Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Snow Reflections

I always try and piss my wife off by going against the forecast of snow and ice, even when Mark Roberts, or the meteorologist of the day, swears on a stack of bibles that the worst is coming. It is my passive aggressive optimism that gets under her skin. I remember being the same way with my boss 30 years ago, the morning I was to work at the St. Louis Club as a cook. It was in late January, 1982. I lived in Maplewood...

...and was poor. I had a 1965 VW Bug, and it was a total POS. I bought it with what was left of my tuition money for college. I was attending Forest Park Community College, taking culinary arts and hospitality coursework while working as an apprentice in the kitchen at the St. Louis Club. I made 4 bucks an hour. A knock out performance appraisal had recently rocketed me from my starting wage of 3 bucks fifty. Thanks a hellofalot Wolfgang! it was well worth the money, we all went on to do great things.

Anyway, I had just gotten the car from a "friend of my dad", who restored old VW's. I had been taking the city bus to school and to work for over a year and finally broke down and talked the old man into helping me out. He was in a bad way having shuttered a couple of his restaurants. He did his best to help me out, by seeing through the paperwork on a student loan. I paid that money back and got my first credit card because of the prompt payment, btw. Credit is everything, poverty is the pits.

The problem was that the "friend" sold me a car that never quite met the standard of "restored". It was a Herbie car, really sharp, but there were issues. The breaks were out and it was chronic, and so was the starter. I was able to start the car by parking on a hill and popping the clutch for over a year. I drove the car for an additional entire year without breaks, only using the handheld emergency brake and the gears to slow me down. I have this documented, not kidding.

The snow started that morning and I told my boss that I would cover for anyone not wanting to come in, and headed out to work in my bug.

Please, listen to me, never, ever drive a car without breaks in the snow. The emergency break will not stop it. I ran into a tree at the bottom of the hill and there my VW sat for three weeks. The next two days we accumulated 24 inches of snow and the only way to get anywhere was by foot, for a week. It was pretty stupid of me to even try and make it to work. I was hungry.

I would find out 10 years later that my wife's grandfather died in that storm, due to the fact that he could not get his heart medication while stranded. Others have stories of that storm, I remember it as well as when the Shuttle blew up.

I remember walking up to 7 Eleven on day three to find four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese on the shelves, about it. This and some canned green beans was all I ate for 6 days. We hospitality folks tend to get our feedbag on at our place of employment rather than purchasing groceries. I suppose I still do this. I have a belly full of Yukon Gold Chips from The Wolf talking to me.

The bottom line is that I remember that story as one of perseverance. I remember tromping through the snow, some of it up to my waste. I remember cooking a box of macaroni and cheese for the old lady downstairs, just for the hell of it. I waited for the snow to melt to get the car towed back up to my parking lot where it sat until I left St. Louis broke and beaten. That damn car broke down between Fulton and Jeff City. I hitchhiked to my dads apartment where I stayed for the summer. Sold the Bug to a friend for 50 bucks before heading out to LA on a journey of epic proportions.

I say let it snow, ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout...the story is still unfolding.

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