in some places and I could feel the snow seeping into my shoes.  I stumbled at least once and fell to a knee, soaking my jeans.  I got to my feet with the snow stinging my face and ran blindly for the door.

Paul got there first and unlocked the back door.  We all stumbled into the house, and I answered the ringing phone.  It was Mom, worried about us.  She wasn’t going to be able to leave.  Too many students were stuck at the school.  She recommended towels and hot chocolate.  We made sandwiches for lunch and settled in to find something decent on TV.  The walk home that ordinarily took ten minutes tops had been just over a half hour.

The school buses never ran that day.  It snowed 9” in seven hours, and continued blowing throughout the night.  Parents who had vehicles that could make it to the school to pick up their children did, and everyone brought friends home with them.  Not everyone made it out though.  A dozen people had to spend the night at school.

As Baltimore continued to wait for warmer weather, those interns who were from more Southern climes were miserable, and tried hard to not step outside at all.  I like to think I convinced them that it could have been worse, though.


@@@This is my entry for week 2 of LJ Idol - the topic is “uphill, both ways, barefoot”.  I'll post a link to the poll once it is up on Friday.  Thank you for reading.@@@

I used to walk for an hour in the snow to/from work when I was staying in Wyoming, but it was never as bad as that. It wasn't usually snowing when I walked, though sometimes it was.

I think your story does a good job of saying, "No matter how bad you think the situation is, it could always be worse." :)

I used to walk all over in the snow, honestly I prefer it to driving. I can't imagine having to walk an hour to and from work though, usually if I was walking that far it was for fun. The storm in the story was particularly nasty, easily the worst walking weather I've ever seen.

Heh, isn't that the truth. No matter how much we may want to believe our situation is totally awful, there is always someone who can top it.

I am from the midwest, but went to grad school in South Carolina. I had a good laugh when COLLEGE classes cancelled because of a dusting of snow. I also laughed at how people totally freaked and could not drive in just flurries. I am used to tons of snow and ice, so it was nothing for me.

But walking home in it like that, I don't envy you there...

Heh I went to college in southern Indiana, so I had some snow day fun there too. People would freak out over 3" of snow, which made me giggle. Even better was the morning there was a dusting of snow when I lived in Tucson.

It wasn't my favorite walk, but the hot chocolate was oh so good.

Indeed. Lots of kids who lived in town caught colds and were out sick the following week.

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Perspective is a powerful thing. I like the image of Disney in the rain, I suppose it always depends on what you're used to.

Thanks so much.

What a great retelling, I felt like I could see you all ducking your way home. :)

Thanks, that is a walk I will not soon forget. I do tend to bring a jacket with me all the time these days.

This made me laugh. I live in North Carolina, and was once caught in 8 hours of gridlock because of less than 1" of snow. So I'm used to the shutdowns.

What? 8 hours for 1" of snow is crazy talk. Though I guess if there aren't plows and salt standing by there's only so much that can be done.

growing up in the midwest we had a few snow days here and there, but i gotta say no winter i've lived through compares to the one I spent in upstate new york. anytime anyone around here ever complains about snow, i just look at them and say "imagine six months of winter, bro. yeah. it could be worse."

I've heard horror stories about upstate NY. Wisconsin could be buried from Nov - April some years, but we usually had a random spring thaw in there at least.

Weather is one of the universal things to complain about, and it is always worse somewhere else. That amuses me.

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Thanks! I remember right after I arrived in the fall the weather was windy and rainy and it was due to a hurricane in the gulf. I was freaked that I was living somewhere that a hurricane could change the weather. It's always about perspective.

we never had snow days since being in an area where it was common to for it to snow and have snow tires, etc, our schools never closed. The last time was during a nasty ice storm, which had everyone staying home, over 5 years ago!

Pardon my ignorance, you said it snowed 9", is that inches or foot (I never understand the difference!)

Great entry!

That is 9 inches. (If it is a quote mark it is inches, an apostrophe is feet). If it had been 9 feet I'm not sure I would have attempted the walk.

Snow days were a rarity for us too, so this one was particularly special.

Ha! I took a similar approach. I live in L.A., but I'm from Calgary, and I just laugh at the people who bundle up in winter coats, boots, and gloves when the temperature drops below 50 degrees. heh.

I've been out of WI for too long to still wear shorts when it's 50 degrees, but I laugh at the people in San Francisco who have layers of scarfs when it's 60. Craziness.

Yeah, with this prompt all I could do was finish it with 'in the snow'.

A blizzard. Now there's something I've never experienced! I liked how literal this topic was... other than the bare feet part :3.

Well I wasn't crazy enough to take off my shoes on the walk, through really my feet got so soaked through it hardly mattered.

I think everyone should get to sit bundled up with hot cocoa watching the snow fall outside at least once.

In 1991, just a few years after I moved to MN, there was a blizzard on Halloween so bad that for several years after, the local Targets were selling sweatshirts with the boast, "I survived Halloween Blizzard '91." Funny, though, I do remember it being an incredible amount of snow, but, I don't really remember it being all that bad. I guess my memory goes in the opposite direction. That is, I suppose, until I would hear someone complain about a little light dusting... then, I just might have one of those "back in my day" kinda recollections.

I love snow storms, the lack of 'weather' is one of the things I miss most about living in CA. I just would prefer not to be out for a walk right in the middle of one without being dressed for it again. There is a sense of community that forms from all having lived through the same storm that is awesome.

That;s funny...7 inches huh. Back home (in Indiana) we may close for a day...

Exactly 7" is worth closing for a day, maybe two if it's blowing a lot. But a week? It was just silly.

The first time I came to Louisiana as an adult, it snowed a half an inch and the whole city shut down for a whole day! That was pretty crazy.

What a nightmare for those teachers and administrators to have to make sure all those kids were safe. What a story!

It snowed about half an inch when I lived in Tucson, and there was a run on the local grocery stores. Of course it had melted by noon.

Mom's stories about staying at school that day are also neat. Because schools were letting out they hadn't prepped the hot lunch for that day - so they made oodles of pb&j sandwiches, showed movies in the auditorium, and generally had to keep 200 or so kids amused until it was possible to leave.

Such a great description, so vivid. You described the walk home so well, with the cold, the stinging, the wet shoes. I liked this very much.

Thank you. That walk is highly memorable so it was easy to step back into those very squelchy shoes.