I think the big lump in the forefront of the photo might be a car. Or bushes. I don’t know. It’s hard to make out anything when it’s a blizzard. You don’t know what’s what or where.
In Part 1, I told the tales of two nasty storms I’ve been through and what I learned from them. And I’ve asked — What bad storms have you been in? And what did you learn from them?
Here’s my third storm…
A spring snow storm in 1994
They’d predicted a major snow storm, but it hadn’t built up yet when I had to go to my job at a large department store at the big mall 25 minutes (on a good day) away. By now, TJ had left and I was on my own with my two oldest sons in college and the younger ones in middle school at home. We were still in the big Victorian.
I drove to the mall bitterly resenting — well, everything that morning. The fact that I was working in retail, which I loathed. The store, which was teetering toward going under. The fact that I was required to be at the store when everything was closing up in preparation for the blizzard.
Resenting, especially, that I was driving in dodgy weather conditions for a job that paid me — wait for it — $6.25 an hour. It wasn’t like I was a ED nurse or on the police force or anything essential to the welfare and safety of anyone in the situation. No, I was on the road (while they were closing down others) that would become treacherous very quickly — and require those emergency personnel to help out in the inevitable accidents.
But I had to go.
The store and the mall were OPEN. As long as they remained open, everyone working there had to be there. Not to show up could risk being fired.
The store was a bit of a ghost town during the day. We heard reports of how terrible it was getting outside. Whipping winds, snow — heavy, icy snow — piling up fast out in the vast parking lots. Burying our cars. The state police were saying no unnecessary travel. The snow plows could barely keep up.
The mall stayed open. And now and then, a couple of people would come in to shop. Idiots! we fumed. Over-confident 4-wheel-drive knuckleheads. The worst part was — they were just browsing! Arrrggghhh.
The staff began asking – can we go home? If we weren’t allowed to leave early, we risked getting trapped in the store. At least there would be furniture to curl up on. But the store management called the mall management, located in another state — a state that wasn’t experiencing a blizzard … and the mall management said NO.
They didn’t close the mall until 5pm. Now it was dark.
If you live where extreme winter weather happens, you know what I’m describing. Unearthing the car was the first battle. I had a Honda Accord. (AKA: “a sled with an engine”.) I managed to get the car out of its parking spot but the snow was coming down so hard and fast that keeping the windshield & windows clear was problematic.
We all crept along out of the parking lot (plowed continually for hours, filling up faster than they could manage) onto the disappearing roads. Miles of open countryside stretched ahead. The wind shield wipers struggled to clear as the wet snow caked them, turned to slush and then ice.
The worst stretch lay ahead — a north-south road through open fields, with the wind dumping sheets of white so thick you could barely make out the car lights in front of you. The road was obliterated — there were no shoulders, no lines, no trace of the road. So we followed tracks from the car in front (if there was one).
I had to pull over and try to chop off the ice that kept forming on the wipers, making clearing the wind shield impossible. It was sort of a losing battle. Clear, drive, pull over, clear, drive, pull over… What frightened me was that in the blinding snow, I wouldn’t be visible to cars coming along. It would be easy to be killed by a sliding, out of control car.
After over an hour, I’d finally made it nearly onto the city Main Street — only blocks to go.
That’s when my car just slid sideways off the road. I was stuck. The prospect of getting out and trying to wade through the snow — piling up waist-deep — and struggle another mile on foot…
And then an angel knocked on my window.
“You want a push?” The man behind me had stopped and behind him came another Good Samaritan. Between the two, they got me back on track.
I’ll never forget pulling into my driveway –which had been reasonably shoveled out by my next door neighbor and my two boys at home. My oldest son had waded through blocks of hip-deep snow to get to his younger brothers to make sure they were OK . The lights were on, the house was warm, my boys were OK and I was never so grateful to get to my own garage.
Also, I have never forgiven that management company for putting so many people through a storm and at risk — for shopping that only a handful of
idiots people attempted. For wasting light, heat and time. Because they were in a climate that never had to worry about how bad snow storms can be.
The store did close up, by the way — for good. But I was gone out of retail by then.
WHAT I LEARNED: For some, only the bottom line matters. I never want to work for anyone that puts profit before the safety of others. I learned that slow and steady can get you anywhere. That it’s important to have the right outerwear with you– good boots, a warm coat, scarf, hat, hood, and mittens — being fashionably dressed can be deadly when you’re caught by extreme weather (I was outfitted well, from experience). There are angels out there, just when you need them. The sight of your warm, solid home full of shining light and the ones you love is a treasure never to be taken for granted. – And you can rely on yourself to keep a clear head and persevere to get where you want to go.
Photo credit: Snowstorm view — WIXT News