New record for WORST COMMUTE EVER

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter saw me live-tweeting this last night, but for those of you who follow me from the blog or LJ or DW, here’s the epic saga of Anna’s Worst Commute Ever!

My previous commute record was set back in 2006, roughly three and a half hours between userinfosolarbird calling me and my finally making home to MurkNorth. This beat that. Hands down.

To set the stage, I should note that this past weekend, we’d seen a bunch of rumblings about how it was going to get cold and annoying this week. Cliff Mass, Seattle-area weather guru who is normally quite reliable about these things, was swearing up and down that the bulk of the snow action was going to miss Seattle proper, and all of the warnings I was seeing were talking about 1-3 inches. So I left the house yesterday morning thinking I wouldn’t need my Yaktrax. (If you’re guessing I was sadly mistaken, you’re quite correct!)

It was flurrying a bit when I left the house, and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill and caught a 306, we had a pretty decent shower going. As I mentioned while tweeting, accumulation was already starting to build up on Lake City Way by the time we were edging in towards I-5. And it was still going at it once we got downtown, too. I went past my marketboys at Pike Place and made cracks about having to stop for emergency hot chocolate–which I then proceeded to do once I got a little farther down Pike Place. (FYI, Starbucks’ Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate is quite delicious. And was quite a bit of a bolster for the walk.)

I took a few pictures as well, one of Triangle Park near Pike Place and a few others of the Olympic Sculpture Park:

And once I got to work, things were pretty much okay. The problem of course was going to be getting home.

I saw posts go up by Cliff Mass pretty much saying um yeah we pooched this one, sorry about that. That didn’t concern me nearly as much as the word I saw come over the Seattle Times site that the DOT had decided to shut down northbound express lanes on I-5–and guess how I get home in the evenings? Between that and snow picking up pretty significantly around 3pm or so, I finally said screw it, and told my team I was going to get home while I still could. I packed up the laptop, assuming that I would in fact need it to VPN, and headed out.

Got back to my marketboys for a fruit run, again on the assumption I would NOT be making it back today. Had a lovely little chat about Kenmore with my favorite of said marketboys, but also got a couple of pics of the market, bastion of light that it was against the increasing snowy gloom.

Then I headed for the bus stop, and started IM’ing userinfosolarbird on the way so that she’d be apprised of my progress. That the bus stop was unusually crowded even for 4pm should have been my first sign that this was going to be an adventure; so, too, should have been the packed state of the first bus that showed up, a loaded 306. I got onto the 522 that was immediately behind it, only to find that that one was pretty damned full, too.

Which should have been lovely, except for the part where the previously mentioned northbound express lanes were already shut down–so we had to inch overland to the main freeway onramps. And it took us, I kid you not, an hour and a half to get over there. For those of you who know downtown Seattle, that’s from 3rd and Union roughly over to 9th and Olive. That’s very roughly ten blocks.

It turned out that userinfollachglin was on the bus too, which I hadn’t realized until he turned around and said hi. The poor girl sitting next to me though was on the verge of flipping out; she’d been up since stupid o’clock in the morning, was hungry and exhausted, and convinced that she would get home only to have to go to bed, get up, and go right back to work. I offered her some of the fruit in my bag, but she declined.

Right around 5:30 or so, after we’d spent well over an hour going less than two blocks, I said screw it and bailed. I hoofed it back over to Blue C on 7th, again apprising Dara of my status, and got some fish and hot sake in me to bolster up for finding another way home. I was toying with a Plan B of taking a bus to the U-district, thereby avoiding I-5 completely, and then catching the 372 to get home.

This plan got shot down by the simple fact that the temperature was falling fast and the winds were picking up hard. Dara advised me over IM that the 30 was NOT running, so my best bet was probably going to be to get a 71, 72, or 73 at the Convention Street Station. I trudged back over there, already feeling the bite of the wind, only to find of course that most of the busses trying to get out of there were running into the same snarl that had blocked my 522 before.

I finally got on a 41 simply because it was there, and I figured being on a warm bus would be better than standing out in the snowy wind. Also, the 41 would get me to Lake City Way by way of Northgate, and again, I could get a 372 or 522 and get home from there.

In theory. We only figured out that the 41 was not in fact running all the way to Lake City Way after I was already on it. And by then, I was already having my temper frayed by the obnoxious kids in the back of the bus, at least one of whom smoked at two different occasions on the bus, stinking up the air for the rest of us–and it’s not like I could have accomplished anything by bitching about it, because by the second offense, we were already on the freeway and couldn’t exactly have kicked the kids off the bus. But goddamn, they were loud and annoying and whinging about having to go to the bathroom. One of them even pounded on the windows and yelled obscenities at somebody going by.

I grit my teeth, plugged my phone into the USB port of my laptop to leech power for it off my battery, and hung in there for the northward crawl. It took just under an hour for that 41 to make it onto I-5. Took close to another hour and a half after that to make it to the Northgate Transit Center, which was going to be as far as I could get on that bus; Dara clued me in that in theory, there’d be a shuttle to get me over to Lake City Way.

By then userinfoseattlesparks and userinfokieri kept IM’ing and/or dropping me Facebook comments as well, offering refuge at their place near Northgate if I couldn’t make it home. Many kudos to them, whose kind offer I would have gratefully accepted if I hadn’t needed to get home just because home is where my thyroid meds are.

Once we made it to the Northgate Transit Center, I scrambled off the 41 very quickly. A couple of the other passengers made what I’m sure they thought was cute commentary about people being in a hurry to get off the bus–but hey, I wanted off the vehicle with the obnoxious smoking kids. Being back out in the windy cold was an improvement. At least the air was fresh.

