It’s all my fault.
This past Tuesday, I sat in that Starbucks in Sandy Springs on my lunch break. And I took a smirking, one-eyebrow cocked selfie for Instagram and mocked the South for all it’s freaking out about over what was predicted to be “1-2 inches of possible accumulation”. And then I finished my lunch, grabbed my coffee and headed back to my training class so that more mind-numbing information could be stuffed inside an already-full cranium.
What I didn’t know was that I was about to seriously EAT THOSE WORDS.
When class ended at 5:15pm, I left the building and eyed the roads suspiciously. There was only about 1″ accumulated already, but I saw a Jeep 4runner trying to make it up a steep, snow-coated hill. His tires spun uselessly while he remained in the same spot. I made much better progress on foot. When I had cleaned off my car and headed to leave, I noticed that Jeep never made it up that hill. Warning sign number 1.
Warning sign number 2 was the Mercedes who wasn’t making it up a different hill. I was stopped at a light, awaiting entry onto I-285 and I watched open-mouthed as this driver stood up, half inside his fancy car, and with one foot on the ground and one on the gas pedal, floored it while someone else pushed the car from behind. I shook my head at the dangerous maneuver but kept my car pointed towards the highway on-ramp. As I crawled closer, I saw this.
Warning sign number 3.
I should have not even attempted it, but I was seeing updates from friends who were making it safely home in 3 hrs. That, I could handle. So could my 1/3 full tank of gas.
Fast forward 2.5 hrs and I’d gone less than 2 miles. I posted a few times on FB and talked to my parents, assuring them that I was fine and still had plenty of gas. Then a friend called me, relaying the news that the town in which I live was a nightmare and roads were completely impassable. He said to turn around and seek shelter. So I called a good friend from my UGA days and asked if she and her husband could host me that night. Without hesitation they said, “Come on!”. I eyeballed the map for the next exit and made that my goal. Just get there, Peach, and it will be better.
I saw people abandoning their cars. I saw people walking in the snow wearing not enough clothing, carrying gas cans to or from that next exit. I saw guys taking a leak on the side of the road and thanked all things holy that I’d de-watered before I left! I noshed on a protein bar and a clementine I’d packed in my purse that morning as brain food… which turned out to be my dinner. And all the while we craaaaawwwwwled towards that exit. And when I say crawl, I mean maybe a foot of forward progress every ten minutes, which gave me plenty of time to look out the window at the ominous, solid inch of ice on what should have been clean asphalt. Looking back, I’m extremely lucky that we inched forward just enough to get me to that exit.
Except when I got to the exit ramp, my eyes widened at the three cars that were floundering their way up the ramp. OF COURSE it was an incline. The SUV on the right? Spun himself right off the ramp. The SUV on the left? He evaded the ice by off-roading on the snowy shoulder and getting past the slickest point. The SUV in the middle? Well, that dumbass just floored it and uselessly fishtailed around like a moron in the middle of the road for what felt like 10 minutes. Then he put it in reverse and backed up (almost hitting me in the process) and got off the treacherous spot, finally making it up the hill so I could continue on. I put my trusty old Honda in the lowest gear and ever so gently nudged her forward. I yelled in triumph when I got traction and kept it all the way up and onto the next road.
But my gas light had started glowing its nasty yellow-orange at the bottom of that ramp. I knew if traffic was this bad on the roads I needed to take to my friends’ house, I’d be in trouble. Unfortunately, the next leg took about another 45 minutes, but made it to the first gas station…which was an ice-skating rink of cars sliding around, stuck in the ice or blocking the pumps. SHIT. I kept going and finally made it to the next gas station about a mile from my friends’… but that one had cars parked (no drivers) in front of every pump, with bags over every nozzle. SHITSHITSHIT. I texted my friend, “Fuck it. I’m just coming to you. Let you know if I don’t make it.”. Because I knew I was clothed enough to walk the mile to her house if I needed to.
But my sweet little Honda made it to them. It was 11:30pm and I’d been driving 6.5 hours, yet only traveled a mere 4-5 miles. There at my friends’, I was greeted with warm hugs, warm clothes and two cold but affectionate greyhound noses. I was so wound up and stressed out that I stayed up talking with them until 1am (bless them), but then dropped into a dark sleep in their guest room until the next morning.
But the story isn’t over yet. As you all saw on the news, Atlanta was at a standstill for days afterward. A woman gave birth in her car. Semis flipped and blocked entire major highways. It took my next door neighbor 12 hours to make the same commute I did, but she left 3 hours earlier than I. One person in my training class had to drop out because she had to sleep in her car and didn’t arrive home until 24hrs after she left. My class instructor himself didn’t make it home, turned around and came back to the class site and slept on a rollaway bed… after he lost control of his truck on a hill and slid into FOUR cars. The most unbelievable part was that the training class was still going to be held for us via webinar. So on Wednesday and Thursday, my friends graciously kept me as their guest so that I could finish out my training course successfully. They fed me, clothed me, beered me (at night) and gave me a warm bed to sleep in… AND gave up their home computer ten hours a day for me. Words cannot express the level of my gratitude to them. They are my angels. I finally made it to the gas station on fumes and arrived home Thursday night at 8:30pm.
The point of my telling this whole long story? It’s to say that no, I don’t blame that nightmare of a week on our mayor. Or our governor. Or the schools for not shutting down. Or the weatherman. Or Mother Nature.
I blame me. It’s all my fault for mocking the South.
Bless my heart.