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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

A Harrowing Tale of Shaky Bridges and Saintly Landladies

Ah.  It’s that wonderful time of the year when I start desperately burning off as many reviews as I possibly can of 2010 books.  If I don’t review them now, I never will.  Eek!

But not today.  Today I’m going to regale you with an epic tale.  I’ve noticed that a couple librarians out there have told the tale of their own snow day here in NYC.  Well, what the heck.  You see, over Christmas break my mother introduced me to the blog Hyperbole and a Half.  The creator, Allie Brosh, recounts moments from her life brilliantly.  Honestly, if you can read her post Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving and not crack up, you are stone stone stone.  Because of this site I’ve discovered that I am a little crazy with the old pregnancy hormones leaping around my body.  I find it so funny that it drives me a little hysterical sometimes.  And it inspired me to recount my own adventure from Sunday night.

It’s like the book Fortunately by Remy Charlip.  And trust me, had there been any plausible way for me to encounter pitchforks, sharks, and tigers, they would have occurred.  Sunday night was not my night . . . or it was exactly my night, depending on how you look at it.

You may have heard that New York was hit by a blizzard.  This is true, though I know the Minnesotans out there are looking at the pictures of New York and scoffing mightily.  “You call that a blizzard?  Dude, we get that every other day from October to March.”  Granted.  However, in NYC any significant amount of snowfall is met with sheer terror on the part of the city.  New Yorkers are fine, but they don’t know how to deal with it.  Snow?  Should we plow the streets as they fill?  Nah.  Let’s wait for it to stop snowing and THEN do some plowing.  You will see the flaws in this plan soon.

I was driving with my husband from Kalamazoo, Michigan to New York City all day Sunday.  This is roughly a 13 hour drive, but we enjoy it.  You just pop in some audio books and off you go.  In fact, the roads in Michigan, Ohio, and most of Pennsylvania were smooth and clear of impediment.  The snow only really started once we were a little more than halfway through Pennsylvania.  Now my parents had cautioned us to get a motel for the night somewhere in Jersey if the snow started really coming down.  This was good advice that we summarily ignored.  I’m not entirely certain why we ignored it.  Maybe because we used to live in Minnesota and drive around in an Echo.  How bad could Manhattan be in comparison?  Fun Fact: Minneapolis and St. Paul know how to deal with snow.  THAT is why you can own an Echo in that town.  Not here.  Never here.

Unfortunately (this is where the Remy Charlip starts to kick in) we didn’t get gas when we should of.  Even then, we were fairly carefree, feeling in that invulnerable way that we’d be all right getting into New York.  This was before we missed the exit to the GW Bridge.  Yup.  We ended up in a corporate plaza area where none of the roads had been plowed and with no gas in sight (we’d made this mistake once before, but in much nicer weather).

Fortunately, we didn’t get stuck in the unplowed roads, though we easily could have since the rental car proved to be unable to handle snow.  If we approached a drift that was even half a foot high the car would get upset and start spinning its wheels in blind panic.  In any case, it was fortunate that we had accidentally taken this wrong exit because on our ramp back to the bridge we were allowed to bypass a huge traffic jam that would have blocked our way to the bridge.

Unfortunately, at this point the car started its You Have No Gas countdown.  Did you know that new cars these days do this?  Just as I was beginning to panic about the depths to which the needle was dropping the car started a funny beeping song.  Then the words “50 miles to go” appeared on the dashboard.  Then, two seconds later: “49 miles to go”.  Two more seconds and “48 miles to go”.   This did amazingly little to make us happy.  Even less pleasing was the fact that once we managed to skirt around some trucks and actually get ON to the bridge, it was backed up.

Fortunately, the countdown on the gas tank had stopped at 23.  It just sat at that number as long as we idled.  Which we did a lot.  We did manage to get on the bridge (Matt had noticed in the nick of time that the lower level of the bridge was closed and only the upper level was free).

Unfortunately once we were halfway across the bridge everything stopped for at least 15-20 minutes.  I had my handy dandy Android phone that informed us that they were shutting down the bridge for the night.  So it was fortunate that we’d gotten on when we did.  But one couldn’t help but wonder if they were shutting down both sides, since nobody was moving.  The gas tank was still counting down at this point, but very very slowly.  And that’s when the wind started.  Yup.  Did you know that if you sit in your car on the George Washington Bridge on a windy winter day that you can actually feel it sway?  True fact.

