So I told myself I'd never utter such a stupid nickname for a pending snowstorm after I saw the the term "Snowpocalypse" sprout up on Twitter and the local news. I've lived in Boston, people. And let me tell you, you "hardcore" DC-ers haven't begun seeing snow until you're enduring blustery Nor-Easters with 5-degree windchill on what feels like a weekly basis.
"Ha! What idiots," I said to J over the phone the night before our move. "They're only forecasting a foot of snow and people are acting like it's Armageddon. People are so dramatic sometimes."
We'll show them, I thought. We'll move in it, as planned. Because we're renegades like that and nothing, not even inclement weather, can stop us in our tracks.
Oh how I was wrong.
Turns out the word snowpocalypse was an apropos way of describing the current conditions. And that saucy minx of an anchor I was watching on Channel 5 Local News? You know, that Ron Burgundy-wannabe with the frosted tips who looked like he'd spent way too much time at a hair salon slash tanning booth? Well he wasn't kidding when he said this was going to be a "doozy" of a snowstorm.
We woke up bright and early Friday morning and though the sky was a bleached white, there was nary a snowflake in sight. "I knew it," I thought, satisfied that I hadn't bought into all the hype. "We'll get a few flakes, people will panic, it'll be over before we know it."
Fast forward to a few hours later: J and I are sitting in our little Uhaul truck near the top of a snow-covered hill somewhere in DC, our back wheels furiously spinning, our truck going...nowhere.
J and I had just dropped off the first of two trips of furniture slash boxes. It took us two hours to unload the truck up in Maryland (thankfully this included all the big stuff like our couch and bed) and we were back on the road at around 8pm, navigating the 15-mile maze of DC streets to get back down to Arlington, Virginia. The sun had set hours ago; the snow and wind were picking up. No trucks were out plowing or salting the streets. The streets, in fact, hadn't even been prepped for the forecasts. Our truck kept sliding all over the place, but it was too late to turn back. We were exactly halfway between our two apartments, and we'd left Lola down in Arlington. We had to go back for the rest of our stuff, if not just for the furry little white kid.
So there we were, sliding sideways on a hill in an empty Uhaul truck. J stays cool under pressure, but I see it as an opportunity to play out my inner actress.
J (his hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel): "GREAT. We're not moving. We're stuck. I knew this was going to happen..."
Me: "TURN ON THE HAZARDS."
J: "What? Why are you shouting?"
Me: "Oh. I don't know."
J: "You were just waiting to say that, weren't you?"
(We laugh and peer around in the cab for something, anything, to help us. I'm not sleeping in a rental truck in the middle of a blizzard, no matter how comfortable these vinyl seat cushions are. I grab our empty 7-11 paper coffee cup, taking off the plastic lid as I hand the cup to him.)
Me: "Here. Start digging behind the back tires with this. I'll use the lid."
J: "Um, no? That won't do anything. The problem is there's ice under this snow. Nothing's been salted."
(Meanwhile the snow is picking up outside. I sigh loudly, like Sundance irritated that Butch Cassidy is -- once again -- being the "realist", and run outside to the rear right tire near the curb, using my foot to clear out some snow in front of it. I hop back in.)
Me: "Try that."
(He gasses it, the tires spin till we slide a few more inches and finally bump against the curb. We use the curb, as our tires are burning out, to inch up the hill. This, we thought, could take all night.)
Suffice to say, it didn't. We finally reached the top of that hill. The worst was behind us but it was just as scary (dare I say, exhilarating?) through the rest of DC. Down Constitution Ave., past the White House. It was desolate and empty and eerie, like we were on the set of The Road -- except there was no pushing of our wares in grocery carts or wearing of shoes fashioned out of trash bags. For all I know we could have been partially driving on a sidewalk since everything, I mean everything, was covered in a blanket of white.
Finally we crossed the Potomac River into Arlington and had one, final, steep hill to climb near the Air Force Memorial. J zig-zagged the steering wheel up the entire thing as the back tires spun out incessantly, leaving behind jagged tracks that looked like the pattern across Charlie Brown's shirt all the way up the snow-covered road. But it worked. We made it. We slid up as far as we could into our Archstone parking lot and rolled into an open space. J inspected the truck few minutes later and realized WHY we had such traction problems: The back tires were bald. The front ones -- the ones that zig-zagged us up that hill -- were fine. Sigh.
It took us 2 hours to go 15-miles. By the time we got back to Lola and our nearly empty apartment it was 9pm. Though I wanted to try and make a go of it with a second load of boxes, J said it just wasn't happening. Carpet picnic, anyone?
That night we set up a bedsheet and our down comforter on the floor, listened to the news on the radio and played Blackjack. (For anyone interested, I won. Muwahaha.) Oh and sleeping on the floor really isn't that bad, especially when you're using a shared seat cushion as a makeshift pillow.
