In the days leading up to the blizzaster, I was pretty skeptical that anything of substance would actually happen. Living in Chicago after moving from Detroit, I am always looking to compare life here to life where I grew up. Between the social scene and the sports teams, I hadn’t yet experienced my ‘Welcome to Chicago’ moment and still felt at home somewhere in between the two cities in the middle of I-94. But the winter weather is something that I knew was always worse in Michigan. Every time the forecasters declared as little as an inch of snow this winter, all I could hear and see on the streets of Chicago was the waambulance, rushing to rescue those who forgot their puffy earmuffs at home while waiting for the bus, not thinking to put on the hat held in their hand.
When Tuesday morning rolled around, I dismissed the impending snowapalooza as about as likely as a 2011 NFL season. I was quick to learn that you can picket all you want against the weather forecast, but Mother Nature will still lock you out. As the morning sky turned as white as something really white, it became quite clear that we were about to get shellacked.
By Tuesday afternoon, it wasn’t as much the snow that was complicating things as it was the traffic. It seemed like everyone’s HR department conspired to let us out of work at the same time. After failing to acquire space on a train at Washington & Wells, Merchandise Mart, and the #22 and #36 buses, I was just about to settle for the most expensive cab ride ever when I managed to squeeze my way on to the Red Line. And squeeze I did because after that train ride, without talking to anyone, I got to know some new friends [ahem] unusually well!
Given that I was calling shenanigans on the blizzard and being brash about it too, I didn’t stock up at the closest Jewel with any food. Going there during the storm, I was reminded of my adventure to Halloween USA for a costume on Oct. 30th. Suffice it to say, there wasn’t much left, but I managed to the get the food I needed and stumbled to my apartment to bunker down and pray to the snow gods for a snow day.
As you’ve already learned, I love winter. So you can only imagine how happy I was when, for the first time since middle school, I had a snow day! SnOwMG was upon us and I took to partying on LSD (that’s Lake Shore Drive). It was like the streets of Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur: just me and the road. No traffic, honking, or brake lights. Just the sounds of dogs barking and kids laughing and snowballs launching. After gathering some accomplices, it was time to explore.
Walking on Lake Shore Drive from Belmont to Division was surreal and felt like watching Day After Tomorrow in 3D. Aside from the abandoned cars and the occasional tow truck zooming by, the whole area was a gigantic playground. There were dogs leaping through the snow, free of their leashes, groups of friends climbing on snow banks, and true to their routine, some runners fulfilling their duties. If it wasn’t clear to me earlier, the impact of the blizzard hit home when I saw foreign TV anchors sending their reports to their tuned-in audience oceans away.
I came across an abandoned SUV that, without any obvious explanation, found itself wrecked right next to Lake Michigan on the higher of two separate docks. I clearly wasn’t the only one who found it, as tens of people gathered around to take pictures. Rumors swirled as to how it got there. One man said that the driver must have done one too many while driving donuts in the snow. Another lady swore she saw it there before the snow even started coming down. Others simply noticed the six-pack in the front seat and filled in the blanks. The real story is immaterial as the unanswered questions add to the spectacle.
After a day of walking down the streets where cars should drive, seeing dogs take their owners for a walk, and snow plows stuck in the snow, it is evident to me that I witnessed a truly historic day in Chicago’s history that I will remember forever. This was my welcome to Chicago moment.