SNOWED IN by Brian Roper

Posted: January 21, 2007 in The Roper Files

How does the rest of the world do it? It snows all over the world; but here in Texas when it does everything comes to a halt. I drive a non-4WD pick-up truck, probably the worst possible vehicle for such weather unless the bed’s weighted down with foundation bricks or logs. I’m sitting here drinking coffee out of my less-than-sanitary work mug after having turned around and returning home. Got as far as the nearest freeway; saw one car turned around sitting idle with its blinkers on. That could be me; the rest of the traffic looked like it was moving about a good 2 mph. I turned around and came home; I just don’t have the patience white-knuckle driving requires today. Phoned my workplace and was told lots of my co-workers were also phoning in. Good. I didn’t want to be the ONE person who didn’t make it in. Tomorrow’s payday; gotta make it in then at least.I remember my friend Baird Blanton calling me one day when he still lived in LA and hearing him cussing someone out. I asked him what was going on and he tells me it’s raining: “No one out here knows how to drive in the rain because it almost never rains here!” Well, in Texas the same applies here to snow and ice; no one here (myself included) knows how drive in inclement weather. To people up North or in Europe I’m sure this sounds cowardly, but I would just as soon play it safe and stay home. I have a carport to store my truck; I don’t even have to scrape my windshield like so many other people. But I don’t have a spare set of wheels to drive; my truck is it. And I like it like the way it is: in one piece. Having insurance doesn’t make having an accident any more convenient. Having a cell phone with you won’t make a tow truck show up any faster. Neither of these are any comfort when you’re stuck on the side of the highway looking at your trashed vehicle and praying to the deity of your choice that someone else doesn’t helplessly slide into you. And if you’re  injured, the best health insurance in the world doesn’t make a catheter feel any better going in or out during your stay in ER. Been there; done that. No thank you. I’ll pass.Went out a few minutes ago; the temperature is below freezing and peoples’ tire tracks are turning into black ice, the few that are out that is. The streets here are usually much busier at this hour; there’s no one driving around. I think everyone is waiting for everybody else to knock this crap off the road with their tires.

It rained all night Sunday and then froze over, forcing me to stay home Monday. Everything dried out temporarily Tuesday. Got to work on time like a good employee and did a full ten-hour shift; didn’t get chewed out for missing the previous day. Turns out I was one of many who didn’t make it in Monday.

My next check is going to be chicken-feed; I’ve missed two days of work so far this week because of the weather. Can’t be helped; act of God and all that. Doubt if the landlord and the utility companies will see it that way, however. Where’s the money going to come from?

Not that I really wanted to go to work anyway, but I’ve got this nagging guilty feeling about missing this much work. And now the weather forecasters are saying the roads are in all probability going to be re-frozen tonight and tomorrow morning. I can’t really afford to take an entire week off; this sucks! Maybe I can draw some early vacation time or there’s always using Friday and Saturday as make-up days. But that’s not how I wanna spend my weekend. Drat!

Maybe it’s cabin fever setting in; I’ve been cooped up in my apartment for four of the last five days. Today’s Wednesday; the temperature has been hovering in the 20’s since Friday. The sun has taken the week off and the sky is a hideous depressing blue-grey color. T.S. Eliot was wrong; January is the cruelest month.

I’ve been doing a lot of backburner projects: changing my guitar strings, cleaning up the apartment etc. but I’m running out of those. Idle hands. Bored.

A guy can only masturbate “X” number of times a day; at my age I could break a wrist. And the daytime TV alone could drive a person nuts: Happy Days, Good Times, Rockford Files and the damn Waltons. Never anything watchable. This kind of programming could drive a person to work.

Check my e-mail; not one from anyone I even remotely want to converse with. The usual spam good only for exercising the mighty power of my delete button.

After three or four days of TV dinners and just-add-hot-water civilian versions of MRE’s I went out for a steak last night even though I really couldn’t afford it, but I needed some real food. Tired of soup. Tired of sandwiches. Man, that was nice; real meat and vegetables! On a real non-paper plate, served by a cute half-my-age blond waitress.

In the meantime, I think I’m slowly going beserk. I’m tired of being cold, wrapped up like a sausage in thermal clothing.  I’m tired of watching TV.  I want to see the sun; my skin yearns to breathe and feel actual warmth. I want my mobility back even if it only means being able go to and from my menial job. Good time to hibernate, but my back hurts if I spend more than six hours at a time on my back. Had trouble drifting off to sleep last night because I’ve spent so much time sleeping over the last week.

Feeling frustrated and depressed. “Taint a fit week out for man nor beast!”

The guy on TV is just now telling the viewers that the bridges and overpasses are freezing just as I knew they would. It’s 25 degrees out there; well below freezing.

There’s no other way for me to drive; my entire commute is bridges and overpasses. The problem is that describes the entire Texas highway system in most metropolitan areas. There are long portions of interstate highways that are nothing but elevated roads. Giant “mixmaster” interchanges with hundred-foot-in-the-air ramps that are architectural wonders to behold on dry days but slippery nightmares when icy.

Right now on TV they’re showing a very familiar portion of the same highway I have to take everyday to get to work; it’s a parking lot. What a mess! No one’s moving.

Only the heaviest trucks look like they’re getting any tire traction. Everyone else is just sitting there, burning gas. It would take me a million transfers and half the day for me to take the bus, and even then it would dump me off a mile away from where I work. It’s not going to get above freezing until tomorrow afternoon. How screwed.

NOON…The newscasters on location are all babbling about how the roads are improving. They’re obviously wanting to go home and get out of the cold. Not that I blame them. It’s still about 28 degrees; warmer than it was while ago but still below freezing. I went out for a brief drive about an hour ago; there’s black ice where everyones’ tire tracks are. The streets around my place are still slick enough to keep me off the road. I’m not driving anywhere unless I have to. I could go get in about four hours at work, but it would take me forever to get there.

Man, daytime TV sucks! Gotta quit watching TV…

If I sleep all afternoon, I won’t be able to sleep tonight and sure won’t wanna get up in the morning. Not good. This weather is screwing up everything.

Sitting here yawning; better fix some coffee. Demon voices are telling me to take a nap…take a nap…take a nap. Ho hum. Eyelids getting heavier.

I’m getting really tired of winter already.

BR

JAN 2007

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