Dispatches from Narnia

You might have heard, the East Coast has been blanketed by a massive snow storm since yesterday.  As I write this, despite the insistence of my phone that current weather conditions are “Fog,” snow still falls on Pennsylvania.  There’s roughly 20 inches of snow on the ground, possibly more.

The office closed yesterday at 3 o’clock.  I wouldn’t have made the bet that it would, but it turned out to be the perfect decision, as the snow had begun to fall in Hunt Valley about fifteen minutes earlier.  Those it took about half an hour, because of chocked roads, to reach the interstate, by ten miles north of Hunt Valley the snow ceased falling and the drive home was pleasant.  All that remained was the waiting.

The snow outside York began about 6:30.  When I went to bed at 10:30, there couldn’t have been more than half an inch on the ground.

I woke, at 7 o’clock, to this.

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I went and measured on the sidewalk.  It was about eleven inches deep.

The shrubbery outside my apartment still poked through the snow.  I knew that, soon, it would submerge beneath the snowy surface.

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By one o’clock, it had.

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To occupy my time, I baked cookies, like these Irish Whiskey cookies.  The apartment smelled fantastic.

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I thought to take a look at the window in the bedroom.  My apartment is built into a hill, and I noticed that the snow had piled up against the window.

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Always winter, never Christmas.

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And nary a sign of Mr. Tumnus or the White Witch.

The snow is supposed to cease sometime in the next few hours.  Then the digging out can begin in earnest.

The complex’s parking lot was plowed before dawn, but a lot of snow has fallen since then.  And while I’ve shoveled my sidewalk a few times in an effort to keep it clear, I haven’t ventured out into the parking lot proper.

Will the office be open on Monday?  I have no idea.  I know that the city of Baltimore is saying that there are streets that won’t be plowed before Monday.  I’m not sure at all about the roads here.

We shall see.

On Heavy Rain and Transit Nightmares

Today I took a nap.

That was not in the day’s plan.  The day’s plan included going to work.  Unfortunately, the weather and MTA Maryland had different ideas in mind.

In the mornings, when I drive to work, I reach an intersection where I have a choice to make.  Go left, and I get on the Beltway and drive to work.  Go straight, and I drive to the subway station and take the trains to work.  If I have a lot on my plate, I’m more likely to drive to work.  If the weather is likely to be really bad, I’m more likely to drive to work.  If I don’t have a lot to do at the office, if I don’t feel the need to urgently get to work, if I feel like doing writing or reading on the train, I’ll take the subway and Light Rail.

This morning…

I didn’t have a lot to do.  Train.
I had a book to read in my bag.  Train.
Rain was likely.  Drive.
But rain was also supposed to be light and intermittent.  Train.

So I drove straight, went to the subway station, parked on the sixth floor, and bought my ticket.

The subway train runs down the middle of 795, and as the train approached the Beltway I saw that traffic was stacked on 795 and the Beltway.  I’d made the right choice.  I hate sitting in traffic.  I especially hate the Beltway when it’s clogged.

The train reached State Center and I disembarked.  As I stepped from the subway station into the open air, rain fell.  I had no umbrella; it was back in my car at Owings Mills.  (The weather forecast on the radio had said rain “in the afternoon.”  Near-nine o’clock was not “in the afternoon.”) But the rain was not heavy, and I didn’t feel especially damp even when I walked the block and a half, crossing Howard Street, to the Light Rail stop.

That was at ten minutes to nine.  I expected a train at or near nine o’clock.

At 9:09 I pulled out my phone and tweeted: “Waiting in the rain for the Light Rail train #mtafail” (That hashtag, by the way, is used daily by New York metro riders.  I like muddying the hashtag waters with my tales of Baltimore MTA woe.)

This was no ordinary rain, however.  It was a dark rain, a heavy rain, full of lightning and thunder.  It fell hard and fast and in heavy drops.  It was the kind of rain I associate with hurricanes.  It was the kind of rain that takes your breath away.  It was the kind of rain that displaces air and drowns the world.  That was the morning’s rain.

At 9:14 someone at the stop said that they’d just gotten off the phone with MTA; the Light Rail system was flooded and not running.  This was not posted on the MTA website or on their Twitter feed, however.

This was followed, a few minutes later, with: “Someday I might possibly get to work; of course, I’ll be bloody drenched by then.”

