DC got a half inch of snow this morning. In Ohio, that’s viewed as a meteorological joke, but for Washingtonians, half an inch equates to full-fledged Blizzard Conditions. I guess all things are relative. Anyway, after the weather guy on Channel Four describe the day’s forecast as “grave” and “climatically treacherous,” I gave serious thought to calling the Place of Lawyerly Things and claiming a sick snow day. Honestly, I didn’t want the commuting headache. Experience has taught me that the Metro does not deal well with things like temperature fluctuation, increase in ridership, fire, or any form of precipitation. So, I imagined my commute would become the real-life version of that movie where the weather goes all doomsday and freezes the Statue of Liberty up to her armpits while almost turning Jake Gyllenhaal into a human popsicle, but then Dennis Quaid snowshoes across four States and saves the Jakester by wrapping him in a hand-warmer cocoon, so Jake only has mild frostbite and possibly snow blindness. Yep, I figured it was going to be a lot like that. But with a train.
Between my apartment and the Rosslyn Metro is a Really Big Hill. And by “big,” I mean, Sir Edmund Hillary could scale it, plant a flag on top, and call it his Bitch. Each morning, I happily walk down the hill and each evening, I dread death marching up. I consider that climb the workout equivalent of the Iron Man. And in the year I’ve lived at Chez Apartment, I’ve had several weather-related encounters with the Hill. Each time there’s heavy rain, mini-flash floods develop at the top and without warning, tsunamis made of run-off barrel down. Anybody in the wake of all this water gets soaked, usually to the knees. I’ve learned to wear rain boots for forecasts that include anything more than a trickle. Also, the one time it got icy last winter, I attempted to climb the Hill. After three failed attempts, a fellow commuter and I admitted defeat. Ice, gravity and a lack of rock salt were just too much. We gave up and hailed a taxi to take us to the top.
Knowing all this, I spent several minutes considering the footwear logistics of my a.m. trek down to the Metro. I was going to need lots of traction, and possibly a miracle, to get to the bottom of Mt. Pedestrian Killer. Theoretically, I own snow boots and rain boots; both traction-acceptable for my icy descent. But, after ten minutes of rummaging through my shoe closet, I realized both pairs of boots were at eCrush’s. Writing them off as Lost Forever, I threw on my UGGs.
As my UGGs and I approached the Really Big Hill, I watched one unsuspecting woman descend about a foot, hit a patch of ice disguised as slush, do that arm flail thing from the cartoons, and land on her tuckus. It was hilarious until I realized that probably was going to be me in about three minutes. As I watched, another person began sidestepping down the face of the Hill, like people do on ski slopes. This method was fairly successful, except for the occasional side slide that caused a lot of muttering and one instance where the guy screamed, “Holy Shit!” A third person was trying to Spiderman down the Hill, body and hands splayed against the side of the building that lines the sidewalk. That just looked like a body scrape waiting to happen. Clearly, the Really Big Hill had elevated to Break Your Neck conditions.
I stood at the crest for a few minutes, studying the slush and attempting to locate the biggest patches of snow-free sidewalk. Mentally, I plotted my course, noting all possible life-saving building and tree handholds in case of an unexpected wipeout. Eventually, it got to the point where I couldn’t put it off any longer. I knew I either had to get down the Hill or return to Chez Apartment and call the Place of Lawyerly Things. While my Sensible Side fully supported a day of Buffy and Hot Chocolate, my Inner Ohioan scoffed. If half an inch of snow, a mere dusting, was going to keep me homebound, I could no longer claim to be a Midwesterner.
Unwilling to relinquish my geographic motherland, I gingerly placed my foot on the slope of the Hill and sort of squished it down for traction. Once I knew I was stable, I positioned my other boot about six inches further down the hill, dug into the slush, and prayed. As I shifted my weight forward, I maintained traction. I mentally thanked Whoever-Is-The-Patron-Saint-Of-Commuting. And again, I stepped, prayed, shifted, over and over, inching down Rosslyn’s version of K2. Everything was fine until, about eight feet from the bottom, I misstepped. Instead of putting my foot on a strip of visible brick a few inches ahead, I accidentally overshot my mark and my UGGed foot landed on a frozen piece of plastic. It was too late to do any readjustments so I shifted my weight forward, but the rubber sole of my UGG couldn’t grip the plastic beneath it. Inadvertently, I had created the perfect storm of snow, slippery plastic, and traction deficient footwear. My UGGed foot, still atop the plasticy thing, began to slide down the hill and because I was mid-weight shift, with my back foot still planted firmly behind me, I began to do the splits. I am not Mary Lou Retton; I do not bend that way and it hurt. As my legs continued to spread, every single time I had declined Stella’s offers to introduce me to yoga flashed through my head. At some point, cussing ensued. Just as I was about to split in two, my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I lifted my back leg, the one that was holding me in place and essentially keeping me steady. Instantly, the UGG/plastic thingie morphed into a foot sled. I shot down the Hill, doing an impression of a wobbly, one-legged surfing flamingo. Death was imminent. Either I was going to fall and break my delicate neck, kamikaze into a building, or get smooshed by one of the cars whizzy past the base of the Really Big Hill. Wanting to shorten my time in purgatory, I closed my eyes and admitted to God that I really was the person who broke my brother’s Optimus Prime, not Little Sister.
I continued to confess the sins of my past, and had made it through most of puberty, when I realized I’d stopped moving. Somehow, I’d slid one-legged down the Really Big Hill and reached a graceful halt at the bottom. I sighed with relief. It was over. For a moment, I envisioned Johnny Drama, then, confident that all was well since I was on the level and semi-slush-free sidewalk, I took a step. That’s when my UGGs lived up to their tractionless nature. I promptly fell flat on my butt and let out every four letter word I knew.