As stories and news reports of 8 hour commutes were pouring in a few hours after I got home, I knew my own 4 1/2 hour, just under 10 mile drive home, while not awesome, was extremely fortunate. When it was all said and done, many Atlantans ended up on the road in some form or fashion for over 30 hours.
It was two days in the sense that it started on a Tuesday, and people were still in a jam on Wednesday. 30 hours isn’t 48, but it’s close enough. That’s like 4 weeks in traffic time. It’s a first world problem, but no human should have to endure it.
While I was sitting in my car, phone dying, bladder pounding, tires spinning, I started creating a list of items to buy. As the following 24 hours wore on, observing the situation from my home, I cataloged a few lessons:
Lesson 1: Practice kindness
I’m willing to bet that the people who displayed feats of kindness and generosity are also the people who practice kindness and generosity on a daily basis. When the situation called for it, they just did what they normally do.
Complete strangers helped complete strangers (part of the miracle is that folks actually were allowed to trust complete strangers). Costco near Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, GA took people in for the night, fed them, and gave them toothbrushes in the morning!
Check out the Facebook page ‘The Heroes of Snowed In Atlanta‘ to get a taste of some amazing stories.
May I show the same generosity as those individuals and businesses who fed and transported and housed hungry, stranded, and tired commuters.
Lesson 2: Don’t be too cheap to buy a car charger
…said this guy (two thumbs pointing backwards) to himself.
Nope… I didn’t have one, and oh what I could have accomplished during a 5 hour commute! I could have nearly caught up on all my podcasts. And I could have kept my wife from freaking out. $30 is worth maintaining connection.
Lesson 3: Always have the right clothes for the weather
This one, thankfully, I’ve got down. One of my biggest fears is breaking down or getting in a fender bender on the highway. I always have a heavy coat, gloves, scarf, and stocking cap in case something bad happens. I was plenty warm for the 2 mile walk home.
Never fall for the ‘I’m gonna be inside all day’ trap.
Lesson 4: Don’t let your tires become racing slicks
I’m an insurance agent and know better. Forget snow or rain, I should simply have better tires because I’m a human driver. I blame it on being a lifelong suburbanite who only drives on nice, well-paved roads. My dad taught me better than that.
Lesson 5: Keep a Gatorade bottle on hand
I won’t go into detail. But have one of those classic Gatorade wide-mouthed 32 oz bottles. It’d be better than a 16.9 oz water bottle, and it might come in handy next time you’re in a 5 hour traffic jam. (Thanks to my buddy in Cleveland, OH for this tip).
Lesson 6: Don’t take too much advantage of free Coke Zero refills, after lunch coffee, and a bottle of water before a commute home.
Even if you’re only going to be in the car for 30 minutes, it’s not a good idea. Now you know why the Gatorade bottle is so important.
Lesson 7 (and perhaps most important): Check your children out of school when you think it’s smart to do so:
Don’t wait for administrators, principals, or weathermen to tell you. If you’re getting nervous, go get your babies out of school, daycare, or wherever. I promise their career prospects and future college options will not be damaged in any way.
In the end, it seems like most people eventually made it home relatively healthy, albeit stressed out and spent. Perhaps I’ve just been able to elude the sad stories.
The weird thing is that around these parts, a horrible traffic jam is almost as bad as it gets for the general population.
We have it pretty easy — especially given the general bent of Atlanta’s population toward acts of kindness.
Two of my favorite stories are below–there a couple others that I wanted to reference but I couldn’t find them (I’d also love to repost my friend Mike’s ordeal from Facebook, but I’ll just say it involved miles of walking on a bum leg, two hotel lobbies, and 28 hours):