I checked the MTA website.  Apparently, shuttle busses were running.  I tweeted, “It’s wonderful that Shuttle Buses are running; it would be more wonderful if they would actually appear.”

At 9:41, MTA Maryland tweeted: “Due to flooding- shuttle buses operating between North and Woodberry Stations & Camden and Patapsco Stations. More info at mta.maryland.gov.”  North Avenue was two stops north of State Center/Cultural Center.  Camden was many stops south.  This message implied, at least I thought it implied, that there would be trains in between.  Surely.  (Though, it did occur to me that, with the way the schedule works, there might not have been a train in between North Avenue and Camden.) In short, this message only instilled more confusion and it gave no insight as to whether or not I’d be moving at any point.

Five minutes later, a southbound train, heading for the airport, appeared.  The rain was slacking off, the clouds were breaking up, and trains were running.  But still, nothing northbound.

Thirty minutes later, I gave up waiting.

I e-mailed my boss, and I told him I was bagging it for the day.

It was already quarter past ten.  I had no idea if I would ever get to work on the Light Rail.  I could go back to Owings Mills and get the Beetle, but it would take me until at least eleven o’clock to do so.  Then I might get to work between 11:30 and noon, and by that point the day has been well and truly shot.

I had the sick time and the vacation time.  The morning had been wasted, why not write off the rest of the day as a loss?

The truth is, I had almost nothing to do at the office today.  The Monday after the order forms go to press is usually very quiet for me; there’s a spreadsheet to import into the software, and that’s about it.  And it doesn’t even need to be done on Monday.  I’d even thought about taking the day off anyway — I’d gone out of town for the weekend, and I was bloody exhausted when I got home last night — but I felt good in the morning and ready to face the world.

The universe just had other plans.

I came home.  I took a nap.  I didn’t realize how badly I needed a nap.

Tomorrow will be a better day.  A more productive day.

And, hopefully, not such a wet day.

On Wishing For Winter’s End

It is official.  I am tired of winter.

A record-setting snowfall fell overnight Wednesday, between seven-and-a-half and eight inches.  My drive home Wednesday night from the office was frought with peril; it was raining when I left the office, sleeting when I reached the interstate, snowing when I reached the Owings Mills Expressway, blizzard conditions when I reached the Owings Mills Boulevard exit, and whiteout conditions when I reached home.  I managed to park the Beetle, though I didn’t get it far into the driveway, and worried because it was an incline I found two bricks and blocked the tires.

The next morning, I went out and began digging at nine.  The office was to open at twelve.  I dug and I dug and I dug, and I got the Beetle uncovered by two.  BWI may have had a snowfall of something shy of eight inches, but there were places where I had close to three feet where the snow blew and bellowed into drifts around the Beetle.  I didn’t make it into the office.

I ached.  My gloves were torn and tattered.  My arms felt limp and immobile.  My hands hurt badly; I’d broken the snow shovel’s handle.  Worse, I could barely move them, I certainly couldn’t close them.

Friday I worked.  The office hadn’t missed me.

Yesterday, I shoveled more.  My car was fine at the end of the driveway, still resting on an incline of ice and snow.

This morning, I shoveled still more.  And, as I’d cleared out more of the driveway, up to where the driveway went level, I decided to move my car up.

I hopped in the car, I put the key in the ignition, I turned the key, I put the Beetle into gear.

The Beetle wouldn’t move.  I put the Beetle into first gear.  I gave it some gas.  It slid backward.

I put the Beetle into reverse and backed out slightly into the road.  I gave it some gas, to get some momentum, and maybe that would put me up over the incline.

No dice.

I put the Beetle into park.  I got out of the car.

The Beetle began sliding down the hill.

Panicked, I got the door open, I got inside, I lunged for the brake.

I realize, now, that doing so was pointless.  The wheels weren’t turning.  The car wasn’t in gear.  The Beetle just wasn’t going to sit immobile on that icy incline.

Still, it was a worrying moment.  The very moment I’d been worried about.  Would the Beetle slide on the driveway’s icy incline?

And, indeed, it had.

Today actually got mildly warm.  Maybe about fifty.  There was much melting.

I started the car and moved it over to the other driveway.

I spread salt.  I shoveled more.

I don’t think I can shovel any more.

Tomorrow is supposed to be mild, until flurries move in during the evening hours.

