Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wow...a Year?

If asked, and I have been but chose to ignore the questions, I'd have estimated my last post here was a few months ago, October maybe. A year is sort of shocking. But that's about the time a wheel or two fell off the bus here at Chez Pug--personally and definitely technologically. Basically it's been a tough year but no tougher than anyone else's, so no excuses.

I hope the technology is a little more under control, and the rest of it is what it will be. Anyway, here I am again. 

So, Snow-mageddon 2014. What we would have called in the north "a light dusting" has thus far closed down Atlanta for two and a half days. Before I moved here in 2001 I might have chuckled. Now I know this crap is no joke! This city really isn't prepared for any weather at all. Interesting in a city whose news weather branch is called "Severe Weather Center." Seriously, most of us wake up to Channel 2's intrepid weather woman, Karen Minton, saying, "Here in Atlanta the weather is beautiful, 75 degrees and clear. Stay tuned to Severe Weather Center for updates." Really?

Love ya, Karen, but seriously? But that jacket you were wearing this morning? Killer! And that's apparently all that matters, because the governor and mayor don't listen to you anyway. Just a pretty blonde woman with great clothes.

Anyway, this week "weather" was predicted. "Winter weather," to be exact. All the local and national outlets said it was coming and Severe Weather Center said it was coming at 1 pm. About noon flakes started to fall, delicately and without malice at all. Beautiful. No problem. At work we'd planned for such an eventuality and we were as ready as we could be. Some of my co-workers went home. Others, like myself, gave them time to get off the roads and then left later. 5 pm in my case. Snow count? About an inch or less.

Hours later I was sitting about three miles from the office (only 39 to go!) and I checked my traffic app. Yes, I have a traffic app, put out by the same Severe Weather Center TV station. It's a fabulous app--a lovely graphic map with little camera icons that show you where all the traffic cameras are along the route home, and a glowing blue bubble that represented where my car was at the moment (are you kidding me??) and little accident icons that showed trouble spots. The route is also color-coded--green for "no problem," yellow for "whoa, slow down a little, honey, there's something up ahead," and red for "go back, don't even think about it."

Red everywhere. Shit!

This picture was taken when we still thought it was an anomaly that would be cleared up soon. At this point, I still thought I might get home that night. Not so much.

By midnight the traffic was almost completely stopped. Oh, every so often we moved ahead by a car length. I think that was just the Goddesses teasing us. That movement made me think we were making progress. But every time Mr. Pug called, getting increasingly frantic and angry--not at me, but at Georgia's Governator and the Mayor of Atlanta for not having salted and cindered the roads in a timely fashion--I checked my odometer, and my progress could be measured in tenths of a mile. About 3 am, I pulled over to the side of the road, along with 10 or 15% of my fellow travelers, and tried to sleep. 

Lesson Learned: It's almost impossible to sleep with other cars slipping on the icy roads and skimming past your vehicle space with spinning tires and blowing horns. Okay, that was not going to work.

By 4 am I had extracted myself from my shoulder spot and inched far enough forward to see an upcoming exit where I knew there was a fast food joint. I tried to exit but it was completely clogged with broken down cars. Damn! The next exit was a little more passable and I slunk past the abandoned cars on the ramp and into a McDonald's. Good thing because my bladder was about to burst! (I cannot tell you how many men and women I saw standing and squatting by the side of I-75, relieving themselves. I swear if I hadn't been wearing jeans, it might have been an option. I also saw the guys in the car in front of me pour what was left from a carton of orange juice out onto the pavement. Then I saw it re-emptied again a minute or two later. Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.)

Lesson Learned: Just because the sign says "Open 24 Hours" doesn't mean it is. Everything, including the shopping center across the street, assuming I could have gotten across the street,  was completely clogged with cars. I wedged mine into an illegal spot in the McDonald's lot, locked the door, crossed my legs tightly, and tried to sleep. First I woke Mr. Pug one last time to tell him I was safe and hear more diatribes against Governor Dumbass. Around 6, I fell asleep. At 6:30, the parking lot around me began to wake up.

So, to make a hideously long story even longer, I finally strolled into Chez Pug at 2:30 pm the day after I left the office. And here's what I got from the experience:

  1. Thank Dog for knitting. I knit off and on the whole time.
  2. Thank Dog twice for mindless knitting projects. Mine had lots of yarn and garter stitch. Doesn't get any more mindless than that. (Cameo Shawl if you're interested.)
  3. The snow around the parked cars in the McD's lot was splotched with lots of yellow. Good thing I slept through all of it.
  4. My night was pretty tame compared to others. My friend Sandy's car ran off the road and she was (luckily) rescued by a friend of her sister's. Otherwise her story could have been much uglier.
  5. When the 24 hour McDonald's opens, at 7:30 am, the only person there will be the manager who mostly doesn't speak English. He does know how to make coffee and is happy to sell it for a dollar a cup. plus tax for the governor.
  6. The bathroom will be mostly clean but at that point, who really cares?
  7. No other food will be available until a worker shows up an hour later and finally grasps that what the manager is saying is "sausage, please cook the sausage."
  8. Apparently when they hired him for his facility with languages, they didn't take into account the fact that someone who speaks Croatian fluently may not be able to communicate with a largely Hispanic staff or customers.
  9. But Croatians can apparently make great coffee.
  10. Oatmeal doesn't require food, just hot water. I set off a trend by mentioning that to the manager and he fixed me a cup.
  11. Hundreds of people who slept in their cars all along the block will be happy to pay a dollar a cup. Most will be friendly and just happy not to be on I-75.
  12. The road will still not be clear when you're ready to go home, which is right after drinking your coffee and eating your oatmeal.
  13. Which is fine because the guy who's got you blocked in with his car isn't in a hurry to leave anyway.
  14. When you get out, around 10 am (more knitting with some news and audiobook listening thrown in), traffic won't be able to get up the hill. It will be full of more 18-wheelers as if we haven't seen enough in the last 12 hours.
  15. All the gas stations will be simultaneously raising their prices and running out of gas.
  16. The parking lot across the street will have one tiny space left, just big enough for your car. The guy in the car next to you will get out of his car to greet you, saying "Welcome! You must be our new neighbor!"
  17. He'll fill you in on the neighborhood gossip: the 24 hour cafe is closed (of course!), the Publix is open but filled with people sheltering in place (big shoutout to Publix!), the Starbucks is open but their restroom is suspiciously "out of order." And I  bet their coffee was more than a dollar.
  18. Apparently the big convention in town this week is the National Egg and Poultry show. (Not a joke! You cannot make this stuff up!) This explains the large truck parked about three cars away with hundreds of empty chicken boxes in the back. I don't want to know what happened to the chickens.
  19. People are mostly very decent. I did not meet one person who wasn't gracious and friendly and we all chuckled about how we'll be telling these stories for years. No one called the Governator Dumbass, with the possible exception of me.
  20. We were about a mile from the Governator's mansion. I'm betting there was no one sheltering in place in his house that night. Again, thanks to all the businesses who let folks hang out for the night.
Postscript: When I finally got to my subdivision, there were cars parked all along the entrance. There were also several people shoveling the street. I stopped to thank them and realized their leader was Mr. Pug. One of the young guys told me that Mr. Pug told them his wife was on her way home and he wanted her to be able to get up and down the hills in the subdivision. They all jumped in to help.

Lesson learned: Gotta love people! They're pretty okay. And Mr. Pug's no slouch either.