Thursday, January 27, 2011

SNOWSTORM!!! And why DC, even though it doesn't work, keeps working...

I think this post is kind of boring, but I am going to post it anyway since this is where it belongs.

I’m being afforded the chance to write this by global warming, or in other words, snow. DC was hit by a fairly massive snowstorm last night, which tore down tree branches, buried cars, and caked sidewalks in roads first in ice and then in a hefty layer of packable powder. There are a considerable amount of “Southerners” in the district who are convinced that living in DC means going “north”, but I would have to say, as a Michigander, that this one day of crisis is a fairly good testament to the fact that DC definitely, in snow capability and mentality, if nothing else, is solidly part of the south.

Class was canceled on campus yesterday afternoon at 3pm and the university didn’t reopen its doors until 11 this morning. Giant swaths of DC are without power (my roommate and I lucked out and had a cozy evening at home with the lights on!) and busses and cars are abandoned on the side of the road.

The e-mail I got in my inbox this morning said that it was up to employees to decide when they wanted to come into work, that they could use leave time if need be. I figured I didn’t need leave time, so I got myself up and going, pulled on those Michigan snow boots and walked out the door into the new winter wonderland. I took pictures to send my mother. Cutting through the park on my way to work I watched the sun slide through the snow-covered tree branches. I reveled in the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet – it brings back memories of walking to elementary school and sledding with my family and hiking to my “magic spot” at nature school in 6th grade. Walking in snow is rewarding – it takes effort, but it’s so worth it.

I passed a lot of people who shoveling -- looking either entirely non-plussed, very befuddled or (I expect ex-Midwesterners) utterly thrilled to take on the ice/snowcovering.I arrived at work on time only to find the building closed and dark. Go figure. Not everyone has it as easy I do – driving is a lot more difficult since they’re aren’t enough plows to get the roads safe enough, quick enough – not to mention the power issue! So I headed to Starbucks, which was a mistake, because everyone without power was there. After hitting a second Starbucks equally filled, I hiked down to a French café which has no power outlets and no wifi and found a place to sit down and use my computer until the battery died. They had an illy espresso maker and I had a REAL cappuccino. It was amazing.

Once my computer lost battery I headed up to the “social Safeway” grocery store (has a Starbucks and café – with power outlets!), where the last third of DC was camped out. Saw my good friend May, who is out of power and came to charge her laptop and phone. She wasn’t alone. 47 other young professionals were crowded into the café, each one of them charging their devices. A couple people had brought their own power strips with them, so more energy-hungry displaced workers could plug-in. Looking around me at the chaotic, unshowered Safeway crowd, I felt this was a testament to the dominant persona of NW DC – folks that are so dedicated to their work that they stand up and head out to plug-in when their power is out, but at the same time folks that can’t work without power.

I was very glad I don’t own a car. I’m happy that I’m dependent on my own two feet to get to work. And I’m glad I got to enjoy walking in the snow. But I know at the same time I count among the masses dependent upon a computer and its power to get work done – without any of my books nearby, I didn’t have many options once my computer died, and was reduced to writing on paper napkins until I had a chance to plug it in!

So I remain a confused Amanda in a confused city – trying to be environmentally and socially conscious, but required by the expectations of a life in a city driven by progress and success to meet certain standards – like having a smart phone and dressing well. Moving toward self-sufficiency means navigating these waters and figuring out how you live a life that is happy and fulfilling. I hope as long as I keep making sure to walk in the snow, I am headed in the right direction.