Friday, February 3, 2012


I've been able to take my students out for recess every day so far this week. In Chicago. In late January and now early February. It is unheard of and I love it!

It's hard to believe that this time a year ago Chicago was covered in 2 feet of snow. School was cancelled for 2 days. That hadn't happened in about 12 years in Chicago. While my friends in the south would have school cancelled for .0000003 of an inch, I'd be making my way to work in 12+ inches. Well last year was my year to enjoy my first snow day as a teacher and it was fabulous!

Here are some photos to bring back some memories. Lake Shore Drive was completely shut down. Cars had been abandoned. I even saw two plow trucks get stuck! Chicago was truly a winter wonderland!

My husband's work was unfortunately not canceled. Because I think he is such a creative writer and I admire this about him, I want to share with you his special account he wrote to our family and friends about his blizzard experience last year. If you're up for a good laugh and reading some creative writing, grab a cup of coffee and start reading!

As I was lying in bed this morning, an indistinguishable song coming from my alarm clock, I knew the score. The motorists stranded on Lake Shore Drive for countless hours, the homes without power, the blinding snow and the relentless wind gave evidence of the score. Hours earlier, before bed, I watched out our living room window as people hopped out of cars to push through snow drifts. Lake Shore Drive was closed down and many other streets were impassable. The thunder snow and the strong winds provided quite the testament to the storm’s power as Amy and I watched it from our apartment. I wondered if our living room window would shatter from the wind, if we would lose power like so many others. I wondered if the Chicago Transit Authority would be rendered useless for the foreseeable future. I wondered what chance any human had against the force of this epic weather front. It was there, watching from my living room window, that the score first dawned on me. Once I managed to remove myself from my bed and shower, I looked out the window and saw that the storm still had not let up. Though I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t avoid the score. The storm had begun way beyond my expectations. This storm was different than the “Storm of the Century” that Chicago weather predicts on a weekly basis. This storm materialized. This storm damaged. This storm terrorized everything in its past. I was naive to think that this storm was not possible. Standing in my living room, looking at my winter gear, I again focused on the sad realization...the score was unavoidable, undeniable, indisputable and irrefutable...the score was Nature: 1, Man: 0.

Please know, before I go any further, that I don’t want to be thought of as a hero. I’m no supreme being or superhero. I am flesh and blood just like you. I have a family, friends, and a name, just like you. I don’t write this to be thought of as something greater than I am. I am just a man who knew the who decided early on that Man needed to strike back. Nature had dealt the first blow, but we can overcome.

I dusted off my trusty boots that hadn’t been worn in years. “Saved just for times like this” I laughed to myself. “We’ve had some good times together” I whispered to my boots. “I don’t know what’s going to happen out there”, I continued, “but know that I appreciate all that you’ve helped carry me through.” I put on my long underwear, wind pants, sweater, winter jacket, ear muffs and scarf, grabbed my backpack with my computer and work clothes, and set off for the elevator.

The elevator doors opened and my doorman gave me a strange look. “What are you doing?” he asked me. “Going to work” I responded. “But the buses...they are no running.” I explained to the doorman who thinks that I’m a doctor (another story for another day) that I realized the buses weren’t reliable right now so I would be walking to the El (a decision I had come to when Amy learned on facebook that it took a coworker/neighbor 4 hours to get home yesterday on the bus). He fell silent for a moment, looked at me stunned and said “You...are the first.” It seems that, throughout his whole night and morning shift, at 6:45am, I was the very first person to leave the building and attempt to take on the elements. A sense of pride rushed through my body as I was reminded I wasn’t just doing this for me, but I was doing it for Amy...I was doing this for The Darien...I was doing this for Chicago...I was doing this for mankind. I continued to the door only to be interrupted by the doorman. He directed me to the side door. It seems the snow drifts were so high that the front door wasn’t an option. I thanked him and proudly walked to the side door.

