March 7, 2020
Thirty years ago day, March 7, 1990 was a day to remember—one I remember quite well!
I was working for a law firm in downtown Denver at that time, and I was listening to the radio before leaving the house that morning.
“Light snow, today!” the forecaster stated.
When I left the house for the bus, I noticed that light snow flakes were indeed falling–a pretty sight as I headed toward downtown Denver.
My office was on the 25th floor of a downtown Denver sky scraper. As usual, the office was in turmoil upon my arrival.
“Did you throw out the salad dressing?” the head paralegal roared at me.
“What salad dressing?” I asked.
“IN THE REFRIGERATOR!” she roared.
“No, I didn’t,” I responded.
I had been there a month and already realized my mistake in accepting the job. The head paralegal was always engaged in a different battle each morning. This was her general type of greeting.
Meanwhile, my project awaited me on my desk.
I cast a quick glance through the window and noticed that the snowflakes were becoming larger. Light snow? I thought. I quickly forgot the snow and tackled the project at my desk.
The morning passed slowly. I turned on the radio at noon and was greeted by a list of closures.
“All afternoon and evening classes cancelled at Front Range Community College, all campuses. All afternoon and evening classes canceled at the Auraria Higher Education Center….”
“What in the world?” I wondered.
My question was answered late afternoon when the office manager announced that we were closing the office at 4:00. She added, “I suggest you leave now.”
After clearing my desk, I headed out into the storm, wondering why we weren’t told about it earlier.
The 16th Street Mall was buried in snow, so shuttles to and from the bus station were not running. I found that out quickly enough when I left the building and stepped out into the mall. I had never seen so much snow! I struggled through the drifts toward the Market Street Station, where I would catch my ride home. I don’t know how many times I fell on that trip to the station. And I gasped when I finally entered the building. Long strings of lines snaked throughout the station. The bus schedules were history. People caught the next bus available. After an hour of playing inchworm, I finally climbed on “the next available bus” and dropped into the “last available seat” at the back. We were completely full with people standing in the full length of the aisle.
“Is everybody ready?” the driver boomed into the microphone.
“YES!” came a very loud response
We didn’t get too far. We had to climb the elevated exit leading out of the bus station. Ice had already formed on the pavement, so our bus slipped forward and back.
“HANG ON!” the driver said again. “I’M GOING TO MAKE A RUN FOR IT.”
He began the slow back up, forcing the long line of buses behind us to do the same thing. I remember thinking, “I need to look for the bus number. I have a feeling this is going to be quite an adventure!” That’s when I spotted the number 1518 above the front windshield.
The tires of the bus slipped and slid as we twisted sideways and then forward before plunging into the street. A loud cheer arose inside the bus. But our journey was just beginning.
Two and two are four
Four and four are eight
Eight and eight are sixteen
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two(1)
Words of the Inchworm song came to mind as we meandered through the streets in an attempt to access I-25.
Inch worm, inch worm
Measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic
You’ll probably go far(2)
We inched along to the entrance of the highway. Then we came to a complete stop and sat there for a very long time.
Meanwhile, in another part of Denver, our children Brian and Debbie left their place of employment to embark on their own adventure. At the time, they were working at that time at a place called Downtown Radio. And they were driving Howard’s great big 1974 Buick Electra, officially dubbed by me as “Beulah the Buick.” Fresh from a stint in the Army, Brian took command of the “big old battleship” (my other name for the thing) and started an adventure of their own.
I imagine Brian’s first challenge was getting out of the parking lot, where he rocked Beulah forward and back numerous times before breaking free. Each time they were stuck, Debbie would say, “Oh please, God! Oh please, God!” And when they were free, she would clap her hands and exclaim, “YIPPEE!”
Their adventure on the roads was no picnic. Brian and Beulah rocked and rolled all the way up the road to Broomfield with cheerleader Debbie in full volume.
They didn’t try for a major freeway. Brian thought his luck would be better on the regular streets.
And meanwhile, back on the bus, we were still sitting. Eventually we inched forward onto I-25 and began the long, slow stop and start again up the road. It took us two hours getting to the Boulder Turnpike. And once we got on that road, we came to a complete stop. The driver turned on the radio in time to for all of us to hear the following announcement: “DON’T FORGET TO STOP AT BENNIGANS FOR HAPPY HOUR!”
“Well, we’re going to miss that!” one of the passengers commented.
I can’t remember how long we sat on the turnpike before inching forward again. I sat there wondering about the kids and their adventure in getting home. And I could just see Howard looking out the front window wondering where all of us were.
Around 8:00 or 9:00 P.M., our bus finally pulled into a bus stop on the Turnpike. Many of the passengers got off. There was a King Soopers store in the area, and they planned to call someone and let their relatives know they hadn’t died. Fifteen passengers were left on the 1518. We began speculating about spending the night on the bus.
“There is no way I’m going to work tomorrow,” I told the person sitting next to me.
“Well, I don’t think any of us will be going to work tomorrow,” the person replied. “I’m not!”
Shortly after that we learned the Turnpike was closed all the way to Boulder. There was no way we could proceed any further.
“Okay, everyone hang on!” the driver announced. “I’m going to try something!”
He inched the great 1518 back onto the highway, and slowly maneuvered it to the divider in the center. So much snow had fallen that he managed to get the bus over the divider and onto the eastbound Turnpike. Then with a lot of slipping and sliding, we made our escape down the Federal exit to Federal Boulevard. And—
1518 came to a standstill on a hill!
No amount of coaxing could get it to move forward!
Some of the heartier people got off the bus in an effort to rock it out of its predicament. Then a large truck appeared on the scene and gave us the push we needed.
With more hills ahead of us, the driver chose a side street that was fortunately level. He needed to get us over to Wadsworth, and to the park-n’-ride where many of the cars were awaiting their owners. 1518 finally reached the road beside the park-n-ride, but there was no way we could drive in there. I grabbed ahold of a woman’s hand, and we struggled together through snow drifts to the park-n’-ride interior, where police jeeps were awaiting us.
“Is there room enough for me?” I asked as I approached one of them.
“Yes, there is,” the officer said. “You can sit up here by me!”
As we bounced along the road leading into the town, I commented, “Well, now I can tell everyone that I rode in a police jeep!!!!”
We pulled into the parking lot of Nativity Church in town. Stranded people who needed to go to Boulder would spend the night on cots there. Those who were close to home could call to let relatives know where they were. I glanced at the clock on the wall and had to blink. It was 12:30 in the morning! I left the office at 4:00 P.M., so it took me that long in getting home. Since my house is only a few blocks from that church, I elected to walk the rest of the way. The line-up for the telephone was just too long.
It was a struggle getting on to the main road. Third street was a similar battle. But by the time I reached Emerald, the snow plows had already been through, so I could walk down the middle of the road. The snow had stopped. The moon was shining brightly. I walked along thinking about my future and what I was going to do from this point on. Then I came to a halt when I reached the end of our street.
There sat Beulah the Buick, snarled up in a snow bank.
“Well, thank goodness the kids made it home!” I thought.
In a few short minutes, I would be home as well. And the front walk had even been shoveled. I hurried toward the front door and pushed it open!
“I’M HOME!” I yelled.
That’s when a chorus of voices greeted me from the family room in the basement.
“WHERE IN THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”
(1), (2) Danny Kaye Inchworm Lyrics. Available at https://lyrics.fandom.com/wiki/Danny_Kaye:Inchworm