Wednesday turned out to be a pretty crazy day for me. As in when I told this story to a few friends, they all wanted to try to find someone to interview me about it.
It had been a pretty normal day at work, but we all knew that there was snow in the forecast. It's snowed about 6-7 times already this winter, an amount that is extremely unusual for Nashville. However, one of those had been on Monday... and it was no big deal.
When it started snowing at 4pm, I looked out and saw it and thought about how nice it would be to stay in that night and also packed a bit of work to take home so that I could work from home in the morning if the roads got bad.
When I looked out at 4:30, I realized it was already starting to accumulate pretty quickly. I grabbed my stuff and headed on out in a hurry thinking that if I could get going before it got worse then all would be well.
As I walked out, I looked up the hill in the direction I take to go home and saw that traffic was backed up because there was a car who couldn't get up it. At this point, I still didn't think that I had any reason to be concerned about getting home. I decided that I would go the other way and cut up another road that I could take straight back to my place.
I had no trouble making it the half mile or so to the big intersection where I needed to turn left. Everyone was moving slowly, but we were moving.
After turning left, we were not moving. Over the next hour, I went from thinking I'd be getting home to panicked that I was going to get stuck, get in a wreck, or have to park it somewhere and wait until I could either move again or someone could get to me.
Somewhere in there I realized I didn't have my phone. Since we were pretty much stopped, I dumped the few contents of my purse onto the seat beside me. It definitely was nowhere to be found.
I started noticing that the cars in front of me were sliding a bit each time they inched up. My car was handling it pretty well, but I could tell that conditions were getting worse by the minute as the snow (and the temperature) continued to fall.
I watched one car that kept sliding sideways over toward the ditch. I couldn't believe the guy kept getting it pulled back straight onto the road.
By this point, I was so nervous that I was shaking a bit. We really don't get much snow here, and I've never really had to drive in it. I knew now that I was probably sitting in the midst of one of the worst rush hour snows we'd ever seen.
I could hear multiple sirens, and several fire trucks and ambulances passed by us in the turning lane. I could see blue lights on down the road. It was starting to get dark, and this made me even more uneasy. I knew we'd be on solid ice very soon.
With no phone to call anyone, I was really unsure of what I needed to do. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that I didn't need to keep trying to get home. I had barely made it 3 miles. Getting back to the office would probably taking hours and would offer little comfort for the night. I knew I needed to get somewhere safe that I could stay. I considered parking at the WalGreens coming up and hanging out in the store until I could figure out what to do next.
Then I noticed I was coming up on a road where some friends live. I hated that I couldn't call to see if anyone was home, but I decided that even if I sat in the driveway for a while then I would be safer than where I was at the time.
So I managed to get over in the turning lane and down the 0.2 mile stretch to the street where I'd find the house I was heading for. I was really hoping I'd get lucky and someone would be home, but I pulled up to find that there were no cars there and the house was dark.
I sat there for a moment and pondered what I should do. As an added bonus, I didn't have a ton of gas. I considered turning back and going for gas and then pressing on toward my home. I really wanted to be there as I knew I'd be much happier snowed in at my own house, but I realized that trying to keep going would be foolish.
I decided that it was also foolish to not try to find a phone and call my friends to make sure someone was trying to get home... or to see if there was a hidden key somewhere... and to let my mom know I was fine as I was certain she'd be trying to call and check on me.
I got some paper and wrote a note to my friends that said I was there but that I had gone looking for a phone since I didn't have mine and that I would come back after trying to call them.
I walked toward the road and watched a few cars slide on by. I looked around at the houses and said a little prayer that I'd go to the right one. I was incredibly nervous about knocking on a stranger's door, but I started heading across the street to a house that looked like people were home.
I have no idea why, but once I was halfway there I turned around. Instead, I walked up to another house that looked cozy but where it wasn't clear if anyone was home.
I took a deep breath and knocked. A HUGE dog came flying to the door, and I started to think that the dog was probably the only soul home when a girl about my age appeared.
She opened the door, and I explained my situation and told her I knew it was crazy to let a stranger in your home and asked if she'd mind letting me use her phone. She was so sweet and totally invited me in. I felt relieved that someone my own age who appeared to be completely normal lived in this house.
I managed to remember my friend's phone number (crazy, I know, but I have a good memory) and called and left a message explaining what was going on. I asked if I could use the restroom because as an added bonus in all of this, I was about to wet my pants.
Rebecca encouraged me to stay and assured me that it was really ok when I kept trying to say I was just going to go sit in the car across the street. While all of this was way outside my comfort zone, I'm so glad that it worked out. Sitting in my cold car alone waiting would have been pretty boring.
She suggested I call my friend again and share her phone number in case they wanted to call me back, so I called and left another message.
We sat and watched the news for a while and saw videos of all the traffic and I knew that as crazy as all of this was in that moment, I had made the right decision. There had been over 150 accidents reported in Nashville between 4 and 5:30 alone. They were sharing that emergency personnel were no longer responding to any accidents without injuries... that you just needed to exchange information and that you were on your own.
We looked out the window and saw a car that was head first into a ditch, and over the course of the next hour we watched a truck come along and tow it out. (People are kind in these situations.)
My friend called back and assured me that everyone was working their way home and to keep an eye out for whichever one of them got home first.
We watched American Idol. We talked about what we do for work and churches and people we know and had a generally lovely time getting to know one another.
Modern Family came on and Rebecca's husband got home and shared his story of his 3-hour journey home and how he finally had to abandon his car a little ways up the hill from the house and walk.
Around 8:30, I saw a light come on across the street. I thanked my kind hosts for being so warm and inviting to me because I knew the whole thing was just so crazy. I pretty much ice skated back across the street and saw numerous cars up the road that had been abandoned. And it was COLD.
I was so happy to see my friends! Not only that, I was starving. I got a sandwich and we all shared our stories of the afternoon. We were hearing from others that it was taking people anywhere from 3-6 hours to get home. INSANE.
I was able to take a shower and borrow some clothes to sleep in. When I finally laid down, I had no trouble getting to sleep. The whole thing had just been exhausting. I don't really get stressed out easily, but I had been really uncomfortable with trying to drive in it and not knowing what to do and wanting to be home but also wanting to be safe and do the right thing.
I was still a little nervous Thursday morning since we didn't really know what was happening on the roads. I decided to take it easy, and if I got scared then I planned to pull off and stop somewhere and wait a while.
Fortunately, not many people were out and the roads were already starting to melt. I took it slow and eventually made my way back to my apartment. I have never seen so many abandoned cars on the road.
I got cleaned up and headed into work. I was of course late, but by now the sun was really melting things and it wasn't so bad.
I work in a pretty hilly part of town, and I couldn't believe how many abandoned cars I saw as I got closer to the office.
Once there, I found that one of my co-workers had found my phone the day before. I had apparently dropped in when I was getting in the car. He said he could hear it ringing but couldn't see it... it turns out it was buried under a pile of snow. He was able to get it dry, and it seemed to be working fine (you don't want to know about all the missed calls and texts). I was relieved. I'm not one that's attached to my phone, but the whole experience of being out in these conditions without it had me shaken.
The whole thing is almost comical now. But at the time? I was definitely not in my normal happy spirits. I don't ever want to be in that situation again.
Fortunately, it all turned out well. I was always safe. I met some strangers who were so kind to me and that I hope to see again sometime. I only spent 1.5 hours trying to drive in it instead of the multiple hours that some others spent.
I have to say though... I'm REALLY ready for spring. Nashville isn't made to have this much winter.
To close, here are a few pictures of the cars left by their drivers near my office. I don't even want to know how far some of these people may have had to walk.