As forecast, the snow started falling just after noon. At first, it didn’t stay and I was relieved. Maybe my afternoon commute wouldn’t be that bad, I thought hopefully.
And then it stayed and my anxiety began to rise. While my students discussed their book club novels, I checked the forecast and traffic reports. None of it looked good.
Sixth grade teachers have plan at the end of the day and we were all abuzz after the kids left for their last period class. By then, I had decided to leave my car at work and take public transportation home. One of my teaching partners lives near a transit center and he offered (was coerced?) into driving me there, once we could leave.
We’d received an email outlining that buses would be late, due to snow-caused gridlock. Walkers were to be dismissed first, parent pickups second and, once they were ton, bus students were to gather in the upper forum. All teachers were to meet there and help get kids organized. Although it seemed chaotic at first, once students were sitting and reading or using a device, it was remarkably quiet.
“Teachers, I know some of you have kids at home or long commutes. If you can stay and help, we would appreciate it, but if you need to go home, go.” I caught the eye of the my driver and we made a beeline for our rooms to get our coats.
We turned left out of the parking lot and had gone less than a mile when we saw the first flashing lights at the intersection where we would have to turn. We decided to turn around and go for Plan B. What should have been a 15 minute drive to the transit center, took over an hour. Cars crept along on snow-covered roads that were getting slippery. My colleague and I breathed a sigh of relief as, near 5:30, we took the last right that would lead us to the transit center. The scene that greeted us was disheartening. Abandoned cars faced all directions up the small hill and a truck was almost sideways. We weren’t going that way.
“Turn around and drop me at the nearest bus stop,” I told my colleague. “Get yourself home and I will catch the next bus.” After I assured him I;d text when I was on a bus, He left me off at the nearby corner that had a bus shelter. I felt good. I had a plan and the bus would have chains.
There was a woman in the shelter when I got there. She had abandoned her car a mile away but was unsure how long she’d been waiting. We talked in the way stranded travelers do, but in her calls to her family, I could sense her anxiety rising. When a man stopped at the shelter to tell us no buses were coming because of the traffic, and that he had walked from 185th ( 3.2 miles, I later Googled) she seemed to lose hope. He was walking to the Transit Center, he said, but we would be waiting a long time in the shelter.That was enough for my shelter companion. She decided to walk back to her car and try again.
I was alone. And this is where my confidence faltered. Did the man even know what he was taking about? Should I wait? Should I walk? I was unsure about how far it was to the transit center or the ability of my healing knee to make the trek. Turn right and walk or turn left and find shelter? I decided to turn left and go into the grocery store across the street and regroup.
The little Starbucks area was full of others like me: watching the news on the TV on the wall and trying to figure out how to get home. I got out my phone and computer and started texting and emailing people. cabs didn’t seem to be running, but public transit was, though buses and trains were delayed.
“Adrienne, ask for help” was the advice my sister had given me when I first hurt my knee and she repeated this advice in her messages to me. And so I did. I contacted a neighbor to go to my house to feed and walk Lucy. Once I knew she was cared for, I could take care of myself. My confidence rose as my plan took shape. I would walk to my colleague’s house and take refuge there until things cleared.
When I left the grocery store, the snow had stopped falling and the traffic on this street was lighter. As I neared an intersection, the bus I needed stopped on the opposite corner. I waved, hoping the driver would see me and stop, but he didn’t. I had a little cry as I continued my walk. Just before I arrived, I texted my friend to let him know I was close. He texted back that he was having dinner in the pub next to his apartment so I met him there.
By this time it was well after eight. School buses were still driving past the pub, but the commute seemed better. After discussing options, I decided to see if I could get an Uber to either take me home or to the nearest train. After a few jobs that were picked up then dropped, Uber driver Robert picked me up. It turns out he was a teacher in another district and we had a nice conversation as he drove me to my destination. My confidence buoyed as we made progress. I was going somewhere at last!
I had to wait about 30 minutes for a train, but once I boarded the train, at 10:20, I felt warm and more assured that I would actually make it home. The train took about an hour to get to the station nearest my house. As I mounted the stairs from the tracks, I again had a choice: left to the buses or right and walk home. I saw no buses, didn’t know if they were running or when one would come, so I turned right.
Less than a block from SE 39th, I saw a bus going my direction. Yet again, I was just a little too far away to get it. But by that point it didn’t matter. Every step was taking me closer to home. The snow had stopped and the night was cold and quiet. It was a beautiful night for a walk. I got weepy again a I rounded the corner to my street. I walked in the door and was greeted with Lucy’s usual enthusiasm and my eyes filled with tears of thanks. I dropped my bag and put on her leash to take her out for one more potty break. When we came in, the clock read midnight.