Posted by: bobroth | February 6, 2010

Bobby learns a lesson

Don’t be snooty when it comes to a  slow-moving—but colossal—snow storm

I was wrong, really wrong in my blog yesterday morning to make light of the extensive early precautions, the obsessive preparations, and the well-founded, snow-storm paranoia of Washingtonians. The ancient Sanskrit proverb wisely warns: “Hayem ducam anagatam.” (Avert the danger that has not yet come.)

So true.

The storm did not wallop yesterday like predicted at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. or even 4 p.m. … But, oh my, it did majorly wallop at 6 p.m. as I was pigheadedly (is that an actual word?) driving 20 miles from McLean, VA, to the heart of the District.

The signs were absolutely everywhere: Stay off the roads. Stay indoors. Don’t go out. Hunker down. (I didn’t actually see that last sign, but that woulda been cool.)

But hey, I reckoned, I have driven through many Midwest winters where people get through much worse. I can handle the dusting of snow everyone fears on Washington.

Silly boy.

As I pulled away from the curb outside my friends’ house at six o’clock in the evening, I looked at my messy car and thought, I gotta get to the station early to tidy up. I had an hour before my Amtrak train at seven. Ordinarily, I would be there in 20 minutes. Plenty of time.

I realized right off I was in trouble. My little red Kia rental car did not have Alpine-class snow tires, much less tire treads tough enough to push through the thick layers of snow—which were quickly turning to ice—and grab tight to the pavement. I inched the car up and down steep residential roads, slipping in-and-out-of-control as I navigated down a narrow stretch of slick road beneath some overhanging branches.

Somehow, I ended up at the George Washington Parkway—ordinarily a sleek scenic main artery from the suburbs into the District. Not this time.

Because once on the Parkway, conditions got really bad, particularly for me, driving on toy tires. Through piling snow and a visibility of about 20 feet, and clenching super-tight to the steering wheel, I continued my crawl in what I assumed was the right lane, while what must have been the left lane had somehow turned into a surreal German autobahn. A few puzzlingly fearless souls in big cars slashed by in the night. (Thinking back on it now, they were probably going, like, 35 mph. But to me they were either fools, courageous, or on crystal meth.)

At the Washington exit, I pulled off the Parkway, circled around to cross a slippery, slushy 14th Street Bridge, merged onto 395 north, inched up to C street, and wound around in front of the Capitol Building, which shone like a gargantuan ornate bulb in the pitch black.

Time was ticking by.

Silly me again. I made several tactical errors that cost precious minutes. At each street corner: “Left or right? Left or right?” I demanded out loud to no one other than myself. It was so dark I couldn’t even read the street signs five feet away. I was driving on gut instincts alone. There were no cars out where I was roaming. “Which is it? Okay, turn left. Wrong. Shoulda gone right. Okay, back track. Now, left or right? Left or right?”

I finally made it to the front of the station, but I was seriously pushing it, time-wise. I followed a caravan of the slowest drivers in the world, who were in, like, zero hurry to return their rentals to the parking lot above the station. I gathered up loose ends from the passenger seat, pushed extra clothes down into my suitcase (somehow closing it without totally tearing apart the zipper), and sprint-walked down the stairs to the station.

So, cutting to the chase: I got on the train with about two minutes to spare.

So what was my lesson? Not that I should leave for the train station earlier. I knew that already. But the lesson was pretty basic. Don’t be pompous, Bobby. Don’t make fun of people who are looking to take care of people. I was on the roads when everyone warned me not to be. Something could have gone terribly wrong. I was lucky. Really lucky.

I wrote much of this sitting toasty warm in a mostly empty Amtrak car as we sped by Wilmington, Philadelphia, and then Newark on our way north to snow-free Penn Station.

I read today how the storm was catastrophic in D.C.—”snowmageggon,”” according to the Washington Post. I heard it might blow north to New York City.

Uh, I am not that pigheaded. I learned. If that storm comes, I ain’t goin’ nowhere…

Thanks for listening,


P.S. In my last blog, I said I might tour CNN headquarters before heading home. But my friend was on deadline, so next time. Then I will ask her to take a photo of me and Wolf Blitzer to send to you… I know, you can’t wait …


  1. I once almost perished in a snowstorm in northern Texas. (European Purusha was sent al over the USA first times. -There is a second times) I couldn’t believe how much stronger nature is in USA than in Europe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: