I have to admit that I ate my words.
Last Monday I scoffed at the weather reports that this blizzard would be one of the worst in Chicago's history. Yeah. Psh. Right.
On Tuesday, my husband was sitting in his car for 11 hours on Lake Shore Drive, trapped by 70mph winds, 24 inches of snow, and hundreds of abandoned vehicles.
Our poor car was in there, somewhere.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jason was one of the thousands of motorists forced to finally abandon their cars on Lake Shore. He left school at 3pm, as soon as he was allowed to leave; which was, of course, the exact same time the blizzard hit Chicago. He called me at 5pm to say it would be a couple hours. He called at 7:30pm to say two more hours. He called at 8:30pm to say he was probably spending the night in his car.
Once, J got out of his car to scrape the ice off his windshield. When he got back in the car, he discovered that he had sand in his hair and on his face. The wind was rocking the car back and forth hard enough that he actually thought it was going to tip over. The lake had 20-foot waves, threatening to flood Lake Shore Drive.The snow piled up until was level with the car windows. Scary stuff, people.
After 11 hours in his car, two and a half hours on public transit, and half an hour walking a mile in the snow to our apartment, J got home at 4:15am.
We finally got a hold of 311 on Wednesday night, and were told that our car was "either in the parking lot at Wilson or somewhere on the Fullerton ramp." Helpful. J finally found our poor little Toyota in the parking lot at Foster: covered in two inches of ice and the engine packed full of snow.
As is the case in many natural (and unnatural) disasters, mankind's best was brought out: J found himself amazed by the selflessness and compassion of strangers. Two different families let them use their cell phone, strangers walked up and down the road passing out bottled water and granola bars. He spoke highest of the firefighters who spent hour after hour outside in the wind and freezing temperatures: carrying those requiring medical attention away on snowmobiles, helping people push their cars, knocking on each car window to offer their assistance.
And, unfortunately, as is also the case in disasters, it brought out the worst in some. We couldn't believe when the city came out saying that it was the motorists' fault for getting stuck out there: especially when it was the city buses that caused the back-ups in the first place. Witnessing the corruption and inefficiency of the public school system over the last three years has been pretty disheartening, but then seeing the city so quick to place the blame on its own citizens was just very, very sad.
All that to say, I have had to set aside my frustration with the city this week and try to apply that cheesy, over-used Ghandi quote about being the change you want to see in the world and all that gushy stuff. If I'm going to criticize the way Chicago's public officials handled Snowmageddon, I need to reevaluate how I react to the bad, the negative, the tiny disasters.
I can be pretty quick to shuffle off the blame, to point fingers, to look for the easy way out. This week was a good reminder to our little family that showing grace and kindness is always, always the road to choose, that there is goodness left in mankind.
Oh, and that keeping a blanket or two in the car is a very, very good idea.
Our street, post-Snowmageddon