The commute from hell

I was initially excited to get off work an hour and a half early due to weather conditions - snow had been steadily falling all day and the forecast said everything would freeze in a few hours. Leaving work at 3 p.m. should've given me plenty of time, right?

Unfortunately, I got caught in the absolute worst traffic jam I've ever had the misfortune to witness. I made the first 9 miles in about 10 minutes - not too bad. And then we all came to a sudden halt. And. Stayed. There. I moved four miles in four hours. FOUR HOURS. By the second hour I had grown tired of the monotonous voices of NPR and was calling or texting anyone who might have their phones on them. My phone summary:
  • 55 texts sent
  • 48 texts received
  • 8 phone calls made
  • 11 phone calls received
By 7 p.m. I had made it off the freeway onto one of the downtown exits which was completely frozen and snowed over. My car was fishtailing, the car in front of me was fishtailing, and another car in front of them had spun out completely. The joy! I made it through downtown without any significant issues and was beginning to regain my optimism until I hit another traffic jam - this time I needed to get around the mass of vehicles trying to get to the freeway. "It's pointless!" I yelled at them from the car. "Don't do it!!" Then a semi blocked our street for 30 minutes. Try sitting at a stoplight, three cars away from freedom, unable to move for half an hour.

Point A to Point B: 1.7 miles.  Time elapsed: over an hour.
I finally burst into tears (five minutes shy of five hours on the road) at the futility of it all: cars wanting to get onto the freeway would not let other traffic pass, blocking the intersection at the first chance to move forward a few inches. I thought about turning around but where could I go? To my left was a hill and barely traversed streets of ice, and to my right I'd encounter the same dilemma - traffic trying to get to the freeway. Another 15 minutes went by and I was finally free (after honking at the latest culprit to block the intersection). Just as I'd suspected, all roads leading away from the freeway were completely empty save for a couple of buses and the streetcar. I fishtailed and slid toward Eastlake, finally making the turn onto a street a couple of blocks away from my house - and knew instantly I'd made a mistake. The hill was almost too much for my little car, but I managed to spin my way into the first available parking spot (and as I discovered later, literally the ONLY parking spot) about half a block up the street.

When I got out of my car, I noticed a group of people crowded around a mess of cars a block further up the hill - nine cars had slipped down the hill and gently crashed into each other. Most of the owners were nowhere in sight but there were plenty of snow tourists with cameras at the ready. A 20-somethings couple noticed I was having a difficult time making it up the icy street in my stiletto boots (that's how I roll).

Girl: "Oh, do you need some help? You look like you're struggling!"
Me: "Yes, please!! I've been on the road for over five hours!" (Yes, by then I had descended into self-pity).
Girl: "You poor dear! Let us help you!"

She grabbed one arm, her man grabbed my other arm, and they both walked me up the hill to Boylston, our street. Less than five minutes later, I was back inside my house and reheating leftover lamb stew. That's the LAST time I don't keep a snack in the car! I have no idea who that couple was and will probably never see (or even recognize) them again, but I was so incredibly grateful. The commute took nearly five and a half hours but I suppose I can now say I survived "Snowmageddon 2010".


Megs said...


That sounds TERRIBLE! I'm so so sorry!!

I remember it once taking 8 hours to get from Seattle to Salem the day before Thanksgiving. But yours sounds WAY worse. Plus I was a passenger, so I think I just napped for a lot of it.

melanie said...

good grief, I still can't get over this! (I do like the ending though, sweet couple :) ). Glad you don't have to go to work today!!

April said...

wow heather... i had no idea... that truly is a commute from hell... thankfully, i am glad nothing permanent happened to you or your car. did you go into work today?

Heather Seymour said...

Nope... no work for this girl today! I'll brave it tomorrow but today was kinda out of the question. I was reading other reports though and I heard it took ten and a half hours to get from Seattle to Tacoma yesterday... so I'm calling myself lucky.

Anonymous said...

Oh Heather this story sounds incredibly painful..I am so glad you made it home safe. Buses were also stopped and UW students such as myself were stranded as well. I am also glad that couple helped you up with those boots on haha. This truely was a snowmaggeden.