The Great Freeze of Ought Six

In Seattle, we rarely get snow of any impact, but this week has been very cold and very snowy, causing untended streets to ice over and send unprepared motorists sliding all over creation. Everyone in the Puget Sound region has their own story of commuting hell and school closure during the storm, so here is mine, in narrative form as rambling and confused as the dark night itself.
Monday night it started snowing like mad out in the faceless Redmond industrial park I toil in, so at Michelle’s suggestion I scooted down the street with some colleagues to John J. Mahoney’s Irish Pub to eat big food and enjoy the Seahawks-Packers game on high definition screens over a pint of Guinness. Since we don’t have ESPN at our house (we have “limited” cable”), it was better than being at home! After three quarters of unusually entertaining NFL football in winter conditions that made the game look it was being played in Green Bay rather than Seattle, we went our separate ways and I started my odyssey home.
The highways were in beautiful shape by then. Wet, but clear of snow and ice and other vehicles. This would be the greatest commute of my career! I would set record drive time and while basking in quarter four of a Seahawks victory on the radio. It was not to be. It was the surface streets of north Seattle that did me in. Sheets of snowy ice. Buses blocking the roads. Cars left to die in the street. It was traffic bedlam!
It was a mere 20 minutes to get to Northgate on I-5 where traffic stopped cold and I got off to use surface streets. 90 minutes later I had picked my way within two blocks of home but no one could get across 145th street because of a disabled bus and some other cars blocking. When I saw a coworker’s Toyota 4-Runner carefully parked at the curb and abandoned, I took it as a sign and pulled in behind him and gave up.
I bonded with three separate strangers who were also hiking their way home. First, I joined another accidental pedestrian in trying to push a girl’s BMW out of someone’s front lawn, but without success. It was just too slick and the car’s rear wheels could not gain purchase. We called off the rescue effort and left the driver to sob softly into her cell phone. She drove a beautiful automobile, but in those conditions it was functionally the same as Camaro. Weather is the great muscle car equalizer.
Down the slippery street at the corner I waited for an opportunity to dash across the frozen 145th street tundra with a woman named Carol who had abandoned her vehicle several blocks east. She looked east, I looked west, and when we both saw an opening, we cried out and ran for it! She was pleased to have someone to walk with and we formed a pact that if either of us fell during our frozen march, the other would help them up and/or leave a message on their home phone so their family could find their body. We shared our “Great Freeze of Ought Six” war stories until parting company about a half block from my house.
Finally I turned on to my street, where a woman crawled out of her running Mazda 626 (the same model I had abandoned up the street!) and asked if I knew where she could find a motel without driving over any more hills. Spying her Oregon plates, I asked if she was familiar with the neighborhood at all and she replied “No! I don’t even know where I am. Everywhere is blocked!” She was traveling alone with her three year old daughter and just wanted to get some lodging right away. Aurora Avenue has several motels, but they aren’t necessarily the kind you want to bring your three year old to, but she didn’t care and I gave her directions and she seem relieved but anxious as she thanked me before rolling her car slowly up the street.
Just a few steps more and I would feel the warm hearth of home and the loving arms and touching relief of a family that was worried and waiting for me. Even in my layered clothing and heavy parka I was freezing and could not wait for the hot cocoa I would soon enjoy. Ah, the light is on, they must be worried sick. Shuffle up the walk, work my frozen fingers over the key, throw open the door to sweet, sweet . . .
Nothing. Max lifted his head to grunt before flopping back down. Everyone was sound asleep. They didn’t even know I was late! At least two of them were snoring! (I won’t say who, but one was the dog and the other is an adult.) The house was so peaceful and quiet that I just let them go right on sleeping long enough for me to take off my boots and coat and pee before waking Michelle up and telling her the entire day’s adventure, which, judging by her dazed expression, mesmerized her. She stared back at me without speaking through every detail, so I know she appreciated me telling her right then instead of waiting until morning. Since she was up anyway, she went in to work later that night to cover for employees who hadn’t reported to work, so she hiked up the street around 11:00pm and rescued the car and drove it to work.
##More tales of the Great Freeze
Byron describes Snow Watch 06
Jessi talks about her snow day off
Jesse (with an ‘e’) shares his hellish commute to Auburn

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