Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Yeah, so you frozen-tundra’ed citizens are giving me the so-what shoulder. But you have to remember we Deep Southerners don’t have white winters. Winters in Atlanta resemble black-and-white photographs, but not from snow. We haven’t had a really good snow in a few years.
As Dino croons, Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
It was lovely driving home tonight — flakes swirling, people giddy on the radio, friends calling and squealing. Yep, in Atlanta everyone turns into third-graders when it snows. I came home, through on my cycle boots, and tromped around in the barely-an-inch snow. It was fabulous.
My front porch. My footprints in the snow.
My sad, sad geranium. It still had blooms a couple of weeks ago.
Which reminds me to share my frozen-tundra tale — twenty-six years ago this past weekend.
Snow Jam '82January 12 started out as a typical winter day. We’d had a warm December, but the temps had finally gone down into the thirties and low forties. There was talk of a snowstorm coming that evening from the west — but we get all giddy about snow whenever the temp dips.
I worked in downtown Atlanta in those days, at Peachtree Center. My dad worked a couple of miles north of me at The Coca-Cola Bottling Company. He called me around 1 p.m. to tell me the snowstorm was coming in faster than expected, so he was coming to get me, to leave my car in the garage and meet him in front of my office building.
The streets were a mess, crowded with panicky Atlantans trying to hit Kroger for bread and milk before we were snowed in. I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, nearly an hour later, OM walked up. Traffic was at a standstill, so he left his car at The Varsity and walked, carrying the dry cleaning he’d picked up earlier.
“Let’s just get a hotel room, Hooter, and ride it out.”
Yep. He called me “Hooter.” Long story — one that doesn’t involve what you’re thinking of.
“There aren’t any available rooms downtown, OM. The Bobbin Show’s here, and every hotel is booked through the week.”
The Bobbin Show was a big deal back in those days, thanks to the Apparel Mart.
“Then let’s start walking home.”
“But, OM, I’m wearing my fabulous new Anne Klein suede three-inch espadrilles. They’ll be ruined.”
One glance and I was saying a tearful goodbye to those lovely heartbreak-red shoes.
So, OM, his dry cleaning, his eldest child, and her lovely espadrilles started the trek north to Vinings. We walked along Williams Street, coming upon his secretary — still in her car trying to get on I-75 at 10th Street. We told her what we were going to do, so Karen (and her lovely three-inch leather boots) parked her car and joined us.
We walked onto I-75 northbound. At this point, the highway looked like Mad Max: Below the Mason-Dixon. Cars were barely moving, pointing every which way from skidding on the ice. Coming into the curve at the downtown connector was kind of cool: As if in slo-mo, cars in the far left lane would slowly … oh, so slowly … slide into the car in the lane next to them.
We were smart to leave our cars downtown.
It was weirdly festive along the interstate. We all knew we were trapped in a freak storm for the city, so everyone just went with the flow. Many folks were walking, and we were leaving the cars behind us. Every once in a while, a driver would open his door and let us ride for a quarter mile, just enough to warm us up.
Six miles and a couple of hours later, we made it to our exit. There was a McDonald’s at the bottom of the ramp (the same McDonald’s where the sister, Renae, HollyC, and I worked in high school). People had shown up with bread and meat, making sandwiches for us snow-wearied travelers while McDonald’s served free coffee. We got a bite to eat, OM called Mama from the payphone to report our progress, and we hit the road once again — OM still with his dry cleaning slung over his shoulder, Karen and I whimpering about the death of our stylin’ shoes.
When we got to Paces Ferry Road, a car was stuck in the ice, its wheels spinning. The three of us pushed it from the back bumper, getting it back on the road. The son of a bitch sped off — no wave, no offer of a ride. OM dropped his dry cleaning and flipped the angriest bird I’ve ever seen. I was so proud of my daddy at that moment.
We finally crossed the bridge over the Chattahoochee River, up Woodland Brook, then Orchard Knob, finally making it home to 4230 Brookview Drive — where hot soup and cocoa, a warm fire, and Mama awaited our arrival — three hours after we left. According to Mapquest, it was an 11.11-mile trek.
But we were smart. It took those who tried driving about eight hours to get home. Many others were stranded. Several bars and restaurants — most notably, the newly opened Longhorn Steakhouse on Peactree — became instant institutions.
We were snowed in for about a week — another rarity in these parts. Our snows, in generally, barely last a day.
And my espadrilles? A good cleaning by the shoe-repair shop, and they were still suitable for wearing with jeans.
So that’s my wintry tale — as good as any Jack London ever told. And now I’m off to snow-angel the back yard …
* * * * * *