Monday, February 8, 2010

Walking Home During Blizzard: Worst...Idea...Ever?

Despite having moved to Las Vegas for four and a half years, I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing every blizzard that’s hit Baltimore in the past decade and a half.

Well, “misfortune” isn’t really the right word. I mean, it’s because of these blizzards that I’ve had some truly unique experiences. For instance as a result of the blizzard of ’96 I spent two days in St. Louis’ airport because I was en route to Baltimore when they shut BWI down. It just like a longer, much less enjoyable version of barely entertaining movie The Terminal, though I did get to frequent the Cheers at the airport.

Sadly they didn’t know my name.

The blizzard of ’03 was memorable for two reasons. First I’d recently been fired and was in a bit of a depression so being snowed in wasn’t that big a deal. Secondly the blizzard was one of the factors that lead me to leaving Baltimore (with the other being the hurricane we experienced later that year.)

Despite my history with snow in Baltimore I really thought that I’d escape this storm unscathed. I was wrong.

Things started out well enough; once I told my manager that the buses would stop running at midnight he let me go early. I get to the bus stop and I see a guy shoveling snow who looks like he’s been there for a while. Unfortunately English isn’t his first language. Fortunately I grew up in Tucson and took Spanish in high school and university. Unfortunately I retained nothing.

I managed to get from him that I missed the bus by five minutes. Not a big deal since I could still catch the 11:25. But I decide to make my way to the bus shelters on Pratt Street, what with the show and wind and everything. There I meet a guy also waiting for the #19, let’s call him Dirk.

So Dirk and I wait. 11:30 rolls around and still no bus. Then around 11:40 we see three busses that are “Not in Service.” One of them is kind enough to stop and explain that they’ve gotten the call to get off of the street. Bus service has ended and I’ve got no way to get home. Dirk says worst-case scenario he’ll walk home.

I laugh at him.

I call my boss and my manager to let them know that I’m effectively stranded. My manager calls back, but I’m walking so I miss his call. The message that he leaves is that they’ll pay for a hotel room for me.

I don’t want that for a couple reasons. I don’t want to stay in a hotel primarily because I know I’ll be stuck there on Saturday and potentially Sunday and I really don’t want to be stuck in the same clothes for at least two days. Also, I really enjoy my crib with my computer, my cds, my comics and my dvds.

Dirk and I decide that we’ll try to split a cab as he’s trying to get about four blocks from my crib. Done and done, except we’ve got to catch a cab, in downtown Baltimore, in the middle of a blizzard.

I figure that the best plan of action is to go to the Renaissance. Cabs are always lined up by hotels, it should be easy. Except none are lined up. We go inside and ask them to call one. We get bad news; there’s a three-hour wait for cabs and you’ve got to wait outside, in a blizzard.

I do some quick calculations about how likely it is a cab will come in three hours, how much snow will be on the ground and what the probability is that a cab will actually make the trip to our neck of the woods and how much it’ll cost. The situation is grim.

I don’t want to be stuck in a hotel room, but I’ve got no way to get home…unless I revisit Dirk’s “walking” notion.

I’m a pedestrian. I like to walk. When I’d go home for the summer I’d walk three miles in triple digit temperature to get to work. I’m a fan of walking. But I’ve never walked in blizzard terrain.

Still, I suck it up because I want to get home and I figure that Baltimore streets are never safer then when they’re in the throes of a full on blizzard. So Dirk and I begin our journey to get home.

It’s hard to explain what that walk was like. It was sort of like Book of Eli, only with snow and subtler. It felt like I was experiencing every post-apocalyptic film I’d ever seen. Except for the occasional automobile the streets were empty. Fellow walkers were few and far between. And nearly everything was closed. It was like a ghost town.

The walking didn’t hurt because the snow actually cushioned each step. And because we were walking the street the snow wasn’t deep enough to really impede our progress. While it was a blizzard, we weren’t walking into the wind and it wasn’t dreadfully cold. Honestly it wasn’t an altogether bad experience.

It’s always beautiful and peaceful it’s snowing late at night. In fact I think that a snowy night would be the perfect time for a marriage proposal to take place. But walking that night, Baltimore never looked more serene or beautiful. Anyone who knows the #19 knows that it goes up Hillen and through some pretty depressing areas. Still, covered in snow those areas looked almost majestic.

I’m not trying to brag but I never really tired. Maybe it’s because I was so determined to get home and not allow the blizzard to strand me. Maybe it was because I had Dirk to keep me company. The only time it became a chore to walk was the final leg of the journey, after Dirk and I had parted ways. It was uphill and the snow was deeper. In fact the closer I got to my destination the worse the snow got. But I kept going.

We left downtown around midnight and I got to my home a little after 2am. And after setting up my clothes to dry and putting on some sweats the next thing I did, as odd as it sounds, was eat a bowl of ice cream.

As I sat read some comic books I’d periodically hear the snow and ice that had accumulated on my jacket, scarf, gloves and hat fall to the floor. I’m not going to front; every time I heard it fall it made me smile, like it was a badge of honor or something.

When I woke up on Saturday the only ill effects of my trek was some soreness in my hips and ankles, which I’m guessing was due to the slight waddle that’s require to walk in the snow.

All things considered I’m glad that I decided to walk home. It was an experience that I’m glad I had. It was invigorating and a challenge. If I had the chance to do it over again, I don’t really think I’d change anything. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but I certainly don’t regret it.


  1. Nice. Wonderful way to describe a snowstorm. PPL are usually scared and panicky but you make it sound almost beautiful.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I live in the DC area and horror stories about digging out and cabin fever complaints surround me.
    "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" came to mind as I read this. Informal yet very eloquent :-)

  3. Thanks for the kind words.

    It's a huge snow storm, but for the most part it's just an inconvenience. I had to walk home in the middle of it and I'm not complaining about it.

    A hardship would be being in Haiti right now. The Blizzard of 2010 so minor when you put things in perspective.

  4. The "Star" told me to read this and I am glad he did! Awesome story, I too was walking but on Saturday night down St. Paul street, it was weird, I think I saw all the drags without drag... which was a drag. I would have loved to photograph them out in the middle of a blizzard!

  5. I complained a little...well, A LOT, but then I thought about all the stray animals, homeless people, and of course, Haiti.

    DUDE! you coulda came to my crib. I was a few minutes away. SLUMBER PARTAYYY! I had 2 half gallons of ice cream (strawberry cheese cake & samoas). I had some extra pjs too...if you don't mind wearing steelers gear LOL

    I would've walked too. I like how quiet and calm everything seemed during the storm. It reminded me of one of those zombie/end of the world movies where everything is kinda quiet after everyone dies.

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