Sunday, November 25, 2012

No. 557 – Wild Horses

Performer: The Sundays
Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Original Release: Blind
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None

As I mentioned a while back, almost a year ago as a matter of fact, when Snowmageddon hit Chicago in February 2011, it was everything that the forecasters had predicted. That in itself was amazing.

This probably is true everywhere, but when a snowstorm—or thunderstorm for that matter—is in the forecast, local news goes into overdrive warning viewers about how certain death was bearing down on the city. Then, of course, the storm would hit and there might be two or three inches of snow covering the hood of my car. That’s not a bad snow but not really the certain death I had expected.

So it was with typical newspaper gallows humor that I spoke that week about Snowmageddon. When the first flakes started to fall in the afternoon, I announced, “It’s begun! Everyone run for lives!”

Well, it turns out this time the forecasters were right. There was no question that we were being pounded by an honest-to-goodness blizzard when Laurie and I went to bed that night.

I had my cellphone on my bedside table, which was unusual, but I figured I had to be ready the next morning to get in touch with co-workers after determining whether the office would be open that day. As I mentioned, my magazine had no formal snow policy.

I got my first text at about 6, just before my alarm went off, asking whether I would make a try of it. The next text, almost right on top of the first one, said all the roads were covered and a state of emergency was announced in Lake County, which is where the offices were. My reply—the first text I ever sent from my basic flip phone—was simply, “Wuss.”

I got another text and another and replied that I hadn’t heard anything, but I would get on it, stat. The editor had a scheduled day off, so technically I was in charge of the editorial department that day and would have to coordinate with the publisher to let everyone know the program.

I retrieved my phone numbers list that I brought home, and I’ll never forget the sight out of the windows in front. Snow covered everything. It was to the tops of the wheel wells on the cars parked out front. There must have been two feet of snow on the street, which had ski marks but nary a tire track. It was easily the most snow I’d ever seen in one instance.

OK, so it was obvious there would be no getting to work today, at least by 8 a.m., for anyone in Chicago. Still, I didn’t want to assume anything. The publisher lived north, and for all I knew, he had no trouble getting to work. I called, and it sounded like someone answered briefly before the call got disconnected. I tried again, same thing. I figured the snow was affecting phone lines, so I would try again in a little while. I texted everyone saying I’d keep trying, but I wasn’t going anywhere for the time being.

I kept hearing from other people. Two people decided the previous day that they were going to stay with relatives close to the office, and even they said they didn’t think they could make it in. Still, no luck getting the publisher. Finally, I made the call for those in touch and for myself. I’m not going in; you can do what you want, but I don’t think anything’s working today.

The apartment itself was fine—nice and toasty and no snow seeping through cracks anywhere—unlike the Blizzard of 1978 in Columbus, when a small snow drift formed in our living room as the snow blew through the narrow slot between the door and door jamb. I told Laurie: Let’s get dressed and go outside and play. I was like a little kid.

The sun came out, and we hiked around—in a manner of speaking. The snow mostly was midthigh. We hiked over to where each of our cars was parked, just to see how much snow we’d have to shovel … eventually. Laurie had parked behind an industrial building and wasn’t nearly as buried as I was.

As we slogged back home, I saw a huge drift down one alley and took a running jump into it and sank above my waist. Unbelievable. If I dropped my nephew into that snowbank, he would’ve disappeared.

I hadn’t had a snow day since high school, and it was fun, but it lasted only one day. My car was undriveable the next two weeks, but the main streets were clear and buses running the next day, so it was back to work.

When I showed up, I talked to the publisher. I tried calling several times; what happened? He said, ah, so that was it. He explained that his number was actually his wife’s cellphone, and because the number came up with a non-Chicago area code (I never switched over), she thought it was a solicitor and kept hanging up.

OK, that’s rude—why not just not answer the phone—but I get that, but … really? It never occurred to anyone that workers might be calling to see whether the office would be open? “I thought it was a no-brainer.”

So, our snow policy is get to work unless the publisher thinks it’s a no-brainer. In case you’re wondering, the level of snow that causes that hasn’t been determined.

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