Tuesday morning, though, just as I’d be on my way to work, is when an ice storm is supposed to hit.

Followed by rain on Wednesday, and bitterly cold temperatures on Thursday.

I’m reminded of the passage that opens Lance Parkin’s Doctor Who novel, Father Time:

There comes a time when the fall of snow is no longer the start of a marvelous adventure.  There comes a time when it means scraping your windscreen and hoping your car starts.  It means aching joints and throbbing sinuses and cold hands and feet.  It means taking longer to get to work and spending all day sitting in an office where the heating isn’t on.  Grey slush and cracked pipes, cancelled trains and influenza, that’s what snow means.  You’ll wake up feeling like that, one day, and it will mean you are grown up.  I hope that day doesn’t come soon.

That’s how this winter feels.  The fall of snow is no longer the start of a marvelous adventure.

I’m trying to figure out when this happened.  Was it last year?  Was it Blizzardammerung?

I’m done with winter.  I just want it to be over.

On the Silence of Winter

The world is strangely silent tonight.

Despite a main highway, there’s been little traffic, and not just because of the holiday.  The world is taking a breath as a winter storm moves in.

Snow began falling a little while ago.  The back walk, which had been cleared since the last snowfall, now has a quarter of an inch of accumulation.  The road, illuminated by a streetlamp, looks uniformly white.

No one’s quite sure what this storm will bring, though tomorrow may reach the low 40s.  We may get an inch of snow, topped by sleet and ice.  We may get almost no snow, but an inch of ice.  The forecasts have no consensus.

Nonetheless, I’ll take the quiet.  It’s peaceful.

The way winter should be.

On the Christmas Holiday, Snowfall, Doctor Who, and the Like

Early last week, I was invited to spend Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and two-year-old niece in Raleigh.  I was sorely tempted, weighed the possibilities in my mind, and decided that, yes, I would go to Raleigh for the holiday.

And then, I noticed the weather forecast.  50% chance of no snowfall at all Christmas Eve/Day/Day-after.  50% historic-level snowfall Christmas Eve/Day/Day-After.

I studied weather forecasts for Raleigh, Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore.  I consulted local newspapers and television stations.  I spent far more time on Weatherbug.com than was warranted.  The National Weather Service website was my friend.

I knew the options.  I could go to Raleigh, and possibly be stranded there by a massive snowfall.  I could go to Raleigh, have a light snowfall, and find myself trapped on the I-95 corridor on the way home on Boxing Day.  I could go to Raleigh, have a pleasant trip back, and run into blizzard-like conditions somewhere around DC.  Or, I could go to Raleigh, and find no snow anywhere on my return.

The odds, I decided, were in my favor.  And even if they weren’t, and I became stranded somewhere, I would make do.  And my office would have to make do if I couldn’t make it in on Monday.

Well, I’m not making it in on Monday.  I haven’t even left Raleigh, though the snow has tapered off and I’ve dug out my sister’s sidewalk and the cars.  And while the forecast snow for the Baltimore-Washington area has been downgraded, it hasn’t been downgraded for Richmond, and in Virginia the governor has already declared a state of emergency and has asked people to stay off the roads.

So, my plan?  I shall stay in Raleigh one more night, then leave for Baltimore Monday morning, and I get there when I get there.  “There and back again,” truly.  Though without goblins, elves, cave trolls, and Smaug.

I’d hoped to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special last night, but ten minutes before it began the satellite signal cut out.  Alas!  I’ll just watch it when I get home tomorrow.  Though I do want to comment, briefly, on something I’ve seen people complaining about online — that “A Christmas Carol” violates the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (which prevents a person from two different times from being in the same place at the same time) and the Reapers from “Father’s Day” (which is a defense mechanism against rewriting time).  First, I would point out that the tagline for this Christmas special was that “(Christmas)Time can be rewritten.”  Rewriting time has been a theme of Moffat’s Doctor Who writing for fifteen years now.  Second, Doctor Who has always been inconsistent with itself; it’s only the fannish impulse to make things fit into a self-consistent continuity that makes “A Christmas Carol” violate the BLE or keeps the Reapers at bay.  (Mind you, I’ve not seen the episode.  I’m not even sure what about the episode is a supposed continuity violation.) Third, I’d point out that, at least during the RTD era, it was taken that continuity was whatever the audience could remember.  Yes, the fannish audience remembers a whole hell of a lot more, but for the mass audience that Doctor Who is for the words “Blinovitch Limitation Effect” are going to mean absolutely nothing, just as the rule of thirteen from “The Deadly Assassin” wasn’t going to mean anything to the Sarah Jane Adventures audience when the Doctor told Clyde he could regenerate 507 times.