Fortunately we made it across and even more fortunately the highway on the east side of the island was not jammed.  At last our long national nightmare is over, though we.  We even knew an area where there were gas stations.

Unfortunately, the first station we found hadn’t been plowed.  We got within six feet of the pump and could not get any farther.  The attendant was not helpful (in Manhattan the attendants sit behind bulletproof glass and look at you quizzically if you ask them to leave their room for any reason, as if you asked them to recite the National Anthem in Swedish) and eventually we gave up and went to find another gas station.  We found one on Broadway . . .  also not plowed.  In fact, we only got a little ways up the street to turn into it before we got very very stuck.  Matt went over and bought a gas container, filled it up at the pump, and filled the car with 2 gallons.  Then went back and did the same thing again, utterly soaking his gloves in gasoline.  If this were an adventure movie, then I bet somehow a lit match would play into all of this.  My life is not an adventure movie.  All was well.  The tank had, by this point, gotten down to 3 miles left.

Fortunately, once Matt was done I spotted three Korean teens, and together the 4 of us (pregnant me included) managed to free the car back onto to the (mildly) plowed Broadway.  They were awesome.  I would have given them my Christmas cookies but the minute we were free they took off.

Then came the fun part of the evening.  We had gas but unfortunately even the major streets weren’t really all that plowed.  We managed to not kill anyone (everyone at 2:30 a.m. on snowy days in New York walks in the streets since they are slightly less blocked than the sidewalks) and even got up and down some roads, but we were stumped.  If we couldn’t get down our (unplowed) street then where could we go?  We thought about parking garages, like the one across the street from the rental place where we’d return the car, but I knew that street and that it probably wasn’t any more likely to be plowed than any other. So we drove around for a long time trying not to kill anyone.  And trust me, the sides of the streets were impossible to navigate.  There was nowhere to pull over to park.

Eventually we decided to try our luck with our own street.  It wasn’t plowed, but it was drivable and downhill lo and behold when we got to our home someone (our landlady’s husband) had fortunately recently pulled out of a spot in front of our apartment.

Backing into the space wasn’t happening so we were forced to ring the doorbell of our godlike sainted landlady to ask if we could borrow a shovel.  At 3 in the morning.  She lent us two, then proceeded to clear a path to our front door and to salt it.  I have baked her an apple pie since.  Happy Ending: We got the car in as much as possible and parked it.

Moral of the Story: I suppose that had we not needed gas, we wouldn’t have been able to get the spot in front of our house because the space was taken up until 1 a.m. or so.  And had the nice three Korean kids not happened along when they did, we’d still be stuck at that gas station.  And had we not missed the pull off onto the GW Bridge we might have run out of gas.  So, as you can see, this was a real case of fortunately/unfortunately.  It is also a tale of why you should listen to your mother when it comes to New Jersey motels.  Oh yes, oh yes.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. HOLY COW! This really is a tale of epic proportion! So glad you are safe to write more wonderful book reviews in 2011!

  2. Do remember to mention you were wearing a skirt.

  3. You know who would’ve been a real help in this situation? KENNY LOGGINS.

  4. Good lord. We were driving from Chicago to Madison on Monday, and got caught in snow (including very bad visibility & wipers which became encrusted with ice & therefore were useless), and ended up spending a night in a hotel 40 miles from Madison. In the end we only had 3 inches, but I don’t regret that decision at all. Listen to your mother.

  5. Yipes! Glad y’all made it back safely!

  6. We Minnesotans know a thing or two about snow removal. However, dangers remain! The lovely cantilevered roof of the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis collects icicles that periodically plunge to the sidewalk below. So the sidewalks are passable, but barriers are needed to protect the library patrons.

  7. I’m so proud of you guys!

  8. Elizabeth Bird!

    Next time you come to Kalamazoo at least give me the opportunity of inviting you over for dinner or out for lunch or … (all of which you may, of course, politely refuse due to family obligations, time constraints, …). While a Books and Beer party does not fit with your current family (way) situation, we can arrange a Books and Board Books party or Books and Babies or Books and Birds… Kalamazoo is almost spitting distance.

    Enjoyed your story, although I am surprised the story setting is not Michigan. Happy New Year!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh, yes! You are Allegan, are you not? A fine little city. I’ve friends from there that I used to visit back in my teens. By all means we should do a dinner or lunch next time I’m in the burg. Which, by my count, may be when my picture book comes out in late 2011. Wouldn’t be a bad tie-in, eh?

      But yes! We meet! We dine!