Yesterday morning, all I heard was that “the big one” was coming. People were yammering on and on about how it was going to start snowing at noon and it was going to be crazy. But noon came and went, and no snow. Sweet, I thought, maybe it’s passed us by and I can stay here and get more work done.
But then Ian called me a little after 3 p.m. and started singing “Let It Snow,” which I took as my cue to look outside. It had started snowing big fat white flakes. Fast flakes. We debated whether we should stay or go home, and he told me to make the call. Nobody was leaving at work, and only a couple people on my Twitter stream were talking about heading out, so I thought we could just stay put.
And then 10 minutes later, I looked out the window. And almost had a heart attack. Everything was covered in white. The cars, the ground, the trees, the grass. Everything. In 10 minutes. A few coworkers and I gathered around a table in the office discussing commuting, and the decision quickly was made that people should leave. I grabbed my things (including crackers, just in case I got stranded) and headed for my car at 3:45 p.m., but apparently so did a lot of other people in my 11-story office building. I didn’t get out of the garage until after 4 p.m.
I got to the on-ramp of I-440West, which is maybe a block from my building, an hour later. Yes, it took me an hour to go one block on West End.
My first mistake was taking the safe route to 440. There is a very difficult-but-shortcut left you can make across Murphy Road to get to West End, but people were not moving and I can barely make that turn with regular traffic. So, I went around the side of our building out to the light. In hindsight I probably should have gone another back way through a neighborhood near our building, but whatever. Too late now.
Once on 440, I had a little less than a half tank of gas, which I was trying to conserve by not running the defrost too much, but my front and back windshields were constantly filling with snow that was quickly turning to ice. People were abandoning cars on the side of the interstate, there were several wrecks, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t make it up the somewhat steep hill before the I-65 interchange. I stayed in the right lane, which proved to be the right choice as several people in the lane next to me spun out repeatedly. I saw two plows, only one of which was putting out salt behind it.
I had to make it seven miles to the Murfreesboro Road exit to pick up Ian. That took me another hour and a half. Yes, people: It took me two and a half hours to go nearly seven miles. When I finally got to the Murfreesboro Road exit, I discovered that it was not plowed. It was after dark by then, and everything was beginning to freeze. I freestyled it down the exit and was greeted by several cops working a wreck on the ramp back onto 24/440. I saw someone slide down the very steep hill at Fessler’s Lane, and the guy driving next to me kept trying to slide into me. Partly because he was a moron and wouldn’t just drive in the tire tracks.
When I got to Ian’s office, I was greeted by him and a circle of state troopers (he works in the Office of Research and Statistical Analysis for the Department of Safety). After relaying the hell I had just driven through, the troopers began debating how they were going to make it home. Ian and I hung around for a few minutes and talked with the troopers, and then headed back out and up the hill to the lot where I had to park my car. (But before we left, I grabbed some more crackers from his desk. At this point I was starting to believe that we really might not make it home. I mean, if it took two and a half hours to go a little more than six miles, how long would it take to go 34 more?)
The car was down to about a quarter tank of gas by then, too, and we knew we needed to stop to fill up. The only problem? Ian’s office is basically at the bottom of a valley. Hills all around leading back to the interstate, and all of the gas stations were at the bottoms of hills. But we needed gas, so we stopped, I got more food rations (Coke, Gatorade, a PayDay and candy cigarettes because I know how to prepare for disaster), and we pulled out the side entrance of the gas station so we could build momentum to get up the hill.
Aaaand cue the jackholes that don’t know how to drive. Four people inching up a hill. GAH. We watched them get stuck, back up, and try to inch back up it again. We circled the gas station three times trying to wait for those morons to either give up or grow a brain, but neither happened and we had to abandon that plan. We then tried to drive down Glenrose and make a left on Nolensville, but that wasn’t happening. That road wasn’t moving at all. So we headed back toward the Department of Safety to try our hand at the hill again, and on our way we saw a broken-down semi, a couple of abandoned cars, and a fucking snow plow NOT DOING ANYTHING.
We got back to the hill and got a good running start, and despite being behind another slow-going asswipe, we made it. Of course, once we finally got to I-24 it was like driving on a frozen tundra. A crunchy, unplowed, unsalted tundra where you just grip the steering wheel and hope nobody rams into you. For the most part, traffic moved between zero and 15 miles per hour with the occasional sprint up to 30 until we got almost to Smyrna. By then the interstate was still horrible, and some geniuses flew by going 80mph despite the cars in ditches on either side of the road, but Ian stayed in the carved-out path made by the cars before us and we were able to get up to about 40 mph.
We made it home at 9 p.m. Five hours after I left work at 4 p.m.
I had never been so happy to see my cats, my couch, my Slanket and a bottle of wine before in my life.