Friday, January 24, 2014


So this morning I awakened at the usual time of 5:00 AM.  Actually, I was awake before that, but that's when I got up.  They had told us yesterday to call the special weather number that $4W$ has to see if we were supposed to come to work or not, so I called it just for laughs.  I was stunned to hear that I was not to report to work until 10:00 AM.

This is because, a few years ago, when we had ice much, much worse than today, everyone in my department had to report at the usual time of 6:30 AM.  And they had to work all day.  I say "they" because, that time, I was honestly sick (probably flu) and missed work for 3 days--had a doctor's note and everything.  I have heard the story about how once, before I was hired there, and there was an even yet worse ice storm, everyone had to show up at 6:30, but everyone was late of course, and then they made everyone sit around until noon before they let anyone leave, but it was still icy and within an hour or so, someone had had a wreck.  So they called everyone back in and sent them all home.  That was back when I was working as a contractor for CPS, and I just told them I wasn't coming in.  "But you have to," they said, "you're an essential worker."  "Then fire me," I said, "I'm not coming in."  The next day I showed up for work and no one ever mentioned anything about it.

So they let us go out today at 11:00, with only one route each, and told everyone to work until 3:30 (our official ending time) and then come back in, and "do the best you can."  I had layered up with clothes so I was quite comfortable, except that I had to cross a foot bridge over some ditch or possibly one of the many creeks that wend through town and it was frikkin' treacherous.  Then I had to go back over that same bridge.  Going back, I was walking downhill and it was really treacherous.  I had to hold onto the railing and take tiny careful steps all the way across to keep from falling down.

About 1:00 or so, I heard a crash and looked around to see what was going on, but saw nothing.  Then suddenly, it happened again.  Ice spears were falling from electric lines and smacking into cars that were parked under them.  So for the rest of the day I kept a sharp eye out for falling ice to make sure I didn't get whacked in the head by it.  I could have taken some nice photos of yuccas bent over with ice on them but I would've had to take off my gloves to use my phone and didn't want to stop.

Everyone else had horror stories of how bad their experiences were driving in.  I didn't bother using any of the interstates; I just took Rigsby all the way to Hackberry, then down to Steves and over to the office.  Took longer because of more stops and lower speed limit, but I avoided anything bad and didn't have any trouble at all driving in.

Of course, the ice today was nothing compared to some of the ice storms I've seen.  There was a time in the late 80s when I was still working at the pizza place when they decided to close early because of the conditions, but by the time I was able to leave, the roads were sheets of ice.  My usual 20-minute drive home took me an hour and a half, and I was in second gear all the way.  I didn't leave home again for three days.*  Once when I was truck driving I had just been into Canada during a relatively warm window in the weather and was headed south to Denver when I got caught in another storm and had to stop at some little hole-in-the-wall truck stop somewhere in Wyoming.  I wasn't authorized to buy fuel there, but I needed it to keep the truck idling while I was stuck there--the only way to stay warm, and to keep the diesel from freezing (I had fuel anti-freeze but I didn't want to rely solely on it; the tanks have heaters to keep the fuel from freezing but they only work when the truck is running)--so I called headquarters and told them what was going on.  I just barely got out "I'm in Wyoming--" when the guy interrupted me with "Wyoming!  I'm going to authorize your fuel card to work anywhere."  I don't remember the man's name now, but at the time he said, "Just remember when you say your prayers tonight to ask the good Lord to bless (his name) and his family."  I got out of there after another day or so, but didn't make it much farther before I got stuck again, and this time sat for two days in a Wal-Mart parking lot, still in Wyoming.  I finally got to Denver, where I dropped my load in the terminal and got assigned another one for the Keebler plant in New Braunfels (my going-home trip).  They wouldn't let anyone leave the terminal at Denver unless they were headed south or east; everyone else had to stay put.  So I got out of there, and when I showed the guard my papers for New Braunfels, he advised me not to stop until I had run out of time.  That storm was right behind me for hundreds of miles.  Getting through the Raton pass was a little hairy, but I made it and finally stopped late at night at a little Love's truck stop somewhere in north Texas.  I remember that place had room for only about a dozen trucks, and there were only three of us parked there that night.  But the storm didn't make it that far down; the next day I was on the road again for New Braunfels.

A few days later my dispatcher called me to tell me that I had too much idling time.  I reminded him that I had been stuck in various places in Wyoming for most of a week.  "Oh," he said, "that was you."

*This was when I learned not to use Fix-a-Flat when it's below freezing.  I had a tire going flat, so I thought I'd just use a can of that stuff to get myself to a shop where I could get it patched.  The tire came apart.  It just fell apart in shreds.  Back then I had so many tire problems that I had taken to carrying a can of it in my truck all the time.

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