The Big White American Blizzard

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 1:22 PM

To catch the snow in New York City had been my muse since 2002. That was the year I had to return from a trip just as the city was about to witness the first snowfall of the season. That wish got fulfilled in 2011. Just as I was returning from a dream-like visit to WWE Raw Worldwide in Madison Square Garden (New York) to our temporary set-up in a New Jersey hotel, it snowed. But little did I know that almost a decade worth of wait wasn’t going to ensure an easy night in the face of an actual snowstorm... and I was not prepared for what ensued.


Borders Bookstore, 7th Avenue and 33rd Street, New York

The first few flakes of snow appeared as I sat at Borders and sipped hot coffee. There was also a hot muffin keeping me company. Looking out of the big glass pane, I thought about how beautiful Manhattan looked, how the thin sheet of snow was slowly covering the parked cars and how chilly the air was outside. I was waiting for the entry gates to open for WWE (more on that experience in a later post). The multi-storeyed bookshop was abuzz with people mostly waiting to attend the same event. I sat peacefully, enjoyed the snow and savoured my hot cuppa.


Madison Square Garden, New York

I stepped out of Borders and started my short walk towards Madison Square Garden. The air was indeed freezing and I had to cover myself with a sweater, flaming pink jacket, earmuffs, thick gloves (only available in NY... for NY), socks, heavy black boots and a very woollen muffler to keep myself from getting a frostbite. The walk was short, but bitterly cold. The sight of the blooming city kept my spirits alive amidst the rapidly increasing snowfall. At this point I will admit that the worrying thought of having to drive our car through the mounting snow did cross my mind.


Another short walk from Madison Square Garden to Penn Station

The plan was to take a train ride to New Jersey, pick the parked car, and drive to the temporary hotel before passing out fitfully in the cosy bed. Upon stepping out from Madison Square Garden, the sight that greeted me was of snowy white bliss, yes, but also sheer horror at the almost six-inches of snow that has fallen in a little less than 4 hours. And still mounting/counting. While the thought of spending the night in New York and avoiding a dreadful drive in the snow did cross my mind, the monetary considerations of implementing this idea held me back. And the car drive was unavoidable... the quicker the better, before an entire night of heavy snow totally buried the car under clusters of sinfully white ice.

I reluctantly boarded the train to New Jersey (NJ Transit trains, they call them) and waited for it to move. The same crowd from WWE followed me into the train. To see warm faces was reassuring, but the scenes outside when the train started moving were deeply depressing. Empty roads at almost 11 at night. Snow-sheets draining out almost all signs of activity, or even life, from an otherwise pretty countryside. I crossed my fingers and prayed for the best. The ghastly images of my car covered in snow filled my mind and I tried to push them away. I wasn’t equipped to deal with this. A midnight maverick adventure was about to go horribly wrong. Well, almost.

The train came to a screeching halt at the station and I quickly gathered my belongings (including a sponge ‘No.1 John Cena’ hand figure that I had waved shamelessly through the game) and stepped out into the station. The sights that followed were no respite either. The snowfall had quickly assumed the proportions of a blizzard now. The walk from the train station to my car was almost the longest walk of my life. And the first emotions of dread were starting to creep in. To walk against the freezing wind was impossible and I dragged myself on, with my boots sinking deep into the mountains of snow. I also encountered a policeman screaming at a couple, and also helping them alongside, to wade through the snow. I secretly hoped that I wouldn’t require such help tonight.

The sight of the car was no consolation at all. The deep-blue sedan was pristine white and loaded with snow. The storm wouldn’t stop blowing and even opening the door of the car proved to be a chore. I stepped in and the poor four-wheel-drive sedan wouldn’t move. It was stuck in the snow. After much effort when it finally did move, it graciously went and got stuck right in the middle of the raised boom-barrier. And it was a rented car and I started getting worried for its well-being. The parking attendant (already battling the blizzard himself and helping people leave from the other exit, while mounting curses left, right and centre) finally came to my help after almost 20 minutes. By now, I was scared as hell and fantasising about my warm bed and the safety of four walls. A mini ice-cleaning truck came to the rescue to shoved some snow away from the car’s path. The parking attendant hurled accusations that sounded something like ‘you should read weather forecasts before stepping out in a blizzard like this!’ Point mindfully noted, sir. But what about tonight?

After great difficulty, the sturdy car finally hit the road. But this was just half the battle won. Or maybe not even that. Once the ride began, and it was going to be almost 30-minutes long, my heart sank further upon seeing the conditions of the road. They were deserted. The lady on my GPS sprung to life and started dictating directions. The funny thought of satellite links going haywire and me getting lost in this strange country on the road crossed my mind. I sensed mind-numbing negativity inside me.

