Wednesday, March 09, 2005


We had a storm last night to make even veteran Yankees complain. We got about 7 inches of snow aggravated by winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour.

The worst of the storm hit between 3 and 11. Naturally, I was scheduled to work at “Chalkduster” renting DVD’s and trying to sell the movie pass. I was supposed to be there from 3 to 11, right through the heart of the blizzard.

The weather grew more and more ferocious. I’d never seen a winter storm like this. Even in the late afternoon sun, I could barely see the huge Wal-Mart on the other side of the street. Snow flew everywhere.

After a couple of hours, a manager called and told us to count our customers between 6 and 9 to see if we were doing little enough business to justify closing. We had only about 13.

At the Wendy’s next door the kids behind the counter said they could close if they did fewer than $50 in transactions in each of three consecutive hours.

If they did $51 dollars of business in one of those hours, they’d have to stay. So, for the sake of $151, Wendy’s was willing to put the safety, and possibly the lives, of these young employees on the line.

Around 9, another, higher ranking manager called and said we’d have to get a couple more opinions before we could close. The manager in the store with me told me to go.

The car fishtailed a little in the slippery slush. I made it through the first intersection and settled in for the 7 or 8-mile crawl in the terrible dark.

Nobody else was on the road. After a few minutes of driving, I realized it was foolish to press on. I could feel the tires slipping in the drifts the storm had dumped in the unplowed street. The wind pounded the top of the car. The windshield looked like a sheet had been thrown over it. A solid white wall blocked my vision of anything beyond the nose of the vehicle.

I decided to pull into a convenience store a few miles ahead and wait for the storm to settle. Finally, I saw the store’s lights through the crowded sky. I had been on the road half an hour and traveled about two miles.

I called the police. I assumed the department would have a four-wheel drive to come and pick me up. They told me to wait. There were a lot of other problems last night, they said and they’d get out to me when they could.

I settled back to watch the wind try to rip the store’s flag from it precarious perch. I watched for an hour before the police called.

“You’re on your own,” they told me. Our town’s tiny force has only three cruisers and two of them were stuck and stranded. The third was attending more serious emergencies.

I had been there an hour and a half before deciding to give the road another shot. The snow had begun to taper off, though it was still coming down pretty heavily.

I pulled forward intending to forge ahead. In the distance I saw lights heading toward me and decided to stay until after the vehicle passed.

It didn’t pass. It pulled into the lot instead. I had never been so happy to see a snow plow. I left the car and ran to it.

“Did you call the police a while ago?” the driver asked.

The cops had sent the plow for me.

I chucked my bag in the cab and lumbered up over the massive blade into the passenger seat.

The snow continued to fly the whole way home. I looked down from my seat to see it spraying off the blade in on continuous arching wave.

I’d left work at 9 and got to my home 8 miles away at midnight.

I’ve complained before about corporate retailers requiring employees to work in severe weather conditions. I’d support legislation requiring employers to give employees the option to leave when the state police begin telling people, as they routinely do during these storms, not to be on the road.

Had I lost anything but a couple hours through this ordeal, I would have consulted an attorney. To keep employees on the job in treacherous conditions is criminally negligent and the corporations that delay allowing them to leave before conditions become life threatening should be held accountable.

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