We woke up the next morning and the conditions were even more severe. And the move? Well here's how the next few days of the snowstorm went down:
Day 2 (Saturday): Arlington. Completely snowed in. Conditions are abominable. Snow is blowing sideways, everything is covered in white. The main road by our apartment is completely unplowed and overrun with people bundled up and walking to CVS to get their fix of Swedish Fish and other gastronomic delights they forgot to stock up on. After a few hours of packing we join them. The rest of the day is spent packing, but this -- true to form -- always takes longer than usual.
Nighttime. Still snowing. We're exhausted...and cold. Heater has stopped working. Cold Domino's pizza is not helping our mood. We stand huddled in kitchen over oven to keep warm.
Snow eases up around evening. We must dig giant Uhaul out before snow turns to ice. We have no shovel. An hour later I'm convinced you haven't lived till you've used a plastic office trash can to dig out a vehicle. But they only go so far. J grabs a particle board from an Ikea desk we're leaving behind and digs the entire truck out with the 1' by 3' board. Bare-handed. This takes him about two hours.
Day 3 (Sunday): Why is there still so much clutter not packed up? Bobby pins and candles and souvenirs from Rio de Janiero still litter the floor. Our bodies ache from the two and a half hours of shoveling last night. Still more shoveling left to do, but luckily this afternoon a neighbor lets us borrow his snow shovel. Finally ready to start filling up truck, but first it must be turned around so we can get to the rear. Bald tires spin profusely on ice. People keep walking by and telling us we're crazy for moving this weekend. Yeah buddy, thanks for clarifying that. We totes planned all this, you know, because we like making moving thatmuch harder. We're masochists like that. Bastards.
An hour later we finally get vehicle out of spot. Starving. Walk to McDonald's for the second time in two days for dinner. Want to barf at how much fast food we've been eating in a 48-hour period (Domino's: 1, Five Guys: 2, Mickey D's: 2). We finish and walk back. Another three hours later of walking up and down snow-covered steps with heavy boxes and the truck is full. House is still a mess, but I convince J that the rest of our small mound of clutter will fit in our Hyundai tomorrow. He reluctantly agrees.
10pm: Pile into packed cab of truck, ready to head back up to Maryland. The wind has picked up, temperatures are now in the single digits. Tires screech against what is now thick ice. We're stuck -- again -- in our parking spot. I want to die.
11pm: Finally get car out of spot by chipping away at ice under tires with a screwdriver. Poor J's fingers are frozen and red. I get out of cab without gloves to spot the truck as he's backing out. When he's clear he drives away. I pick up a shelf we accidentally left behind in the snow and run after him, not knowing what he's doing.
11:05pm: Fingers are freezing and scaly. Have begun to cry. Can't find him anywhere. Finally spot him at the top of the lot. Turns out he was circling the parking lot, looking for me, too. He said he was just turning around and didn't see where I'd gone. I yell at him. This night can't get any worse.
12:30am: Highways are still unplowed and covered in ice. Takes us another 2 hours to go 15 miles but we finally get up to our apartment in Maryland. The walkway to the rear entrance of the complex is covered in a solid, uneven, pot-holed ramp of ice. The flat-bed cart they loaned us can barely traverse this course. The night has just gotten worse. We pile our things onto the rickety cart, little by little, and J pulls it up the ramp, our things sliding around and off the cart bed. It's official: We now definitely feel like vagrants in The Road. It's about 9 degrees; I can't feel my face.
3:45am: After 27 cart trips the truck is finally unloaded. Should have only taken an hour in normal temperatures. With icey ramp and cold it's taken us a lifetime. We're starving, and oh how convenient: the only place open near us is a -- wait for it -- McDonald's. I reluctantly order a hamburger, and choke as I force down each bite.
3:50am: I look at my nasty, cut, red fingers. Feel like Scarlett O'Hara in the second half of Gone With the Wind, when she makes a dress out of her green curtains to try and con money from Rhett Butler, only to be shot down when he sees her cut-up, blistered hands and says they aren't the hands of a lady. Note to self: Get a manicure after this is all over.
3:51am: Second note to self: There are no manicures in your budget. Slather on some cheap Vitamin E oil when you get a chance and quit complaining.
4:35am: Time for a nice hot shower. Turn water on...high-powered spray spews from shower nozzle like a pressure washer. Feels like I'm being given a prison shower. Skin feels like it is being peeled off with a thousand angry needles. There is only one setting on this nozzle and this is it. Note to self: Buy new shower head.
4:55 am: Bed is not in order. Someone kill me now. Consider passing out on floor, if there was any open floorspace between our piles of boxes to pass out on. There is not.
5:00am: Rip open bags like a crazy woman looking for bedding, toss linens on to mattress, and fade to black.
Day 4 (Monday): Ah, bliss, the last day of moving! Light at the end of the tunnel and hallelujahs and what have yous. The worst is behind us, we think. It has to be.