I huddled together with four other people in one of the shelter nooks as we traded forlorn wonderings about when the hypothetical shuttle would in fact show up. Hell, even a relief driver was on hand, wondering when it was going to show. Turned out we were there roughly 20 minutes, but that was still quite a while to be out in the windy, snowy ick.

I was pretty stunned to see that the shuttle in fact turned out to be another articulated bus. I’d kept hearing reports that they were going to yoink the articulated busses off the roads under winter conditions, on the grounds that the things cannot handle our roads with any accumulation of snow and ice at all. (It had in fact been an articulated 308 that got stuck during that 2006 commute I linked back to, above.) Apparently this memo had not reached the driver of the 75, or else Metro was desperately deploying all available vehicles; I’m not sure which. Either way, an articulated bus we got. At least it had snow chains on its tires, though, and so we were able to make it along 15th up to 145th, and then along 145th to Lake City Way at a crawl–past the point where the 308 had gotten stuck in 2006, I noted. The snow chains helped.

Dara was updating me as to the last two busses I had a chance of making: a 9:51 522, and a 10:0-something-or-other 372. After that it was going to be nothing so I was desperately hoping I’d catch one of those busses.

Made it to Lake City Way along with one of the guys I’d been huddling with at the transit center, who got off at the same stop I did. I noted with great regret that the Starbucks nearby was closed, and was almost ready to try to hoof it home until I realized that the Taco Bell was open. So I ducked in there for a sorely needed refresher break, and bought a taco and a lemonade by way of thanking the nice man at the counter for their establishment a) being open, b) having food, and c) having publically accessible bathrooms. *^_^*;; Sadly, they had no hot drinks available.

Got back outside right around 9:50, and wound up hanging out for another half hour with the poor cold guy from the transit center, since he was trying to make it to the Kenmore Park and Ride. Warned Dara that if a bus didn’t come soon I was in fact going to try to walk home. Dara pinged me back saying userinfospazzkat was going to try to get the Mini down the hill so they could come get me–which I was absolutely okay with, assuming that the car could actually get down the hill. (We already knew from experience during the storm of 2008 that our Honda wasn’t going anywhere.)

Finally the 372 showed up around 10:17, and I hastily called home to warn them that I was in fact on the bus and that they should only meet me at the bottom of the hill. Park and Ride Guy and I staggered onto the bus, and I staggered off again at the correct stop.

Clambered shiveringly into the Mini, only for Paul to then find out that there was no way he was going to get the car back up the hill into our neighborhood, through either of the accesses. Dara tried valiantly to help him out by scattering kitty litter and by pushing the car in various directions, but alas, we finally had to leave the Mini parked by the convenience store and trudge back up the hill on foot.

Dara made me dunk myself in a hot bath pretty much as soon as I walked in the door (modulo my rescuing my poor cold Pike Place fruit out of my bag and putting that into the fridge, the fruit that is, not the bag), and made me drink a lot of water to rehydrate myself.

Elapsed turnaround time between leaving Big Fish and actually reaching the Murk: about 8 hours, since I left work around 3 and made it home around 11.

WORST. COMMUTE. EVER. And I am very grateful that my six-day vacation starts tomorrow.

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Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.

10 thoughts on “New record for WORST COMMUTE EVER”

  1. Oh, hon. What an ordeal!

    (and if you ever wondered why I gave up on buses…. *sigh* I once spent three hours on one in the snow and that was bad enough on its own — in your place last night I would have been going totally spare!)

    1. I think it helped that I actually had the commute in phases. I’ve heard of at least one report of someone being stuck on a bus to Northgate for eight hours straight last night–THAT would have been making me go more spare. Even if it exposed me to more cold, I’m glad I took it in stages.

  2. YIKES!!! :-O

    Glad you made it home safe and in one piece…

    We have (roughly) 8 to 10 inches here at the house and it has. not. stopped. Lol. Even with the 4 wheel drive farm truck, I’m lucky to get out of my driveway. :-S

    I can’t believe this weather — I don’t think I’ve seen it snow like this (nonstop) since I was a little kid!

    1. Dara, Paul, our visiting friend James, the cats, and I are all glad, too!

      And man yeah I’ve seen your tweets about the weather you’re getting at your place. You’re getting way more slammed than Kenmore is!

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised. One of the joys (?!?) of living in the mountains, lol.

        I noticed today that the Governor issued a statement with WSDOT for everyone to STAY HOME if at all possible. I guess the State Patrol has been swamped with assisting people who are stuck or crashed or what-have-you. :(

        1. More of my team at work stayed home than actually showed up; I had a couple of teammates sending in “working from work” mails in the midst of the flood of “WFH” mails going around.

          And I do not envy the State Patrol guys having to be out finding folks, that’s for sure! Especially as cold as it’s supposed to get tonight.

  3. Seriously. My hat’s off to them, too. Not a job I’d want at this time of the year.

    I felt half-frozen today in the distance it took me to walk from the pickup to the house…! BRRRRRR, lol!

    1. Brrr indeed! Dara and our visiting friend James and I are thinking of an excursion out today to the shops down the hill, mostly because it’d be nice to get out of the house for a bit and because I need to pick up thyroid meds. But if we’re going out there we are totally bundling up, and there will be hot chocolate when we get to Starbucks, oh my yes.

  4. Your local weather man sounds like one of ours awhile back. He predicted we were just going to get “a dusting ” of snow . Twenty-two inches later , it finally quit ” dusting “. Thereafter, everyone referred to him as Lyin’ Brian (Collins). Nancy

    1. Well, like I said, Mr. Mass is usually quite reliable. :) We’ve never had him be so wildly off as to call 22 inches a “dusting”. This big ol’ fiasco I think rests more with how even when we know the snow is coming, this city just CANNOT COPE.

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