Or, you can just say that when the universe was rebooted with the light of the Pandorica and Amy’s memories, some things were lost.  Like the BLE.  Or the Reapers.  It’s not impossible, y’know.

Otherwise, the holiday has been quite pleasant.  I listened to Christmas music and Doctor Who audio books on the drive down.  I ate breakfast at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House in Richmond Friday morning.  I spent some time with some old and dear friends.  I got to see my niece, though she doesn’t acknowledge my presence at all, like some sort of The Sixth Sense but in reverse.

Oh, and I went to Total Wine & More and bought alcohol.  Because we don’t have TW&M in Baltimore, due to Maryland’s absurd and antiquated liquor laws.

Happy Boxing Day, peeps.  Go out an pugilize someone!

On Rainfall Against the Office Glass

On a day like today, with the sky overcast and rain falling, hitting the sixth floor glass and running in streaks downward, this song by the Beatles is completely appropriate:

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads
They might as well be dead
If the rain comes, if the rain comes

When the sun shines they slip into the shade
(When the sun shines down)
And sip their lemonade
(When the sun shines down)
When the sun shines, when the sun shines

Rain, I don't mind
Shine, the weather's fine

I can show you that when it starts to rain
(When the rain comes down)
Everything's the same
(When the rain comes down)
I can show you, I can show you

Rain, I don't mind
Shine, the weather's fine

Can you hear me that when it rains and shines
(When it rains and shines)
It's just a state of mind?
(When it rains and shines)
Can you hear me, can you hear me?

sdaeh rieht edih dna nur yeht semoc niar eht fI
(Rain)
niaR
(Rain)
niaR, enihsnuS

Maybe this rain, which is supposed to last all night and into tomorrow, will wash some of Maryland’s glacier away… :)

Though I should point out, perhaps, that this song has absolutely nothing to do with rain and everything to do with an acid trip.  Because John Lennon was like that. ;)

On Maryland Transit Suckitude

The four feet of snow that fell during Blizzardammerung and its kissing cousin Blizzardammerung II linger on the Maryland landscape like a festering malignancy.  I look out at the frozen wastes from my sixth floor office, and I think I should elk and moose wandering the glacier that now lays across the hills and dales of the Old Line State.

And, from my office, I see the Light Rail as it runs through the business park.

The Light Rail, despite running entirely above ground, has been running pretty much consistently on time since last week.

Baltimore’s subway, however, has been something else entirely.

The Maryland Transit Administration website reports on outages and delays on the various lines.

It also lies.

Yesterday, for instance, it reported that service had been restored on the entire length of the subway line and that there were no delays.

Only, service had not been restored on the entire length of the line.  The line was running a single track from Old Court to Owings Mills, which resulted in, yes, delays.

But, let’s rewind back a day.  Let’s go to Monday.

On Monday, service on the subway had been restored only to Old Court.  From there, the website reported that a shuttle bus was running out to the end of the subway line at Owings Mills.  And the woman at the booth in the Old Court station confirmed this when I asked her.

However, the reality was quite different.

I arrived at Old Court at 7:15.  I rode the escalator up from the platform.  I walked through the turnstiles.  I walked down the long tunnel to the parking lot.  It was cold, it was snowing, and there was sleet mixed in.  I waited curbside for the shuttle bus; there were already about twenty people, presumably from the previous train, waiting for the shuttle.

Buses came.  None were buses heading to Owings Mills. They were heading east and south, into Baltimore.  None were heading west.

More trains arrived.  More passengers departed their trains, made their way to the curb.

More snow fell.  More sleet fell.

Seven-fifteen turned to seven-thirty.  Turned to eight.  Turned to eight thirty.

The crowd grew, and tempers flared.  Some would occasionally rush a bus, trying to berate the driver into abandoning his route to take us to Owings Mills.  One driver spent several minutes on the phone with a dispatcher, trying to figure out what what going on (as it was now 8:40), only to get angry and drive off when someone started pounding on her bus’ door.

