I’m moving quite a few of these from Facebook for my own protection, and to get a little more viewing. I really enjoyed living and writing about this, and I think it’s worth a read. Enjoy!
How the Cold Consumes, a true story by Michelle Lunicke
Originally posted: November 23, 2010
I just had the longest commute home in my life, and that includes trips to Canada. Only this commute is only 6 miles. (9.6 km). When I saw it snowing this morning I wasn’t about to jump into bed afraid of a piddly inch or so. I was made of stronger stuff. I was going to work, and intended to speak lightly of the weather. And when everyone in my office took off early, I imagined them lazy and myself dutiful over this paltry excuse for snow. Of course I would like to enjoy it, but I have important things to do. Deadlines to keep, accounts to maintain.
When I saw the long line of red dots blinking very slowly on the ground from my vantage point on the 33rd floor, like a defective chain of Christmas lights, I realized it would be a problem to get home. Not because of the weather, but because of other people in the weather. So I would wait…surely this would only last an extra hour or so of traffic as everyone freaked out and went home early.
At my usual closing time, as darkness fell and it was still snowing, and I saw that the collective consensus was going to be a problem. I headed out toward my alternative snow route bus stop and saw throngs of people waiting anxiously for a bus. Some had already outright given up and looked for a hotel to spend the night. I was grateful I lived in a close-by suburb of the city.
As a bus pulled up already full, only opening its doors as a rude gesture, a survival instinct in me kicked in. I had to be warm. I had to be on. As only 2 people exited, I sort of pushed my way on. I might be on a while, but I would be safe and warm, and pretty soon it would clear up.
2.5 hours passed. The men beside me were updating our driver on the latest traffic info, since the traffic controller on the radio now announced he was denying all calls from all bus drivers from this point onward. The woman next to me in a wheel chair, who had only got on a bus as a way to stay warm, began to realize she was going somewhere she couldn’t come back from as we slid slowly into the night, one painstaking block at a time.
Many abandoned early. Casualties of cold I thought. They went for hotels, or local bars, or whatever food we might have passed. Many got on and off varying buses, just to sit in some warmth for a brief period, before continuing their voyage home on foot. The buses turned into the watering holes, the scarcely moving oasis for those going home. I laughed at the insanity of it. I got to know people in my neighborhood better. We were all heading the same direction. Minute by minute the news got worse. The bridges are down. The highways are down. One accident was cleared and now there’s another.
“Yes”, the bus driver said, “we’re going to have to go 10 miles out the way to get 3 miles ahead.” I was weighing the consequences in my dress shoes and parka. A mass exodus was going by every few minutes on foot.
I gave my number to someone with a lot farther to go than I. “It’s survival,” I said. I wanted us all to survive, and it seemed a distinct possibility that somebody tonight might not. It seemed a distinct possibility we might run out of gas before we moved another inch. How soon did I want to get home? Didn’t I have to pee?
The brave soul with number in hand in case of emergency, dived out ahead of us with 6 miles to walk in the wind and the cold. 20 minutes later a message on my phone.
The re-route was blocked up ahead. He let us know we would be on that bus for a long long time.
My new comrades and I had had enough. Even in the cold, progress was better than this. So we got out, wished everyone good luck, and walked 3 miles through incredible cold, my toes freezing in my dress shoes, my scarf freezing solid on my face from the moisture I breathed into it. Still, we pressed forward, past cars squealing wheels and wrecks everywhere. And in 50 minutes, I was home. Face numb and red, wet from I’m not sure what. Ready to eat like crazy.
And honestly, I felt so beautifully alive. So much my surviving self… I loved it. I will always remember this night, and the heightened reality that made everything so absolutely worthy of my attention.
I hope wherever you are, you are warm, and if you are not, that you can appreciate the utter cold as I do.
Photo courtesy of the Seattle P-I, you know, when it was still a real paper.