The first inkling that my day was probably not going to go as planned came early this morning when I turned on the TV. The newscaster was talking to a woman who had just spent ten hours, TEN HOURS, stuck on the George Washington Parkway, one of the main arteries leading into Washington, D.C. This was at 4am. As it turns out, she was one of many who left work yesterday only to get caught up in the commute from hell, courtesy of the first big snowstorm to paralyze the region this winter.
“No matter,” I thought. “I’m taking the train into the city today.” That’s what I told my boss when he called before the storm hit to ask if I wanted to spend the night in a hotel room (I’m usually considered essential staff) and that’s what I fully intended to do.
Don’t laugh. I really thought the commuter trains would be running.
When I arrived at the station, I was disabused of that notion. I had just pulled into the parking lot when a fellow commuter motioned for me to pull down my window. He had clearly just come from the station and it was he who informed me that the snow had put a stop to the trains.
I thought about popping up on the interstate to scope out the driving conditions. In the end, though, I decided to return home, wait for daylight and reflect on my course of action from there.
It was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
After my wife got up and we walked our dog together, we discovered the weather had shutdown Interstate 70, part of the route I use to get to the G.W. Parkway and into downtown D.C. And then we started hearing more horror stories – of people spending a dozen hours stuck on I-70, of others leaving work yesterday and ending up taking 8 hours to get home. You can usually drive to Cleveland in 8 hours!
Through email, a colleague of mine told me that when he drove into work this morning, he had to snake his way slowly on the ramp from the Dulles Toll Road leading to Interstate 66 because of all the cars abandoned by drivers who simply gave up and presumably decided to seek shelter on foot.
All in all, I should be happy that, through the luck of the draw, I somehow avoided this catastrophic commute. I’m usually right in the thick of it, slogging along in the middle of miles of cars, that, if they are moving at all, are doing it by the inch. But I feel like I missed out on something, like I shirked a hardship that my fellow commuters suffered through without me …
Oh, who am I kidding. You have no idea how glad I am to be home. I think that old saying “better you than me” applies here. I’ve been there before and believe me, I’ve got enough “commuting stories gone awry” to tell. I’m happy to let someone else tell this one. My turn will come back around soon enough.