Finally, at five past nine, a bus heading to Owings Mill arrived.  How the large crowd fit into the bus I don’t know.  The bus must have been dimensionally transcendent.

An hour fifty minutes in the cold and the falling snow and sleet.

Yesterday’s story was not nearly as compelling.  Arrive at Old Court, disembark, wait for a train said to be coming ten minutes behind that will carry us on all the way to Owings Mills.  Instead, it was half an hour.

I know, MTA has a lot of track that they are still working on; much of the track above ground — in other words, between Owings Mills and West Cold Spring — is not that clear.  I saw teams digging out the track, in particular the power rail, with shovels on the commute in this morning.  Perhaps a few days of forty-plus temperatures will melt some of the snow and improve the passability of the subway tracks.  Perhaps.

But then I think about that hour and fifty minutes Monday night, waiting for a shuttle bus. :-/

Maybe that‘s why I’ve been sneezy since yesterday…

On a Winter Lament

I dream of a day when the glaciers of Maryland will be no more.

I dream of a day when birds are in the air, when plants break the soil, when flowers bloom.

I dream of a day when a warm sun beats down on verdant fields of green.

I dream of a day when a kite can soar into a springtime sky — deep blue, with large, billowing clouds of cotton.

I look outside.  I see ice.  I see mounds of snow.

I dream of that day, and I know it is not today.

On Blizzardammerung

On Friday, the world knew, an apocalyptic snowstorm was coming.

It was coming up the jet stream, from the south.  We could see fifteen inches, twenty-four inches, perhaps even forty inches of snow.  A winter storm warning was issued from 10 am Friday to 10 pm Saturday.

Some thought the office would be closed on Friday.  Some called it, in hushed tones, “snowpocalypse” or “snowmaggedon.”  I thought these words over-used.  I coined my own neologism — “blizzardammerung.”  A touch of the Wagner, really.

The snow started to fall about noon on Friday.  Lightly at first, then growing steadily heavier.  There wasn’t anything to be concerned about at that point; the temperature was still nicely above freezing.  Anything that touched the ground melted.  The world was wet, not white.

I left the office about three.  Trudged the two blocks to the light rail station, rode the train home.  It was pretty.

The snow picked up.  It fell, harder and harder and harder.  Giant flakes.  Monstrous flakes.

I went to bed.  There might’ve been three inches on the ground.

I woke up about four.  I heard thunder.  Thunder and snow — a bad combination.

I looked out the bedroom window.  I couldn’t see anything.  Perhaps, the storm had fizzled out?

No, it turned out.  The snow had changed over to fine, heavy snow.  There must’ve been a foot or more outside.

The snow continued to fall unabated.

Twenty inches.  Twenty-four inches.  Thirty inches.  Thirty-six inches.  Records were shattered.

Blizzardammerung, as I called it, ended about four o’clock Saturday afternoon.  The sky cleared off.  There was a gorgeous sunset.

This is what the storm looked like from orbit — a vast expanse of white along the mid-Atlantic.  It looks like Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I lived ten years ago, was especially hard hit.

Sunday, I started digging out.

Snow is heavy.  Snow to the depth of four feet is especially heavy.  I ache.  I’m sore.  I could dig for days and weeks and still not escape the house.  I’m still not done.

The office may be open today.  Or it may be closed.  I really have no idea.  The office phone system is down.  So is the office e-mail system.  The governor wants people to stay off the roads today.  That’s okay; I still need to dig out more before I can reach the roads.

We’re to have more snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Five, maybe ten inches.

I am tired of snow.

On Signs of a False Spring

Today, it felt like spring.

No, it wasn’t as warm as springtime often is.

No, there were still mounds of snow in parking lots and a glaze of ice on the sidewalks.

No, the sun was still far too low in the sky, and the clouds shifted awkwardly throughout the day.

And yet!

After weeks of sub-twenty degree temperatures, a day in which the sun broke through the clouds, in which blue sky could be seen, in which white, wispy clouds floated lazily in the high, thin air, in which the thermometer flirted with near-fifty degrees, one could be forgiven for wanting to see trees budding and flowers breaking through the dirt or the smells of springtime in the air.

I expected mulch, to be honest.

I know, it’s mid-January.  We’ll have another cold snap (or three), more snow and ice, before all is said and done.  It’s still winter.

But, for a few hours today, it really seemed like spring.

And I welcomed it.