January 2016

The night of an April blizzard

by Rebecca Bricker on January 23, 2016

As a blizzard buries the eastern U.S. today, I think back to a gorgeous spring day in 1983 when I went to work in Manhattan, wearing a silk dress, a short wool jacket and a lovely pair of heels. It was April, after all.

I worked at People magazine in midtown Manhattan then. Around 3 that afternoon, colleagues suddenly were heading home. “You’d better get going,” they’d say as they passed by my office. They knew I lived in New Jersey. “There’s a big snow storm coming.” I thought they were joking at first. Snow in April?

It was a Friday. I stayed until about 5 and finished my work. Snow was blowing as I trudged to the Port Authority Terminal, a 10-minute walk from the office. I was the last one to get on the last bus leaving the station that evening. Lucky me, I thought.

The bus got midway through the Lincoln Tunnel when New Jersey state troopers closed the turnpike at the other end. It was buried by more than a foot of drifting snow in a full-blown whiteout.

There was standing room only on that bus. I stood at the front, just behind the driver. The guy in the seat next to me pulled a flask out of his jacket. It wasn’t long before he was drunk and frisky. When his hand went up under my silk dress, I swatted him with my purse. When he did it again minutes later, I told the driver, who grabbed him by the collar and threw him off the bus. I watched through the bus windshield as they duked it out in the tunnel. The driver prevailed. Minutes later, a patrol car from Manhattan showed up and hauled the frisky drunk off to jail.

How fair is that, I thought. He’s going to get a hot meal and a bed tonight.

I eyed the empty seat next to me.

The guy standing behind me was eyeing it, too. I laughed when he said, “It’s yours, lady. You’ll do anything to get a seat.”

I smiled at him as I sat down. “You got that right.”

That bus sat parked in the tunnel for five hours that night. It was after midnight when we got the all-clear to proceed. A plow had cut a thin swath through the snow on the turnpike. I felt like we were in a giant sleigh as we passed stranded motorists huddled at tables in rest-area diners.

Then a dark thought crossed my mind: What happens when I get to my stop? I had parked my car on a residential street, two miles from where I lived, which was my normal routine.

It was 1 a.m. when we reached my stop in River Edge. My car was parked up a hill because the usual spots near the bus stop had been taken that morning. (It would be two days before I’d shovel out my car, with the help of a neighbor.)

I was alone, wearing heels, a silk dress and a useless blazer, two miles from home on the night of an April blizzard.

I started walking through the tracks of a snow plow. I could see its lights in the distance, a block away. It was backing up, about to drive away when suddenly it stopped. The driver had seen me. He spun the plow around and came for me.

“My god,” he said as he helped me into the cab. “Where do you live?”

“New Milford.”

“Don’t you worry, honey. I’ll take you home.”

He drove me as close to my front door as he could get. The entrance to my apartment was accessible through a courtyard that was mounded with fresh snow.

I thanked the driver. An earth angel, he was. “Will you be all right?” He looked worried.

I assured him I’d be fine. I wasn’t so sure when I rounded the corner where the snow was thigh high.

It took me a half hour to get to my door. By the time I got inside, my dress, slip and hose were frozen. There were clumps of ice beneath the waist of my dress.

I collapsed in a shivering, snowy heap on my living room floor. I made a solemn vow that night and said it loud: I AM MOVING TO CALIFORNIA!

And that’s exactly what I did. :)