we come from the land of the ice and snow

image via the seattle times

i am not a fan of snow.  i was when i was a little kid, but now that i’m an adult, with bills to pay and a finite amount of PTO, it’s a hassle and often a hazard.  the problem is that no matter how much city officials try to prepare for it, something ALWAYS goes wrong, and end up failing miserably.  this never happened in the winter and a half i spent at college in central new york state.  there, snow was a minor inconvenience that called for cautionary driving, and as little of it as possible, along with salt on everything plus snow plows.  school, apparently, had only closed once in recent years, and that was due to an impending blizzard.  and campus only closed for the day after most of the classes had already happened.

around here, though, in our lovely city by the sound, the first flakes are cause for alarm, and everyone starts wringing their hands.  take, for instance, my commute home last night.

i work downtown, near what they call the “retail core”, and live in the southern part of west seattle, not far from the ferry terminal to vashon island.  west seattle is very, very hilly.  even though i live on not one, not two, but three major buslines, the street is hilly, steeply in some places, which can make for rather interesting driving in bad weather.

so.  yesterday, i leave work at my usual time of 3:30.  after almost slipping and falling on my way downhill to first avenue to catch my bus, i arrive, and it’s late.  but only by about fifteen minutes, so i naively begin thinking this might not be so bad.  it’s an express bus, which means it bypasses a lot of stops south of the city in favor of getting on the alaskan way viaduct.  i didn’t really think the bus would actually get ON the viaduct, and i was right.  still, we made it out of pioneer square and into the north sodo district (near the stadiums) without too much trouble.

no, the trouble started when we got just past the stadiums.  the bus became more and more packed, and while i was fortunate to have gotten a seat, i was starting to get slightly anxious.  the bus didn’t move very far very fast.  it took almost an hour to get from the krispy kreme factory store to the starbucks corporate headquarters.  this is a stretch of oh, i don’t know, ten blocks?  at this point i needed to go to the bathroom, and started making plans to get off at the first stop after we got to west seattle, even if it meant i couldn’t catch another bus for the rest of the trip home.

i ended up staying on that bus for another hour before my painful bladder and super shaky anxious nerves demanded that the driver pull over on a first avenue south overpass and let me, plus a large number of other passengers, off the damn bus.  see, the problem was that the west seattle bridge was verboten by the transit authority, and some idiot managed to jack-knife his semi on the spokane street bridge.  this means that all traffic to georgetown, south park, and west seattle was being forced over the first avenue south bridge.  throw in a bus that managed to block all lanes of southbound traffic on the freeway, forcing everyone off and around it, and you’ve got a monstrous mess on your hands.

“i’ve always counted on the kindness of strangers” never rang truer than it did last night.  the industrial area south of downtown isn’t a safe place, even in the day time.  there were so many people clambering off of buses, though, that safety wasn’t as much an issue.  i managed to hook up with two women who were on my bus, and one of them directed us to a cafe a few blocks away where we all used the restroom and tried to figure out what to do next.  her boyfriend was going to brave the weather and come pick her up from there, and she offered me and another women a ride as far as the high point neighborhood.  despite the freezing temperatures and wind gusts outside, though, i wasn’t quite ready to remain inside, especially as more and more people began flooding the cafe.  so the other woman, whose name turned out to be roxanne, hiked from east marginal way and south hudson back to the west seattle bridge, over the spokane street bridge, to the skylark restaurant, where we stopped for a while to eat dinner and she called her husband to come pick us up.

after dinner, we began walking down delridge way south, and her husband, bless him, picked us up after we’d walked about a mile and a half from the skylark and drove us the rest of the way home.  beings as i’d already endured a two hour bus ride to nowhere, a 2 and a half mile hike in the wind and freezing air, and then another mile and a half walk down delridge, all those lessons my mother taught me about taking rides from strangers just took a back seat to getting home.

after it was all said and done, i was grateful to craig, roxanne’s husband, for picking us up, to roxanne, for sticking with me along our walk from sodo to west seattle, to the bus driver, who bucked protocol and let us off on the curb of the overpass (even though there was no actual bus stop in sight) and the gentleman who gave me his spare earwarmer headband thingy, when he saw i didn’t have a hat (a hat?  that would mess up my hair!).  grand total time spent getting home: about 5 hours and 15 minutes.

yeah, i told my boss i probably wouldn’t make it to work today.

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