Thursday, January 30, 2014

Five Lights From Home

On Tuesday my day started as usual except for the “not walking.” For the last weeks, the weather here in the South has been cold, and even though I have bundled up and made some walks, when the temperature falls into the 20s and even lower with wind chill, I conclude, “Eh, I don't have to. I don't wanna.”

So, I don't.

In the early stages of a kitchen renovation, [not time for that story now], I had asked my sister early Tuesday morning to ride with me to look at two slabs of granite that David and I had narrowed down as choices for our counter tops.

At 10:00 am, my sister called and said, “It's snowing. Do you still want to go?” I, a veteran of “burn” stories on snow predictions from teaching school and wishing for a snow day, thought, “if it comes,[rolling my eyes a little], most weather reports indicated it would be 'this afternoon.'” We're used to hyped up local weather as news ---- and most of us take it with a grain of salt. No pun intended.

We headed to Kennesaw, about ten miles northeast of home.

As the snow fell outside Atlanta Stoneworks, the granite place, my sister and I took our time evaluating the two pieces of granite. We chatted up the owners, a family business, and found them charming and hilarious. As we got in the car around 11:15 to come back, she said, “Are you still meeting Celia for lunch? I wouldn't. It's getting bad out here.”

I called Celia, who was already at the restaurant, and I said, “I'm game if you are.” We chose to proceed with our lunch date. We always have trouble finding a time to get together.

After all, it couldn't be that bad – it was coming “this afternoon”; I had plenty of time.

Meanwhile, it continued to snow.

I left for the restaurant, which is located about nine miles from my house, and had a great lunch and visit with Celia. We talked books, family, books, friends in common, Downton Abbey, and books.

At 12:30, David called me on my cell and said, “I'm leaving work. How much longer for you?”

I said, “I'll leave in a few minutes.”

Thirty minutes later, I left the restaurant. I had taken a potty break since, you know, it might take me a little longer to get home.

It was snowing.

I cavalierly wished the restaurant staff a parting “I hope you get home soon” as I confidently walked to my car, looked at it covered in snow, and then saw the traffic on the main thoroughfare in front of me already jammed up. I called David, who was still sitting in traffic near our house [he works about five miles from home], and said, “I'm heading home.” He told me to stick to the main roads, and that he would see me soon.

My car windows were covered in snow and a kind of icy slush, and as I backed out, I couldn't see that well. I cranked up the max defroster on turbo and pulled from the parking lot. I took a right on a lightly congested road, but as I headed south and home, traffic began to thicken.

Snow continued to fall, and as if someone had yelled “Fire,” cars began to enter the main roads of my route home. I drove about one mile – and then – the gridlock became real.

In my car on a side road near Barrett Parkway, I sat and inched forward, and I waited. Waited. Waited. Waited. Waited. On the car's digital clock, it turned from 1:45 to 2:15 to 2:45.

Meanwhile, David called. It had taken him 45 minutes to get home, and he had heard the news and knew that road conditions and traffic had turned bad quickly.

“Where are you?”

Me: I'm trying to get on Barrett Parkway. It's stacked up. I mean like I've never seen it.
David: Just stay the course. Listen to the radio.

I rarely turn on the radio, but I did – I turned to our local News station WSB and began to hear the horror stories of Atlanta's snowy, traffic mess. Their advice “stay where you are.” I was in my car in front of a car dealership. Didn't seem like a “stay where you are” kind of place. Holiday Inn. No. Testosterone. More cars. Yes.  So, I stayed exactly where I was. 

In my car. On the road.

I was still fifteen cars from turning onto Barrett Parkway, and Barrett Parkway was a parking lot.

The Southern courtesy and politeness of allowing people to pull out from a business in front of you, or with their blinker flashing in front of you to change lanes, or even leave space for a person who needed to turn left into the opposite directions was still intact.

Everyone wanted to get home. We were all in the same situation.

My sister reminded me I had my camera -- I took this picture after five o'clock and on my fourth hour.

At 3:00, I made a right onto Barrett Parkway and began what would be another six and a half hour trip to get home.

Every fifteen minutes, David, worried and frantic, called me to check on me. He couldn't believe it when I told him that I hadn't moved since he called last. As the hours passed and I moved at the rate of a mile an hour, I told him the landmarks I saw. I'm in front of the Wells Fargo. Carrabba's. Car Max. The church.

I set small goals:

I'll be home at 6.
Only fifteen more light changes, and I'll cross this intersection.
If I can just get to the next light.
Five lights from home.
I'll be home at 7. 8. 9. Please 9.

The situation was in God's hands. David and friends of mine prayed for me. I had plenty of gas. My body went into Survivor Mode – I didn't have to go to the bathroom. I wasn't hungry. I wasn't scared. No one slid around me. My car was warm. The time passed. The people in the cars around me were all on good behavior. David kept telling me that he would walk to meet me. Enveloped in love and prayer, I felt strong – and knew that everyone in the cars around me was suffering in the same way. Misery loves company, and I had it. :-)

 This is Barrett Parkway near Old 41. 

Also near 0ld 41- I'm about three miles from home.

At one point, this guy pulled up next to me. 
I was like, really? Snakes?
Don't slide into me, Satan.

 I should have taken pictures of this early on to show how slowly we moved.
 5:40 PM, Trip counter 44.9.

 6:30 PM, Trip counter 45.3.
 8:36 PM, 47.6 trip counter
After this shot, I was over it. LOL.

We kept inching forward.

I knew that it was a time thing. I would eventually make it home.

At one point, the traffic didn't move for almost an hour. A tractor trailer had gotten stuck on a small incline, and a car had stalled in a lane beside it. The mass of cars in the three lanes eventually figured out how to get around it.

We crept on.

When I finally turned into my subdivision at 9:25 PM, my car made it almost to my house. We live on a hill, and I gassed it to make it, but it didn't. David came out to meet me, and we moved the car to the bottom of the hill. Others in my neighborhood who lived near me had left their cars too parked in all kinds of ways on the incline.

I thank God for my safe return.

Today, the neighbors met with shovels on that hill in our “hood “ and together we scraped away the ice and snow so that the abandoned cars could be moved to the safety of garages and driveways. A sense of community and camaraderie reigned.

We each had our travel stories of how long it took to get home, and even though mine was one of the longest for some reason, we couldn't top the stories that have been all over the news of people who spent the night on the side of the road, had been on the road for 17 hours, or walked miles in flip flops, or delivered a baby on the side of I-285.

My nephew Andrew, who just took a job with 911, asked my sister after hearing my story: “What on Earth was Aunt Harriett doing out in this mess? She's retired.”

Good question, Andrew.

And, none of your beeswax. :-)

ETA: My friend Margaret Kirkland sent me this ...


  1. I'm glad you made it home safely. When you texted me to ask if I was at school, I never dreamed you were in the car trying to get home. Like Andrew, I figured your retired self was at home all day. Ha - should have known better.

  2. I've been reading about it. Here in St. Louis, when a lot of snow is forecast (like the foot we had a few weeks ago), we rush out to the grocery stores, buy bread and milk, return home and hibernate.

  3. Andrew does have a point, Harriett. Glad you made it home safely. I will admit-I am REALLYtired of this weather and I live in Florida!

  4. Oh wow! I heard about your rough weather.....that was something. I bet you wanted to kiss the threshold when you got home! As always, a treat to come visit you here!

  5. "Don't slide into me, Satan!" <-- I'm still laughing over this.

    Glad you made it okay.