11:30am: Hyundai is covered in a couple feet of snow from not being moved for two days. We have no shovel. J says he "is not using the board again" and we're off to find a shovel...but every store is sold out. Are you there, God? It's me, Crystal. Please throw us a bone.
12:35pm: Standing in front of the empty shovel wall at Home Depot, we decide to buy a 4-inch wide trench digger. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Trench digger costs $25. I curse under my breath.
1:00pm: J starts digging out Hyundai with all the energy he can muster. Shovel, though not that wide, is more effective than we thought. But I suppose anything would be to a couple who previously used a trash can and a board.
1:15pm: We realize this is going to take longer than we thought. And we have until 6pm to clean slash turn in the key to our other apartment across town. Insert expletive here. I call apartment office, tell them what's going down and they agree to let me drop off the keys in a drop box that night. Crisis: averted.
2:34ish pm: Car is finally snow-free, but only after I shift it in neutral and J wedges himself between our car and adjacent Oldsmobile to push off on our front bumper and roll me away from snow bank. This results in him creating a human bridge between the Hyundai and Oldsmobile, which then results in him landing face-first into the snow once I roll away:Hilarious.
3:10pm: Return Uhaul truck. Ecstatic to finally have the thing off our hands. Now off to Arlington for the last time, to pick up the rest of our things and clean.
4:00pm to 10ish pm: Pack. Even more. Working through our severe exhaustion makes us feel like we are eternally condemned to hard labor, like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up that mountain only to watch it roll down every time. Sometime during this 4-hour block we make a quick trip to McDonald's (again!) for dinner. While we're gone Lola gets into our kitchen trash and eats a whole waxy rind of Swiss cheese. I take solace in knowing that we both ate shit for dinner.
10:05pm: Light bulbs and random pairs of scissors surface here and there; a bride's maid dress I never wore; a barbecue; a Christmas tree stand (which, out of frustration, J later throws off the balcony like a large frisbee into the snow); a giant French clock that I refuse to part with. All these things we didn't account for thinking they'd fit in the car. The clutter is never-ending. As we amass the last of our things in the center of the empty living room we realize we should have included much of it on the truck bed since our Hyundai is so tiny. I want to punch myself in the face (and nickname myself Sisyphus).
10:35pm: I start vacuuming. Vacuum belt breaks. In a perfect world I'd pick up the vacuum cleaner and hurl it through the window, which I start to do but then stop myself. It would come out of my deposit, after all. Floor is in desperate need of vacuuming; most stores are closed. Then it dawns on me -- there's a Target nearby open till 11. Finally, a light at the end of the Godforsaken tunnel. We pile into car and head out, hoping they have the right belt.
11:45pm: Became side-tracked by the Valentine's Day aisle at Target, but we are back home with two vacuum belts in hand. J puts one on; it breaks right away. We're down to last belt. Sweat beads slide down our fatigued faces as we hope this one will stay in tact. It does. Victory.
12am to 3:30am: Cleaning.
3:30am: Start packing car. Yup, J was right. Not everything is fitting. Have to leave barbecue slash bride's maid dress slash Christmas tree stand slash myriad other things behind. Feels like we are literally throwing our money away. Not a good feeling, but hey, at this point we can't even feel our own swollen, blistered fingers. That's not a good feeling either.
3:35am: Lola gets diarrhea. She should have thought twice before giving in to her weakness for Swiss cheese.
4:30am: Car is crammed full. Every square inch is taken up by something, be it a computer printer, bags of clothes, or tubes of gift wrap. J tells me my giant French clock won't fit. I refuse to believe this and shove it in the inch-tall gap over everything in the back. He says if we get into a car accident the thing is taking our heads off. I say I'd rather not have a head then leave my French clock behind. He is speechless. Lola looks at me, then him, probably trying to tell us she'd like some Pepto Bismol.
4:45am: Time to drop keys off. We put them in the drop-off envelope and J is about to lick the edge to seal when he sees little hairs and linties stuck all over it. "That's been on the floor. Don't look at me, I'm not licking it," I say. We just want to get the hell out of there. He shuts his eyes, about to lick it anyway and deal with the consequences later, but then decides to just spit on it. Seals perfectly. We drop off and we're outta there.
5:30am: Though it's still freezing the roads are a bit clearer. When we reach our new apartment we leave everything in the locked car and head up. "What if someone steals something?" I ask. "For all I care they can take the car and drive it off a cliff," J replies.
6:00am: Sleep. Finally. End.
So that's my story. Like all good stories it starts with a moving truck and ends with a flatulent poodle. We woke up the next afternoon (yesterday) at about 3pm. J's fingers were swollen and he couldn't make a fist. Our legs were so sore we could barely move; my eyes were puffy from the cold and exhaustion. Not quite conducive to blogging, but we're better today...
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