It’s actually pretty…until you have to drive in it

So Chicago got hit with its second snow storm of the season.

We were warned.

We knew it was coming.

The news this morning while getting ready for work and then later while driving to work informed us that all 365 of the salt trucks and plows from IDOT and Streets & Sanitation were already out and ready for the snow to start.

AAA was giving their recommendations for being out in traffic:

  • Make sure the gas tank is at least half full – if you get stranded, you can run the car with heat for hours waiting for help to arrive.
  • Keep a blanket and an extra set of warm clothes in the car
  • Have your cell phone and charger in the car (cell isn’t much help with a dead battery)
  • Have a flashlight in the car

I’m sure there were others.  But I forgot them.  I just know that I met all of their standards for driving in inclement weather.   Okay, maybe not the flashlight.

Their suggestions for driving were simple:  slow down and leave plenty of room between cars.

All very sensible, reasonable suggestions.

I told my coworker that I would be watching the weather and leaving as soon as I saw that the snow was starting.  The conversation went something like this:

“Before it gets bad, I’m going to forward the phone to my cell, collect my mother**, and get out of here,” I said.  “I’ll finish up the day from home.”

“That’s a good idea,” she said.

“Yeah, drivers on the Ryan are just stupid,” I added.

“Well,” she began, with a perplexed expression, “isn’t that always how it is?”

I laughed and said, “Yes! The problem is, the level of stupidity does not lessen in bad weather!”

I should have heeded my own warning and left earlier.  Life is full of “should haves,” isn’t it?

Crossing the portal from inside the parking garage to the street was like entering into another world.  I instantly had to turn on the windshield wipers – the accumulation was immediate.  Already the streets and sidewalks were covered with inches of snow.  The maintenance man for the building was trying to shovel the walkways, but I fear his efforts may have been futile.  I inched my way down the street, keeping an eye out for other cars and pedestrians.  (I’m sure my annual review wouldn’t go well if “struck another employee with car” was written in my file.)

Finally, I made it to Halsted and Division – where I watched the car in front of me slide sideways and then diagonally through his left turn.  Now, this guy was from Iowa – I’m sure they know a thing or two about driving in the snow!  About a block down the road, I watched said Iowan slide through the 3-way stop.  Fortunately, the truck coming from the north was able to get some traction and stop before hitting our daring Hawkeye.  Mind you, I was about 3 blocks from my starting point and I was already 20 minutes into the drive.  After another 15 minutes of dodging other cars and street hazards; doing my best to roll slowly and safely away from stop lights; and braving one hell of a slippery bridge on Chicago Ave, I got to the entrance to the Dan Ryan.

Now the real fun began.

Remember what I said above?  “The level of stupidity does not lessen in bad weather.”  Boy, did drivers on the Ryan prove me right today!

So, those salt trucks and plows that were “ready for the snow to start” were no where to be seen.  It was pretty obvious that a plow had not touched the ground on the Dan Ryan up to that point in the day.  So, we just followed the tracks in the snow – hoping against hope that we were driving in the right lanes.  The car behind me as I merged onto the expressway didn’t seem to care for this unspoken rule.  He kept trying to go around me every time our lane widened at another on-ramp.  He tried EVERY time…even though EVERY time, he couldn’t get enough traction to pick up the speed he needed.   Asshat #1.

Then there was this bimbo – for lack of a better term, because I so don’t wish to offend bimbos by grouping this woman with them – who thought it would be perfectly okay to flip on her turn signal for one blink and then weave over into the next lane.  BUT, when she immediately determined that it just wouldn’t go faster than the previous lane, put the turn signal on for one blink and weaved back into the original lane.  She did this at least 13 times over a distance of about 5 miles.  Once, she nearly went right into me.  Asshat #2.

Oh, and let’s hear it for the bus drivers!  Not CTA bus drivers.  Not Pace bus drivers.  Not Greyhound bus drivers.  No, no, no.  SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS.  Yes, the people who are entrusted to cart children around safely.  These drivers, my dear friends, are the worst of the bunch.  Now, I don’t mean to slight all school bus drivers.  The majority of them are incredibly safe and immensely responsible drivers.  But there is something about Chicago and its surrounding areas that attracts idiots.  And, God help us, the school bus companies HIRE these people!  While the rest of traffic was moseying along at a top speed of 30 miles an hour, there were two school bus drivers who felt is was their duty to drive at least 50 miles and hour and switch lanes as if they were driving  Ferraris.  Remember, the expressway has not been plowed.  So the lanes are divided not by painted lines on the road, but my mounds of snow that have been piled up because of moving traffic.  So, these bus drivers swerve into new lanes, kick up the mounds of snow, turn them to slush, and  spread the slippery concoction all over the rest of the road.  Asshats #3 and #4.

The end of the Dan Ryan splits into two expressways – the Bishop Ford, which services Southeast Chicago and ultimately heads to Indiana, and I-57, which heads to the South suburbs and ultimately leads to Memphis.  I take 57.  There are signs warning drivers that this split is coming up – the two left lanes go to the Bishop Ford, the three right lanes to to 57.  So, of course, right AT the actual split, there has to be at least one vehicle that is in the wrong lane.  Of course, the driver of said vehicle does whatever s/he can to get into the appropriate lane.  Of course, this driver STOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO LET HER/HIM OVER.  Seriously?  Stopping in the middle of the road during a snow storm?  Asshat #5.

I finally make it to the 119th Street exit.  Naturally, the exit ramp has not been plowed.  Naturally, the frontage road has not been plowed.  Naturally, the right turn I have to make to actually get onto 119th Street is treacherous.  Naturally, I see the first plow on my trip home – on the other side of the street.  About 2 blocks later, I see the second plow on my trip home – on the other side of the street.  Yay for 2 of the 365 plows!  What I want to know is, where were the other 363?  Asshats #6 through #368.

So, I get home.  Since we live on a side street, things are definitely not plowed yet.  Our driveway, not yet cleared.  I powered through the snow in the driveway and slid to a stop.  Home.  Before going in, I had to clear all of my windshield wipers.  They had collected so much ice during the drive home that they were pretty ineffectual by the end.  So, to make sure that they didn’t get even more encrusted with ice, or freeze against the glass, I cleaned them all off and wiped them down as best I could.

I grew up in San Diego, CA – the land of perfect year-round weather.  And today I was cleaning ice of wiper blades.

Now that I’m home, I’m not sure I’ll want to leave all weekend.  Of course, I will at some point.  After all, there’s church on Sunday – and I’m commentator!  Yikes.  I almost forgot.  And at some point tomorrow I’m sure that Mom and I will be outside, cleaning off the cars and digging them out.  Hopefully the neighbors will have done another round of shoveling by then.  (We have awesome neighbors who shovel the stairs, driveway, and sidewalk for us.  We heart them! We also pay them, so don’t think we’re freeloaders. LOL)  If the weather and roads are clear enough tomorrow, Mom and I might go to the store.  We’re out of rice.  That just won’t do.

One thing is for certain…the next time we have a snow storm and the meteorologists suggest working from home if the option is available, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Mom will just have to call in sick.

**My mother works at the same company in our call center.

One thought on “It’s actually pretty…until you have to drive in it

  1. ah yes, fond memories. Grew up in the burbs and attended Nursing School at Augustana near the Lincoln Park Zoo. Your description caused just the slightest bit of PTSD 🙂

    Like

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