As I approached the door it dawned on me that this was my chance to make a bold first impression and show nature that I am not afraid. I attempted to swing open the door, but it stopped suddenly after opening two feet. I squeezed through the gap and stepped into a two foot snow drift. As I stomped out of the garage I quickly realized it was worse than I thought. My gaze was fixed downward as I attempted to walk on what I think was the sidewalk. Once I finally got myself on to the sidewalk I allowed myself to look up and see how my path looked. The sidewalks were covered with snow, about a foot in the lowest parts, up to two or three feet in others. I considered walking to the street but noticed that it wasn’t plowed either (I believe I read something a year or two ago about Chicago no longer plowing side streets to save money, so may be attributed to that). I went a few more feet before my first discovery. I wasn’t yet fifty feet from my building when I saw a car completely abandoned in the middle of Barry. It would not be the last.

I made my way down Barry to Broadway, battling the unplowed sidewalks and high snowdrifts. I turned down Wellington and fought the wind head on. It was at this point that I began to realize how much effort the walk was taking. I realized that, though cold outside, I should have not opted to wear my long underwear. I slowed the pace and unzipped my coat to ensure I wouldn’t be a sweaty mess when I arrived at the office.

The main streets had been plowed but were covered yet again. The plows left two to three foot snow banks in front of every side street and I saw several cars attempt to climb these. A few cars were left at these locations abandoned. I was nearing the final portion of my walk to the El when I faced my greatest challenge yet. I looked up and saw that ten feet ahead of me was a snow drift up to my shoulders. I knew I couldn’t take this on so turned around to back track. As I did, I could see that there was a waist-high snow drift among the parked cars that prevented me from getting to the street. This snow drift went as far back as I could see, so I decided to make a move. I stepped between two parallel parked cars, bracing myself on the hood of one and the trunk of the other and proceeded to sink. I was in up to my knees and still sinking before I jumped in to the semi-plowed street to continue my walk.

I had made it to the El station finally! Despite the fact that I just missed my train my spirits remained high. I looked down the track at the train going by and was amazed at the amount of sparks shooting from the back car. It’s normal for the third rail to spark as the El goes by, but this was a non-stop, 4th-of July-esque, sparkling fountain! I finally knew for sure that the trains were running and I was happy to not be walking through any more snow drifts. I got on the next train and rode down to work. As people got on at the next stop I noticed that 75% of the sparsely-populated car had a look of great accomplishment on their faces...a banner of victory that I knew I wore as well. The other 25% looked extremely disgusted and exhausted (which I found hilariously entertaining).

I arrived at my stop and said goodbye to the El driver who was sticking his head out the window. I enjoy how a snow-raved Chicago felt like a genuinely small town. When I had been walking on the sidewalks earlier an older lady was snow plowing. She stopped, gave me a nod of encouragement, and instructed me to be safe. Now here I was talking to the El driver. Sharing stories with my colleagues once at work sounded similar (one guy was walking and a bus pulled over and asked if he wanted a ride and dropped him off closer to work than he would have otherwise been). The last part of my trip was easy but underscored just how abandoned the streets had become. I didn’t have to stop once at a cross walk since there were no cars to be seen. I arrived at work about an hour and a half after I set out (much longer than normal) and was thankful to have had such an entertaining commute. Finally I was able to point my head to the skies and shout at the clouds. Finally I was able to carry the burden of the city on my back and laugh in the face of blizzard warnings. Finally, yes, finally, man had struck back...we did not roll over, we did not give in...and now, yes, now, I knew the score. It is unavoidable, undeniable, indisputable and irrefutable...the score is Nature: 1, MAN: 1.

While I type this the snow continues to pour down. Due to the whiteout conditions it seems there will be no food service in the building so we are having lunch ordered for all that made it to the office (not many). In the hours ahead this storm should begin to relent and, the city will return to normalcy. In the days ahead there will be much to read about this storm and the damage done. In the weeks ahead the challenges from this storm will slowly be forgotten. But in the years ahead, future generations will be reminded that man will withstand the onslaught of a blizzard, man can face the fury of a storm, man has starred the fury of nature in the eye and fought back. The score was Nature: 1, Man: 1.

1 comment:

  1. Creative & Crazy! What an adventure. Thanks for sharing with Schmammy!