After The Snow
by Jamison Koehler on January 27, 2011
On Twitter, we can hear Mirriam Seddiq swearing for five hours because she is stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the beltway. It’s because of the snow. “3 miles,” she writes. “Haven’t come across a lot to leave the car in. Or neighborhood. When I do I’m gonna hoof it.”
At 7:00 pm, my wife calls from traffic at a dead standstill on Canal Road in Georgetown to say she will miss dinner. She calls an hour later to say that she has moved about ten feet during that time. She will abandon the car on a side street and walk the rest of the way home. It’s a good thing I wore my cowboy boots, she says.
The governments and schools are closed the next morning and so are the courts, all except for drug testing and arraignments. I have an arraignment for an out-of-state client taking the train down from Philadelphia, so I get up and shovel out my car.
The power has gone out overnight so I take a quick shower to conserve the hot water and then, leaving my wife and son huddled under blankets in bed, head out into the great white unknown.
Joe Piscopo once joked that Washington, D.C. is the only city in the world in which you can hail a motorcade. Once, I was standing behind James Schlesinger in line at the Safeway in Arlington when he caught me looking at him. Feeling as though I owed him some explanation for invading his privacy this way, I thought of something clever to say. Failing that, I asked him instead whether anyone has ever told him that he looked a whole lot like James Schlesinger.
Schlesinger nodded and smiled. “Yes,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I am told that all the time.”
The cashier finished ringing up his groceries and then, taking his check, looked at the name. “Thank you, Mr. Sleesinger,” she said. “Please come again.”
Schlesinger bundled up his grocery bags and headed out the door. The cashier and I stood there a moment looking at each other. “Go figure,” the cashier told me. “Even the name was almost the same.”
But the charm of the city extends far beyond the occasional brushes with power. Heading down the George Washington Parkway, with tree limbs and cars littered all around, I am stopped in front of the Memorial Bridge by a funeral procession heading to Arlington Cemetery. Crossing the bridge, with the Lincoln Memorial looming in front of me, I turn onto Independence Avenue, driving past the Jefferson Memorial on the right and the Washington Monument on the left. Five or six blocks down, a left turn onto 7th Street brings me across the Mall and over to the Moultrie Courthouse located just a couple of blocks from the capital building. This is a city, I think to myself as I pull into the parking garage.
There is always a certain eeriness to things after a big snow. With the streets mostly empty and people digging themselves out, once familiar shapes take on new form, offering us a different perspective on the routine that has become our lives. People always seem to be extra polite. It is as if we are all grateful to have survived such a calamity. People, that is, with the possible exception of Mirriam Seddiq. “Dear assfuck,”she writes on Twitter. “We aren’t going anywhere and your pathetic, whiny honking isn’t going to change that. So fuck you.”
I hope she made it home safely. I hope the pathetic, whiny honker did too.