It was to be a light snow, no more than 2 to 4 inches, they said on The Weather Channel. Faye had an interview for a job scheduled for 9 AM over in Fairfax, a 30 minute drive from our townhouse in Manassas, Va.
It was late January of 1987. I had sought, and taken, a transfer to technical support center in Drainesville, Va (just outside of Herndon) in March. I had left Faye behind in San Diego in a tearful goodbye. A decision I regretted enough to correct by marrying her a month and a half later and moving her and two cats out to the small city of Manassas. She had lived her whole life in San Diego; born there, raised there. Virginia, and the especially the area around D.C., was quite foreign to her.
The seasons in San Diego consists of two: Chilly (winter/fall) and Warm (spring/summer). Unless you take the trek into the mountains at the right time, snow is something you only see in pictures. Faye had never driven in it. But she is a resourceful woman, capable and strong. I had no doubts about her ability to cope with a light snowfall.
I worked evenings at the time, from 4 PM to midnight, at the center some 25 miles away... give or take a couple... and usually slept till 9 AM. Faye got up early and planned to drive in early to avoid the heavy commuter traffic into D.C. She would stop at a restaurant, read and have coffee, until it was time to go to her job interview.
The snow started a little after 7, while she was having coffee at a Denny's. Light snow, pleasant almost. It was still coming down when she arrived at the AT&T office for her interview. Still light... but persistent. She was told she ought to leave since the federal employees had all been sent home because it looked like the weather reports were wrong and the snow would be more than that 2-4 inches. The government thought it best to close up for the day rather than have everyone snowed in.
A typical miscalculation by the government. Practically all of the businesses in the city, whose only real purpose is to serve said government and its employees, took note and sent their employees home also. Unfortunately, that created a traffic snarl in all directions out of the city and into the towns and small cities that are home to most of those who worked in D.C.
By then, I was up and about, drinking coffee and looking at the snow piling up in the common area and parking lot in front of the townhouse. I had the TV on and the Weather Channel was busily revising their forecast and explaining how difficult it is to predict weather in the D.C. area while showing pictures of the traffic snarl and the attendant disruption to people's lives.
I expected Faye to return early because of the snow. I didn't start getting worried until noon, though. I figured the traffic would turn the 30 minute drive into maybe an hour or so. The snow kept coming. Still light, but accumulating. A lot of accumulation. There was already 4 inches or so on the ground. The city of Manassas was urging its residents to stay off the streets unless absolutely necessary, to stay home or at work so the snowplows could their job. later, I would learn that they thought their job was to clear parking lots at shopping centers first before they bothered with the roadways. Seems they were paid better to do that than the city and county paid to do the highways and streets.
By 1 PM, I was very worried. I was also slightly worried that I would not be able to get to work. My car was now covered in snow and appeared to be just a small white mound in the snow covered parking lot. And still the snow came down. And still the Weather Channel droned on with reports that could not predict just when it might stop.
Around 2 PM, I received a call from work. Instead of telling me to stay home and not add to the confusion out there, they asked if I couldn't come in soon? They were sending people home early, they said, rather than have them stuck at work. I explained I didn't think I could make it in. The streets hadn't been plowed in my area yet, my car had a very low ground clearance (and I would need to dig it out, I didn't mention), the city (and county now) was urging people to stay off the roads except for emergencies, and I didn't want to leave before Faye returned in any event. They said I should call if I could get in and to try to make it at least by 4. I laughed... and hung up.
About 2:30, from the window of the bedroom where the computer sat (and, of course, so did I), I spot Faye walking up the sidewalk that led along the parking lot to our townhouse. She is wrapped up in her gray overcoat that covered her from head to ankles, slogging through the snow, head down and hands in pockets. I could feel the anger from where I stood some hundred yards away. I hurried downstairs to let her in.
I opened the door just as she reached it. She said... "The car is on the street by the curb, you bring it into the lot! I am going to take a bath!"
I grabbed the keys from her hand, my coat and the shovel from the hall closet, and headed out. The snow was still falling. The parking lot and all the cars were completely covered. I walked out to the street and found her car "parked" at an angle, its front bumper (and grill and headlights) jammed into a snowdrift by the curb about a half block away. I dug it out a bit and enlisted the help of a couple of teenagers nearby to push me out when the wheels just spun on the slick road.
Driving to the entrance of the parking lot, I realized I would have to dig out a passage through the entrance which dipped and rose again but looked pretty level with the snow piled up. I had no idea where I would put the car once I got it in, most all spaces were taken and the empty and cleared ones seemed to have lawn chairs ("place holders") in them. But a neighbor saw my plight and offered a space he had just cleared that he said he wouldn't need. I thanked him profusely and backed her little Spectrum into it.
When I got back into the house, put away coat and shovel, and made my way up to the top floor and the bathroom, I found Faye sitting in a steaming bath with that look on her face. This was obviously all my fault.
She said, "When can you get a transfer south?"
A little over a year later (had to wait 10 months to put in transfers, there was an 18 month minimum interval between transfer requests) we were on our way to Jacksonville, FL.
A Night Unremembered
9 years ago