Tuesday, December 9

The Pre-CDP Essays (2000-2002: Volume 2).

Pre-CDP essay week continues with a trip back to the Holiday season of 2001. Here, we cover the trials and tribulations of merely surviving as a 19 year old with a crappy job and dreams of punk rock superstardom, amongst the coldest Winter in Wisconsin history. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas, Ya’ Bastards.
(Published appx. 12-11-01)

Exactly 365 days ago, I remember waking up at 6:28am, and getting ready for work. I ate two slices of peanut butter toast, and I wore an odd, feminine-looking sweater that was a hunter green color.[1] I stepped outside and shoveled a path a foot in front of myself to reach my car, which was crusted over with a good thick inch of ice. By this time, my ankles were soggy, and a gust of wind had blown a large pile of loose snow in my face. As it melted and ran down into my feminine sweater, I remember shaking my fist to the sky, screaming ‘never again!’ as loud as I could muster through my scarf and heavy tears.

(1. I believe I'm wearing this sweater in the photo that leads off yesterday's essay.)

No doubt about it, I was truly Winter’s Bitch.

I would use my car keys to scrape a clean spot in the windshield the diameter of a silver dollar, convinced it was enough visibility to get me down the street to the Hardware Store. It was not, and nine times out of ten, I would almost hit the first car I passed. Usually this would be my mother on her way to work, where she would get out in the middle of the road and scrape my windows herself, all while telling me how lazy and boneheaded I was. But she had a scraper, and I did not, so I did what I had to do. For the record, I could see just fine through the silver dollar peephole.

I would make it to work in about five minutes, where I would slide past the parking lot. Putting the car in reverse was always a challenge, as I was doing it completely blind. I was pretty certain that one day I would back over an elderly woman, and in my panic, manage to run her over 14 times.

I would step out of the car, now already 10 minutes late. A split second after my foot would touch the ground, I would routinely slip and fall down on the sheet of ice completely encasing the parking lot of the Larsen Co-Op. I had set myself up for a full day of humiliation and jokes in the eyes of anyone who had just witnessed this. It’s hard to defend yourself maturely when you have a wet spot extending from the heels of your shoes to the base of your neck.

Stepping into work only made things worse, as for the next eight hours, I would hear everyone in the tri-county area telling me how bad their morning has been. Don’t you hate that (I’m being tragically ironic, here)?

But that was a year ago. Everyone can now remember that December 2000 went onto be the coldiest and snowiest month in recorded history (seriously).[2] Cars filled ditches, I saw at least 24 people fall down,[3] and the Co-Op sold a record amount of road salt. It was also about a year ago when I completely lost control of my car, spun into an embankment and had to walk in the pitch-black, freezing darkness to my friend Aaron’s house; slipping, falling and swearing the entire way. Also that year, Florida got an inch of snow in a freak weather mishap, and they practically closed down the state. Remember kids, that’s Florida, truly America’s Wang.

(2. ...until 2007, of course.)

(3. Give or take.)

The timeline for my fateful December 8, Year 2000 car accident was as follows:

(Here, you see me and my manager at the Hardware Store. This was the cover of a midwestern farming magazine in December 2001, discounting the fact that I was completely Photoshopped out of the finished product. I had a good laugh.)

2:30am – Get dropped off at Ben’s house after another wildly successful Mediocre At Best show. Get into Ford Tempo and make a mental note to drive carefully, as I didn’t want to crash into a snow bank.

2:33am – Crash into a snow bank.

2:34-2:40am – Frantically shift from Drive to Reverse, swearing and fogging up glass.

2:41am – Realize I am stuck. I have to think of a plan. I step out into the freezing, zero-visibility night and come to the conclusion that I am quite helpless. I see where I am stuck, and try to dig myself out with my bare hands. This gets me nowhere, but I continue to do it for a few more minutes out of anger and spite.

2:57am – Attempt to lift the car up in a last ditch effort.

2:58am – Fall to the ground, clutching back in pain.

3:04am – Screaming to the foggy, barren moonlight, I start walking to Aaron’s house down the street, straight down the centerline of the road, losing traction and falling down at approximately every fourth line. I reach his driveway, and walk through the knee-deep snow to prevent me from falling down anymore. I am completely soaked, and not in a friendly way.

3:15am – Just as I am about to knock on Aaron’s door, he opens it to let his dog out, with an absolute rictus of terror painted on his face. Living out in the middle of nowhere, he didn’t expect to be visited at quarter after three in the morning, and I think I scared him just a little. I tell him the problem, and he offers me some macaroni and cheese to cheer me up. I decline this offer, and instead call home to find out that I’m stuck until at least 7am.

3:24am – Me and Aaron go back to the site of the crash to see if we can do anything on our own. We are not car professionals, and proceed to put on a display that certainly made God cackle with delight and embarrassment. We failed at everything we tried, and broke two collapsible shovels in the process.

3:30am – We go back to Aaron’s. After discussion, I decide to sleep on the basement floor with his cat. He goes to bed, and I watch the VCR clock until it reads 7:01.

7:02am – The doorbell rings, and I hop into my mom’s truck. I give Aaron a quick kiss on the forehead goodbye. To this day, he still believes that he dreamed that kiss.

7:05am – With a mighty roar, the Ford Explorer kicks into action and pushes my Tempo right out of the snow bank and directly into the ditch on the other side of the street. I get out of this jam, however, and drive directly to work.

7:30am-12:30pm – I work without sleep, still wearing the same soaked and tattered clothes from the night before. Customers are frightened by my appearance, but are too shy and intimidated to ask me what had happened. I wave the shotgun around a little, just to make my intentions absolutely clear.

It was certainly an event to remember.

So, now it’s a year later, and the snow isn’t around yet. Sure, it will show up eventually, and the whole Midwestern Winter system will start up again, but that’s not really what I’m concerned with. Enjoy this snow-free week while you can, because I can assure you that we’re going to pay for this.

Maybe you guys don’t watch the Weather Channel as much as me, but remember that I live with my Grandparents. They’d tape that damn channel if they knew how to operate the VCR. I know more about the weather now that I ever have or wanted to. For example, did you know that if you are over 65 years of age, you can predict the forecast with a 96% accuracy rate? I’m serious; ask your Grandpa, I bet he has this talent, too.

I’m not going to talk about Christmas and all the hassles that come with it, because we have brought these challenges upon ourselves and have nothing to complain about.[4] I also know that many people out there have it much worse off than me, so I have no rightful reason to bitch. All I really wanted to say was this: Enjoy this Winter, and enjoy this Holiday season.

(4. I think I'm making a reference to 9/11, here.)

We are all getting older, and it may feel less and less important each year. I mean, I know that we can never really feel the same way we did when we were 9 or 10, but we can at least remember, and that’s what it’s all about. This is a beautiful time of year if you allow it to be, and all the ice, snow and car accidents in the world couldn’t change my mind. I may be Winter’s Bitch, but at least I serve a good master. Merry Christmas and have a safe Winter.

(2000-2002: VOLUME 3)

I am aloooooone at work today.
Hathery: I wish I was alone at work today. My productivity goes way up when no one is around to bug me.

CDP: I'm enjoying your "Wonder Years" moments.
Did you kids get snow by you? We're in the middle of a freaking snowstorm as we speak. That'll learn me to use up all my vacation before the end of the year...
Hathery, does your office have a "use it or lose it" policy on vacation time, too? I'm the only person in the office on Mondays and Fridays the entire month of December because I'm apparently the only person who actually takes vacations the rest of the year instead of just having 4-day weekends in December. My productivity is non-existent when I'm alone. I think that makes me a bad person.

Yea for winter and snow! We're going home to Ohio for Christmas and I'm really hoping it snows or that we get an ice storm. I miss real winter.
berryjo - You want an ice storm? You crazy.

Yep, drove 30 minutes through the snow storm this morning to get to work, where half of the more sensible people are out. Still, the one upshot of driving on a day like today is that very few other souls are on the road with you, and that's usually half the battle.

Still, I'd much rather be sledding.
HOSS - Thanks much!

HATHERY - I'm just glad that you made it to work okay. Drive carefully coming home tonight.

BERRY BEAR - I work for the State, which means that I can carry a certain amount of vacation over every year, but Personal Holiday time is strictly 'use it or lose it.'

EMILY - I'm currently watching The Price is Right, listening to a Pro Wrestling podcast and drinking Swiss Miss. Life is good, even despite the fact that our Sump Pump exploded all over the basement last night.
Our vacation policy is we can carry it over to the following October, but then we have to put it in a "vacation bank" if we haven't used it. Not entirely sure what a vacation bank is all about.

I used up all my vacation time earlier in the year so now I'm stuck having to come in during blizzards like a sucker. But next year I get another week of vacation so that rules!
Emily, I live in a city where people don't know how to drive on perfectly clear days (seriously, I don't think "merge" is in Baltimore dialect: they just drive until the merge lane ends and don't even realize that they're now in a different lane or that they just almost slammed into that SUV) and where they rarely get snow or ice. This means that if there is a hint of a possibility of half an inch of snow people leave work early to beat "the blizzard" and raid the grocery stores. I am not even joking. Then they talk about their drives home like they've survived battle. It's disgusting. So, yes, I kind of want to have an ice storm to remind myself that in the midwest people with real winter war stories don't talk about them in nearly so horrified of tones as these east coast wimps do. (Not that all of east coasters are wimps. I'm sure people from Boston aren't like this, but they're from Boston: everyone knows they're insane anyway.)

Besides, ice storms are purty.
It is 78 degrees here on the Gulfcoast. Which has upsides and downsides. During our vacation in October my husband got to experience driving in snow for the first time in his life, right through the heart of the Pennsylvania/Ohio "snow belt" in lake effect snow. It is apparently not an experience he is anxious to repeat any time soon, so our plans to move anywhere where it snows at all have been nixed for the time being. The sunny and warm weather is nice, but it doesn't do much for the holiday spirit.
Maus - Imagine me saying this with a Dolph Lundgren voice: Your husband is sad man. I must break him.
I could never live in Florida. The humidity would do awful things to my hair! :)
Folks in Rhode Island are weird about snow. They don't freak out, and they don't tell outrageous war stories. It doesn't snow as much as in Wisconsin, but it still snows often, and the people there are aggressive drivers to start with, so things generally go just fine when it snows.

But. That grocery store thing berryjo mentions about MD? Holy crap that happens. Everyone over the age of 30 remembers the Blizzard of 78 when people were stranded for days. Seriously, my dad slept at work rolled up in the blinds for three days. So if someone somewhere in the state sees more than three snowflakes at once, every convenience store in the state is out of bread and milk eighteen minutes later.

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