Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Day, Once Again

Gilda went off to work this morning. Nothing unusual about that, except this is the morning after the post-Christmas blizzard of 2010.

As much as I tried to convince her to take a snow day, Gilda was determined to get to work. Though none of the spine surgeons would be in the office because they were on vacation, three patients were expected to show up to see her, come hell or high snow. She felt obligated to be there for them. Moreover, she couldn’t call the other nurse practitioner who lives in Manhattan to cover for her as he, too, was on vacation.

Metro North was operating on a Sunday schedule, which meant only one train per hour. To get to the train station, she gave herself a few extra minutes to navigate the streets in her Jeep (and to mush through the 11 inches of snow on our driveway which I had not yet cleared). Metro North fulfilled its obligation, bringing her to Grand Central Terminal where she boarded the subway down to Union Square, arriving on time, but a few minutes after her 9 am appointment, a woman from New Jersey, who called our home from Gilda’s office to find out if she indeed was coming in.

Those two women are really dedicated. As were the two other patients who showed for their appointments. Gilda was right to go to work. Now the only dilemma she faces is how to get home. As she was walking through Grand Central this morning Metro North announced suspension of all further service because of switch-related problems. She hopes they will be resolved before her work day ends (still no service at 1 pm), or she’ll have to spend the night at Ellie’s apartment in Brooklyn.

No matter how conscientious you are, snow always seems to have the upper hand. As I wrote last February, when I worked in the city, I had a deserved reputation for taking snow days at the drop of a snow flake. It came from my double experience in the winter of 1978.

In January, after a 20-inch snowstorm, I trudged to the train station from our apartment in downtown White Plains in plenty time for my normal 8:18 am transport. The train arrived on time. I sat down for the usual 35 minute commute. Four hours later, the train pooped out in the tunnel beneath Park Avenue. Snow had fallen through the grates, blocking all trains from entering Grand Central Terminal.

We couldn’t move forward or back up. Metro North decided our only exit was vertical. All on board had to carefully climb down onto the tracks and ascend one of the emergency staircases, taking us up to Park Avenue and 72nd Street. From there I walked 15 blocks to my office at 425 Park Avenue. When I got there I discovered the office was closed. After a few minutes to thaw out, I was back on the street, slogging my way down to Grand Central, 13 blocks to the south, all the way hoping there would be a train back to White Plains.

I was lucky. Double lucky. A train was set to depart momentarily, and I had secured a seat. Four hours later it pulled into White Plains. I had spent more than nine hours commuting in the snow. I vowed to be more circumspect in future snowstorms.

I had my chance two weeks later when another 20-inch storm struck. This time I sought assurance our office would be open. I called our VP administration who, by coincidence, commuted on my same train each day. He daily drove down to White Plains from Ridgefield, Conn. If anyone would be a no-show, Mike surely would lead the pack. But his wife cheerfully reported Mike had set off for work. I reasoned I had better show up, as well.

Once again, I trudged down to the station. The 8:18 am train again arrived on time. I sat down. Once again, the trip south took four hours. This time, though, it made it all the way into Grand Central. I engaged a pay telephone (this was pre-cell phone days), called the office and discovered it was, once again, closed!

Once again, I was lucky. Double lucky. A train was set to depart momentarily, and I had secured a seat. Once again, four hours later it pulled into White Plains. Once again, I had spent more than a full work day commuting in the snow. This time, I came to the realization that snow was God’s way of telling me to slow down, that work could be done at home just as easily as in the office. I soon garnered my well-deserved reputation for taking a snow day for anything more than a dusting.