Soon I hit the interstate and that’s when the jams started to appear. First I encountered smaller jams, and then bigger ones. One or two broken down cars parked at the corners of roads. In this maddening chill, with crazy temperatures. Would the cars have enough fuel to make the heaters last overnight while help arrived the next morning? The car in front of me hurled a shovel in the direction of a broken down car on the right, with a lady standing in the snow hoping for some help to come by. ‘Help yourself’ was the mantra that night. My heart couldn’t have sunk any lower, but I retained faith in the deep-blue car.

The road brought along crazy turn in the snow and involved following a jeep with a family for directions. While the GPS didn’t conk off (phew!), it also didn’t help much once the jam began. The biggest, longest, toughest jam of my life. The car got stuck, almost 20 minutes away form the hotel, in a jam. It was midnight now and the traffic didn’t move even an inch for almost 3 hours!!!

Stuck in a foreign country, in temperatures hovering around -14 degree Celsius outside the car, with no help whatsoever, with just a mini cleaner to remove the snow from the windshield and a full tank to at least keep the heater on and whirring.

Now over to what the media does when these blizzards hit. The radio was blaring and I was on the lookout, ears perked, waiting for some good news to make an appearance. I kept listening on and on and on... endlessly... for some good piece of information. That didn’t happen. What I did hear was this –

‘John, so the residents of the New York/New Jersey area are battling a harrowing blizzard.’

‘Yes Tara, our records tell us that this the worst storm the area is battling for this time of the year, in the last 20 years!’

‘Wow John, that’s pretty bad! And despite weather warnings, the area was not prepared to deal with this kind of snow.’

‘For the people stuck out on the road, its a new record ($%&#$) and the traffic is showing no signs of moving on the interstate. We can’t say how long this will last, and we can only comment once it stops snowing. But this is a new record (&@@$%) and the New York/New Jersey area will have to fight a long night ahead.’

Ok, enough! I was simmering with anger... about to burst. We were stuck away from homes and hotels, out on a highway, without knowing how or where this night would end... and the radio people are busy creating records! Plain disdainful.


Some Interstate highway, New Jersey

During the course of this wait, my feelings metamorphed from anger, to disdain, to denial and then to a reluctant phase of acceptance. This was my fate tonight, stuck in a car, no food or water, no washroom to relieve myself, sub-zero temperatures outside and a non-moving jam. And of course, loathsome radio anchors. Fabulous. Price I paid for watching WWE. My only solace was the other cars stuck around me with their families. I turned off the radio and slipped into an erratic sleep pattern...

And then I heard a horn. Then another. And another! It seemed that the traffic had finally started moving. I was ecstatic and the fingers hurt from being crossed so tight! The blocked cars were indeed moving and I moved with them. The roads, to my sheer amazement, had been cleared of the snow. With salt-sprinklers and snow-shoving trucks. As I moved along and noticed the clear roads, I wasn’t angry at the authorities anymore. I was only amazed at how just in a short span of 3 hours, such long stretches of roads, covering miles and miles of distance, had been cleared before allowing the traffic to resume. I was jubilant and relieved. Soon enough, the hotel appeared at a distance. Life was good! The road exit that lead to the hotel had been cleared too. The drive towards the parking lot was a smooth one. As I looked up at the window of the room I was going to sleep in, I almost already passed out of exhaustion...


The Hotel, New Jersey

Once the car was parked, I picked up all belonging and made my way to the room. The receptionist gave me quizzing looks and with a smile on my face, I said-

‘I was at WWE tonight. And then got stuck in the snow.’

I also remember raising my sponge ‘No.1 John Cena’ hand towards her in greeting. Once in the room, I fixed myself a frozen parantha and some warm milk, and had it while browsing pictures clicked during the day on the camera...

I was finally home.


Long overdue delayed post. There is another winter approaching in 4 months :P

Things people do for the 'drama' called WWE :P :) like bearing the full brunt of the American snow storm (a 'record breaking' storm mind you). Nicely worded post and good photographs, specially the one with 'snowflakes' :P

The deep blue sedan deserves respect and pats. As does the emergency response system in the US. And on a cold, snowy night, there is nothing better than a hot mug of milk, a cozy bed and a warm room :)

Write more of the American sojourn :)

Dhaarna Gupta says:

The post reads good, and as for the WWE bit, You have some energy woman. Do write more on your American Experience. You can get the title- 'American Nights'patented;)

Nicely described - for the lack of a good vocab. Read more like a story which i believe was the idea. Very different from your normal journalistic stuff :)

@the lazy knight: wwe aint 'drama' :I
shall write more n thanks for the heaps :)

@dg: i just might ;)

@arunabh: lack of a good vocab? :O me or you?? :P

Copyright © 2009 Yashika T Khanna All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive.