Salt Sand Sleet and Snow

Posted: February 9, 2011 in The Roper Files

A few years ago I got a cellphone call from a friend of mine in LA who was calling me while he was driving down Sunset Blvd. Hear him cussing some unseen driver out and his horn honking; he explains to me that it was raining. “No one here knows how to drive in the rain; it’s just like when it snows in Texas!” From one Texan to another no further explanation was needed; I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was telling me people were driving as if the streets were dry when they should have been a little more cautious.

It’s sleeting outside; for the fourth time in the last two weeks I phoned into work and said See You Tomorrow (maybe) Already reluctantly used two precious vacation days I did NOT want to use this early in the year and will probably not do that again because it made me so angry to do that. The temperature isn’t supposed to get above freezing so the roads may well be frozen the next two mornings. In a moment of hurried carelessness yesterday I changed lanes without looking because some toothless old hag was in front of me was struggling to light a cigarette and I cut off some black guy in a mini-sedan. (if you’re that guy reading this: SORRY!) The last thing I need right now is to get involved in an accident; this is why I’m sitting out the skating rink the freeways are currently in the process of turning into.

When I got up this morning, I could hear the wind howling outside and rain hitting the awnings outside of my window. Put on a coat and took a stroll outside; the streets were wet but not white or even very slick. Thought about driving into work but about the time I ordinarily would be backing out of the driveway, sleet started coming down in sheets and after checking the radar I notice a large band of snow on its way coming from the west. Looks like another day off for me. This sucks; this is costing me. I’m not working overtime or even 40 hours a week right now. Color me sick of winter. My lips are cracked from being continuously dried out from the wind and the cold. Last week we had a 100-hour hard freeze accompanied by temperatures more suited for Fargo than Fort Worth; this morning is no exception. Minus fifteen degree temperatures last week forced me to let the cat in; I think it’s safe to say she is loving it so far…

The annual three-week-long Stock Show ended this weekend with some disappointing attendance numbers because of the inclement weather. They lucked out and had a couple of good days, including one recent Saturday where the sun came out, the temperature went up to about fifty so 118,000 other people and myself said We’ll Take It and crammed onto the fair-grounds elbow-to-elbow.

But during most of its run this year the weather was horrid and no one felt like strolling the midways or the frigid cattle barns. They even ended it one day early because of the Super Bowl, which some people were wondering was going to happen or not this time last week because of a hard four-day freeze which brought North Texas to a standstill.

And once again a week later the streets are white three hours later, glazed with a thin layer of frozen snow on top of a thin layer of frozen sleet. I have an ample supply of food although the cable and the Internet have flickered a couple of times. Sort of glad I stayed home instead of driving to work but this is translates into either having to take a bite out of my check or working a non-overtime “make-up day” and that’s ONLY if they let me. Kind of feeling either tired all the time and beat-down by this. Nothing like the weather throwing a major temper-tantrum once in a while to put you in your place, whatever that is.

Stopped at a Kroger in one of Fort Worth’s uh…declining neighborhoods yesterday on the way home from work. Not something I would ordinarily do, but I was operating from a shopping list I had written down while I was at work; adding items to the list as the light bulb in my head flickered (“dish soap…”) from time to time. My plan was simple: Dollar General, gas station, Kroger. There was an intersection not far from where I worked that had all three within walking distance from each other. The idea was to hit all three in a matter of minutes, fill up the tank and assemble a list of things I was low on or otherwise needed.

I topped off the gas tank, got lotto tickets and a handful of odds and ends from the Dollar General and was parked in front of the Kroger in short order. The plan was working so far. As I walked across the crowded parking lot, I felt the wind pick up, the temperature dropping and could see a changing set of pink, white and blue streaks of sky to the west where the oncoming front was approaching. Inside of the Kroger looked like the set of some cheesy movie about the Apocalypse; housewives fighting over loaves of bread and pot roasts. Senior citizens in golf carts and heavily tattooed goth girls both emptying the shelves of ramen noodles. The forecasters were predicting one to two inches of snow or sleet, yet the scene resembled a looting.

As I pushed my cart through the aisles on my throbbing feet through a grocery store I wasn’t familiar with, I began to feel dizzy. My feet were killing me , I had been up for 15 hours, was hungry in a place full of food I couldn’t eat and just wanted to get this last leg of my shopping over with. Reached for the next to last item and stuck the shopping list in my mouth.

As I pushed my cart to the register, I took the list out of my mouth and looked at it one last time to make sure I had everything. That’s when I saw the bloody lip prints; my lips were so chapped from the cold winter air one of them had split. Now I’m pushing a cart with a bloody lip; I wasn’t going to get out of that store fast enough now. Then I looked down and noticed one of my shoe laces had broken, so I had to walk a little slower to keep from losing one of my expensive Red Wing steel-toed work shoes.

Oh this little trip is just getting better and better…

The  guy at the register is thankfully un-fazed by my bleeding lip; in that neighborhood I’m sure he’s seen worse. A few brief minutes later I am scooting my cart out the door and across the parking lot. Because the store was so packed I parked on the very edge of the parking lot. While positioning my cart to unload the case of soft drinks I had bought into the back of my truck apparently I crossed some unseen line and the wheels locked in place. Unloaded the cart and then pushed the cart fixed wheels and all across two parking spaces. Get in the truck and speed off.

8-20 east, I-35 north, I-30 west….directions home or the combination to a safe? With a full tank of gas I press the gas pedal down and zoom towards home. The I-30 westbound freeway is a parking lot as usual so I roar across the Lancaster Bridge as the last dying rays of sunlight disappear behind a mass of dark ugly clouds. The bridge has furrows of rock salt and sand in between the trails where everyone’s tires have cut through. I deliberately straddle the trails of sand and salt, leaving a dark brown funnel cloud behind me as I race across the bridge. Like the oncoming Arctic front, I too am my own force of nature stoppable only by my destination.

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