Before first light on Wednesday morning I backed out of my garage to find myself in a sea of poufy swirling flakes that look so enticing on Christmas cards, and so infinitely regrettable on the roads. I wasn’t alone in this. A tyrannosaurus rex of a storm had grumbled across much of the United States, and by some reports nearly 70% of the country received a late delivery of White Christmas. A storm like that is seldom much for stealthy sneaking, on account of its giant feet and ear-splitting roar, so I’m certain the warnings would have been all over the radio, tv, and internet, yet it still managed to get the drop on me. The night before I had slogged into bed without a thought to weather, apart from a passive recognition of the charming rain pattering outside my bedroom windows. It’s February, so that right there should have been a clue to take a gander at the meteorological report, but I was warm and sleepy, and reaching for my phone would have taken all kinds of effort.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I had stayed up far too late on Tuesday night, so when my alarm cracked the silence Wednesday morning, it was awfully easy to hit the snooze button . . . and then hit it again, just to make sure that stupid clock knew I could not be bullied. So it was that I headed out for work with my hair done, my five-ton satchel, and absolutely zero minutes to spare, with no one to blame but myself. That’s when I first noticed the snow.
I wasn’t unduly concerned at that moment. I live on a mountain bench, which means that a hefty snowfall in my driveway isn’t necessarily indicative of a mess below, so I backed out and prayed for safety as I often do, then toodled off into the darkness, confident that all would be well. At this point I still had a chance to check that weather report, but I had stuff to do. In hindsight I really should have hit the snooze bar 48 more times, because instead of getting better, things only got worse.
I-15 wasn’t too bad. It was slower than usual, but I figured that a few minutes late was an acceptable price to pay for arriving with all my blood still in the tank. However, things took a turn at the cutoff to the beltway.
Five miles per hour.
It was 19° and I was sweating. First period is my prep, so I didn’t have a class, but I did have a meeting I Could Not Miss! I thought of my phone and all it could do to get me out of my jam, which is where the boxing match started: Me vs. Myself. Call the school. Don’t call the school. You idiot, don’t touch your phone when you’re driving . . . I won’t go on, but there was a great deal more in the same vein. My hand even went so far as to pluck up my phone at one point, only to have Me plant Myself a facer and ashamedly put it down again. But ten minutes later Me got worried about the people I was letting down, and Myself came in swinging to bloody Me’s nose. All the harping I’ve done at my kids about not using their phones while driving, and here I was two hypocrites fighting in the car. In the end the better angel won, and I decided to stick to my guns and let the snow fall where it may. Just to be safe, I set my phone where I couldn’t see it, because I had realized that, under certain circumstances, Me and Myself are only marginally trustworthy.
Somewhere around the airport the traffic loosened, and people began to fly at wild speeds of 20, 30, and sometimes a whopping 40 miles per hour. Oh yeah, now we’re cooking with gas! Maybe I’ll mostly make my meeting!! Hallelujah, so glad I didn’t risk life and limb to call the school.
But speed carried a price tag, a lottery of sorts, some tires stayed on the road, and others slid off, and you’re constantly guessing which you might be right up until you reached your destination. The first slide off was a white car with a woman inside, bobbed blonde hair, done up for work. I had a lot of time to notice because her car had executed a neat 180°, snugging her up to the concrete barrier, her windshield facing me as I drove past. She appeared unhurt, and I couldn’t have stopped without causing a pileup. I prayed for her and went on, unaware I’d be praying a good deal more.
The next slider was far scarier, also a white sedan, but this one had ended up perpendicular to the barrier, blocking the commuter and fast lanes. I was terrified someone wouldn’t see him in the heavy curtain of snow, and plow right into the driver’s door. I couldn’t tell you the details of the rest, but I worried about all of them.
I did finally make it to work, an hour and forty-five minutes late, a little rattled, I’ll be honest, enough that I walked right into the building without even thinking of my mask, which is a serious offense in a school. I’d seen five slide offs and two accidents in total, with nary an emergency vehicle anywhere. I was heinously late, had missed my meeting, and the parking lot was so quiet that I thought I was the only one who had failed to anticipate the weather and plan accordingly. I got to my classroom, and who should be standing there but my principal and the vice principal, out and about visiting classrooms and delivering pizza and doughnut coupons to students who came to school in spite of the weather. I was so embarrassed I hardly knew what to say. Those two ladies looked at me in all sincerity and said, “We’re so glad you’re here and safe.”
That was it. I’d been beating myself up for two hours, and there they were, nothing but kindness. It turned out that nobody cared about the meeting. One colleague hadn’t even remembered, and the other arrived even later than I did. So many students stayed home, I had maybe five or six per class. Because of my morning, I changed up my lesson plan at the last minute, teaching irony using the opening scene of Thor: Ragnorak, because you have verbal, situational, and dramatic irony together in that one seven-minute clip. I didn’t mention that my morning commute had been an exercise in irony as well. All that worry, stress, and self-recrimination and the whole situation turned out to be the opposite of what I expected, ending in a simple kind smile as the principal handed me two doughnut coupons. “We’re so glad you’re here.”
I love my job.