Saturday, March 03, 2007

This Is Why

Thursday, March 1

(I made it home fine Wednesday night. The snow didn't start until Thursday.)

It's been snowing for two hours and the wind is whipping it around. After Matt pushes me out of the driveway onto the highway, I begin the 30-mile drive to work. I stop in town to buy a bag of trail mix, a cup of coffee and a bottle of water, talismans against going off the road.

I get on the expressway. I'm behind an older Explorer that isn't going too fast. "It's OK," I tell it out loud. "We're in this together; I'm not going to pass you, and you're not going to slam on your brakes. We'll be OK."

At first, it goes well. It's slick, and the wind is bad, but I can still see far enough to feel safe. It's hard not to become hypnotized by the blowing snow. I see a snow-devil wrapped in a white sheet being blown across the road and then wiped away by wind from the other direction. This must be what it's like to be a bird: I can see the wind. More than that, I can see the air, all the currents and eddies. Everything is full of snow. When one gust clears, another follows it.

It gets worse as we go along. The Explorer, not that far ahead, disappears into a cloud of snow. "Clear my path," I tell the wind, and it does, briefly. I still can't see the Explorer, so I start talking at it again. "There's nothing ahead of you," I say. "There's no reason to hit your brakes. Keep going up there. We'll all be OK."

The road becomes visible just when I need it to, then fades. I realize my whole body is tense and I start doing yoga breathing. The wind is fierce off the lake. I'm not sure where I am on the drive or on the road. I have something lodged up between my heart and my throat and I think it's my faith. My clock seems to have stopped.

Sooner or later I make it to town and feel like I've just come off the frontier. I drive to work and park at the hotel across the street; I'm sure as hell not making that drive again, and in the dark.

I sit at my desk and realize I feel like I've already done a day's work.

2 p.m. Matt calls and leaves a message: Our driveway is closed until further notice. We talk later and he tells me he saw the top half of a pine tree break off in the wind, spin three times in the air, and stab itself into a snowdrift, right side up. "We have a new tree," he says.

11:30 p.m.
The day is a blur. I walk out the back door and down the unplowed alley and across the unplowed road, my head of full of stories about 70 mph winds and 15-foot drifts and Everything Shutting Down. I'm carrying a newspaper. It is one of about a dozen that will leave the building in the next 24 hours. I find that almost too sad to think about.

1 a.m.
I'm lying on a Sleep Number bed (80!). I can't sleep; I'm too keyed up. I promise myself a long bath in the morning, and then I'm supposed to be at work around 8:30 for my day shift. I do Friday's crossword. I play the silly pinball game on my new cell phone. I doze off and wake up to the smell of burning dust; I had turned off the fan on the heater but the heating element was still on. I see it glowing in my room. It's melting the frost on the window.

Friday, 6:30 a.m.
My phone rings, waking me up. I'm told to be at work ASAP to start it all over again. "OK," I say, and hang up. Then I say out loud, "This is why you got into it in the first place." I'm at my desk 45 minutes later.

5 p.m.
I'm done. I want to get on the road before it gets dark. After that, all I want is a beer. I hand off the dayside work and linger a little, saying good night to co-workers. The storm is almost over and people have already begun digging out. The specialness is wearing off, and now it's time to go home and rest.

Saturday is clear and bright. The storm is over.


  1. Damn. You are good.
    I've done that drive, and I couldn't have put it any better. Something is stuck, indeed.
    Glad you made it there and back.

  2. i agree. damn fine piece of writing. not to mention a damn fine piece of storm.

  3. Thanks, you two.

    I would have written more, but then I'd be writing about work.

  4. Glad you made it through. My parents were trapped for a couple days up in the Pequaywam Lakes area. That was one nasty storm!