The snow and driving in it.
The snow started coming up right after I showed up to work. I guess the tall buildings around the office refused to let it come down, so out our window it tended to go up. It would go up to the left, and to the right, but mostly up. If you went outside you would expect there to be no snow on the ground, as it all had fallen up. But it was there none-the-less. The closed the building before noon, so I took off around 11:30. Went down, scraped my window, paid the full $10 for parking as was off.
I followed my usual route down to Rt. 50, but abandoned that thinking the interstate would be a better idea. It was backed up on 66, and down Fairfax so I made a dash for Carlin Springs Rd. It was wide open, very little traffic, everyone driving a nice safe steady pace. That all ended abruptly as we crested the last hill before we would pass under Rt. 50. Stopped dead. People on the Ballston bound side were sliding all over the place. There were a couple of people out helping, so I pulled the jeep off to the side, turned the wheels into the curb, threw on the hazards and went to see what was going on. The snow had just become packed down and icy, it was slick. But we were able to successfully push a few cars up the hill. I was most impressed with the Subaru that guy in scrubs had, he used it to push a van up the hill. Said the bumpers matched up, and went to town. I wished he would of hung around to push more vans up the hill, because those things can be a pain. Eventually our helper dwindled and we discovered our core group. A park ranger, all 5’3″ of her; a girl about my age who works for the state department; a Coca-Cola van driver whose van wasn’t going anywhere and me. Eventually state department girl called her roommate and she cam out to help too.
We had cars going on the Ballston bound side, but the people headed to Colombia Pike were out of luck, shortly after we got the TransAm—that had a dead battery in the middle of the hill—off the road we had a school bus and one of those pull-up-to-a-construction-site-and-sell-cheese-steaks trucks blocking the road. The food truck was spinning its wheels and the rear end swung around until they were properly blocking the entire road at the top of the icy hill. Everyone else refused to wait, and the all filled in until all the road space on this slick hill was full of cars. This would prove to be a big problem when the sand trucks would finally show up, but that wasn’t going to happen for a while.
Eventually on the Ballston bound side, we had pushed most of the cars that were on the hill up and the park ranger was able to keep the rest waiting at the bottom. Aside from a few jerks that drove around the congestion and would decided to make a run at the hill before we were able to get it cleared. Inevitably they would have to stop, because of some one blocking the road and (yay!) now we would have two stuck people on the road. And one of them would not acknowledge us because they were the type that would drive around dozens of cars on the shoulder, ignore the nice person standing out in the snow directing traffic and go anyways. We would push them; they would spin tires till the wonderful smell of burnt rubber and a cloud of exhaust surrounded the car. People in the nice cars fit their stereo-type perfectly. Of course there were a few exceptions, very gracious people in BMWs would come along, that was clearly not normal. Normally a BMW/Benz/Audi would show up and pull around one or two people waiting their turn and insist on going. We would try to explain the strategy, tell them to wait, but it wasn’t always the easiest thing to communicate to them.
I am not saying all the jerks drove nice cars, and I realize that it is just a stereotype, but this adventure gave me and idea as to where it came from. We can also deal with the stereotype of the people who didn’t speak English, but I think the real problem was they simply didn’t understand the directions. We did try a combination of mime and sign language, but normally they didn’t get it, and would freak out and get stuck.
We had one guy in a big F-250 (whom gave us a bag of salt, thank you sir) had me get in and show him how to put his truck on four wheel drive, I then explained to him in words I am sure he did not comprehend, how to lock his hubs.
Two cars with dead batteries. That TransAm was winner on that one.
One pickup with 6 bags of kitty litter, we were able to swipe two bags, plus the bag he dumped out in front of his truck. Kitty litter + slush + fast spinning card tires = a thick nasty plaster on the front of your pants. The salt from F-250 guy makes sure it stings when it gets on your face.
The main entertainment was having people roll down their windows to talk to us. There were the helpful people, the worried people, the ones that were just curious what was going on, and the irate indigent people.
First some background. At first I parked my jeep on the side of the road at the top of the hill. I later decided that it would be a better idea to park it down the hill in front of the ranger’s pickup, which had its rollers rolling. The state department girl asked me if I could move her jeep down there too, since (according to her) I knew jeeps and how to drive in the snow. So we were being blocked by the ranger, against the median just before the break where the Ballston bound side could turn to make a left. Not that they wanted to because that road was backed up too.
Ok. So, there was one lady demanded to know who owned the jeeps that were parked on the median, when we said they were ours, she then proceeded to demand that we move them. Said we should at least push them up the hill. I am not exactly sure why, since the hill was backed up to the bus and truck, but was rather worked up. When we suggested that she come help she rolled up her window and stared straight forward. Which seemed to be the tactic from most of the impolite people, roll down your window, say something hurtful, roll it up and poof the world outside your car goes away.
The lady that wanted to know how much longer, I said I didn’t’ know. She apparently didn’t like that answer so she rephrased her question and asked again. By the third rewording, something like “are we going to get out of her today”, I said “maybe” and she snapped her head forward and rolled up her window. On the way up I offered to find her something helpful to do to speed up the progress. Must not of been able to hear me because she just continued to look forward.
Of course when the nice ladies offered to come out and help—if they were not dressed warmly or had worthless dress shoes—we would insist they stay in the car. When another lady pulled up in a nice Acura said (rather condescendingly) that she has on high heals and couldn’t help I fired back “Well take off your shoes and come push!” of course I only said that in my head. But it was the best internal monologue comeback of the day.
Eventually the sand trucks came, the first one got though with out too much effort, when the cars still had enough space to pull off. The sand helped but people were still getting stuck, and we will still had to push. More people came and filled in our sand truck only lane. Eventually a second truck showed and was trying to get the other side moving, but was unable to get around the people who filled in our tuck lane, since everyone had packed over to the right for the last one. He had to back up. A Miata pulled in behind him. I threw my hands up to get her to stop. She just kept going. I had to stand in front of her to get her to stop, but at that point she was right up on the truck. I told her she had to back up. She said she lives down there. I told her I lived way over there and that she still had to backup to let the truck out. Her tire spun. Claimed she can’t move. After those pickups and vans her miniature car was easy to push. She didn’t like pulling off into a gap until it was demonstrated that she needed to do this for her own good. Once she realized that if she helped it would prevent her car from getting damaged and allow her to get home sooner she was much nicer. What I can’t understand is that we had to go though so much effort to get that point across.
We got her car out of the way, and I asked two people to get out of their cars (I found warmly dressed ones) and prevent any more cars form coming down and blocking the truck. They said ok. 5 minutes later here comes another car and neither person ever bothered to get out. Luckily we had a short feisty black lady from the other side come direct traffic. The people coming off 50 couldn’t tell what was going on and would try to drive around, but we needed to get that truck out so we could finally free the food truck. Feisty black lady to the rescue. The rest of us could go back to pushing that last car.
Sand truck made it around, backed down and freed up the food truck and school bus. Once that started going, the people could make it up the hill and a sand trucks started coming from the other direction. It took them forever to get out there but once they did there were plenty of sand trucks and after a few passes everything flowed nicely.
Ranger lady, state department girl and roommate, coke truck guy and I stood around and bitched about the assholes we had to deal with. Said it was time to go find another icy hill in need. We said a collective atta-boy. Jumped in our cars and all headed home.
Way more fun than sitting in traffic waiting.