It’s a beautiful day outside. Probably high 60’s, low 70’s. Last night, huz and I were driving around looking for a takeout place that was open, and were looking at the Christmas lights near our neighborhood. We heard that Colorado is getting another storm. Once again, we thanked each other for deciding to move back to SoCal after our short stay in Indianapolis. This is the story of our deciding moment.
It was New Year’s Eve, 1998. We were in Philly to see Barenaked Ladies, and staying with a friend of huz who had a place in Philly and generously offered her spare room.
New Year’s day, it was frakkin’ cold, and we went to watch the Mummers parade, in person, not on TV like the rest of the city because it was freezing! The “home base” for the parade watching was a friend of huz’s friend, a Japanese woman who had lots of interesting food, since I guess New Year’s is a big deal in Japan. That was nice, I was introduced to a lot of new things that day.
That night, we went to huz’s friend’s boyfriend’s house to watch some movies and have dinner. We hung out for quite a while and then it was time to go. We had been inside for quite a while, and I guess it had rained because we came outside to find that the car was encased in a sheet of ice. We chipped off enough ice with the car keys to unlock the door, but then had to break the ice holding the door sealed before we could get in.
We finally got the door open, but this was a rental and had nothing inside; no ice scraper, no windshield wiper fluid (either that, or it was frozen) so we had to run the engine to warm up the windows enough to melt the ice. The back window got nice and clear, but the windshield wipers were frozen solid so we couldn’t use them to spread out the tiny circle of warmed up area on each side of the windshield. Finally we decided to just open the front windows and use them to see where we were going until the windshield was clear. This was an insane idea, because even looking at the road wrong made the car slide in the wrong direction from the way the tires were pointed, but eventually, we made it back to where we were staying.
We got inside and were finally able to relax for a few minutes (don’t you get all tense driving in bad weather?) and then decided that we would hit the road early in the morning because otherwise we might miss our flight if the car needs to be defrosted again and everyone on the road, etc. We packed our bags and went to bed, then rose at 5 AM to have breakfast and get to the airport for our 10 AM flight.
We get outside, and the car is fine, in fact all the ice from the night before had melted in the 5 hours between leaving the boyfriend’s house and getting up in the morning, which was really weird, but we were grateful anyway, and headed for the airport.
When we got there, around 6:30AM, there were already huge lines outside the terminals for all of the airlines. We got checked in and our flight was delayed several times, for several hours. Finally, around 6PM, we were put on a flight to Columbus that we could connect to a 9PM flight to Indianapolis, instead of direct from Philly, since that flight had by now been cancelled.
We arrive in Columbus, and they can’t believe that someone in Philly told us we could connect to Indy, since Indy has been closed for three days and there were no flights in or out! Somehow, in our New Years time off the grid, we never saw the news or knew what was going on, and didn’t know that Philly wasn’t the only place hit by the storm, but Philly got the best of the weather system, apparently. Since I could hear that there were plenty of other passengers that were told the same lie, we got a hotel voucher and got the heck out of there and checked into the airport hotel. This is one of those hotels that doesn’t even have shampoo, never mind room service, so we had dinner in the parking lot restaurant, maybe a Cracker Barrel or Steak n’ Shake or something. Nice.
We got back to the airport as soon as it opened, and were told that we could maybe standby for a flight to Indy but we would probably not make it since there were so many others standing by. We decided to rent an SUV and drive the rest of the way back. On a good day, it’s about a 3 hour drive. It took us over eight hours. A lot of the roads hadn’t been plowed, so we were driving in the grooves left by big rigs, which were the only other cars on the road, for the most part. We got an Expedition, so we were pretty high off the road, but still the snow was hitting the undercarriage and sometimes taking a wheel or two off the road. I was freaking out, having had an accident myself when I was a teenager where I hydroplaned and totaled my car. It was not a pretty sight. Tempers were not only high, but off the chart.
Finally, we got to Indy, went to the airport to pick up our car and drop off the SUV. We get home and the parking lot of our apartment complex hasn’t been plowed yet. We found out later that it had snowed so hard that plows were breaking down all over town. City plows, even, not just the neighbor guy with the pickup-type plows.
I decided that if I was going to get to work the next day (I had already missed a day because of the extra stay-over) that I would need to dig out my car. It was in the garage off to the side of the complex. I walked over and tried to open the garage door. Not gonna budge. I tried yanking on it, kicking it, and finally it let go of the ground and I was able to open it.
The snow was about up to my knees, and I didn’t have a shovel (having just moved to Indy from San Diego a few months earlier) to clear the snow away, so I used what I had, which was the lid of my Rubbermaid laundry basket. It worked well for a bit, but finally I guess it got too cold and snapped in half. I was finally able to get my car out of the garage, so I closed it and went inside where I discovered that at some point during this adventure, I had smashed the emerald on my engagement ring and the pieces didn’t end up in my glove, so I never saw them again.
It was right about then that we decided we wouldn’t be spending another winter in a wintry place. We finally broke down and got some shovels but it hardly snowed again the rest of the winter. It’s like the whole winter happened over New Years. We later found out that this was the winter when that plane was stuck out on the runway for the whole day and people were getting sick and they wouldn’t let them off the plane.
For the rest of the winter, I had to fight with the damned garage door, and even after winter passed, some days I would come home and discover it open, because when I had closed it in the morning, it had made it almost to the bottom and then stuck and bounced back open again. So I had to manually close and open the garage after that, the rental property “couldn’t” fix it and had no others to move me into.
By the time September rolled around, we were making plans to move back to Southern California, it didn’t matter where. We finally ended up moving back one week less than a year to the day we had arrived, and not a moment too soon. I sold my shovels to an Indian guy who had just arrived and was working on the same project as I was. I was determined that I would never need them again.
We ended up in Orange County, which was nice enough, but not affordable for us, so 3 years later we bought a house in Long Beach, where it only snows when the truck comes once a year to make snow for the kiddies. I don’t miss any of it and if I ever live someplace snowy again, it will be the kind of place where I can hunker down and never have to go out until it’s all gone.
Happy New Year, and I hope that if you are in a snowy place, you are at least warm and comfortable, and have the right tools to get you out.