“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Woody Allen.
As a former fan of Woody Allen (former since another famous quote of his, “The heart wants what the heart wants," and associated unacceptable behavior), I was surprised to know this quote was his.
I think of Mr. Allen in connection with religion in the same vein as Mel Brooks' routine on Moses and the Israelites and the Ten Commandments: “The good news is I got the Big Guy down to ten. The bad news is, adultery is still in there.”
My plan for my day in Atlanta on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 was to hit the gym, work at my desk in the morning on Irish Chamber of Atlanta matters, have some meetings with professors at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, just north of downtown, meet at 2pm in Buckhead (five miles north of downtown) with Consul General of Ireland Paul Gleeson and a couple of executives of an Irish/US educational company, meet at Fado Irish Pub at 5pm with two United Kingdom solicitors recommended to me by a good friend in Belfast, then on to a 7pm meeting at my parish in preparation for a Mission Trip to Kingston, Jamaica in February.
As Secret Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, might have said, “Missed it by THAT MUCH."
We had what we euphemistically call a “weather event.”
I joke that Atlanta’s forecasters have accurately predicted ten of the last three such events. Accusations are flying about who predicted what and who erred in not moving sooner, but Atlanta’s wintry weather is unpredictable, there was more snow in the metropolitan area than predicted, and it fell quickly.
As the snow was falling in the late morning and early afternoon, all schoolchildren and workers were released, and like most newer American cities, most workers drive.
My spouse, a schoolteacher, left school after most of the children were gone, at 1.30pm; she arrived home, ten miles and eight hours later, at 9.30pm not having budged from the driver’s seat of her car.
I arrived downtown at the law school in time to find a note on the front doors saying, “Closing at 12.30 due to weather.”
I tried to make my way up Peachtree Street to the Consulate; it took me two hours to go four miles, as far as Fado, where I took advantage of my excused absence from the Consul General.
I thought I would wait an hour or two until the traffic cleared out and then head home.
I knew things were bad on the road.
My 5pm guests did not appear due to the weather. Thankfully, I met up with another good friend who is returning to Atlanta to work in the sports arena, and we had a pint or two. We also spent some time with Atlanta’s best publican, Kieran McGill, CEO of Fado.
At 6pm I threw in the towel and headed home. The roads were gridlocked. Knowing Atlanta’s roads and sidestreets and being experienced at driving in snow, I zigged and zagged, made good decisions and bad, and after an hour and a half had gotten to within about four miles of my home, but there was no getting closer.
I pulled onto a side street, parked and locked up, and spent the next hour plus walking home. It would have been nice to have an overcoat, rather than a sweater vest and a sports coat.
But these things happen in Atlanta.
In 1973, when I was home from college for Christmas break, I went to work as a hotel clerk one early January Sunday evening (3-11pm shift). An ice storm hit. I worked double shifts in the dark for the next four days in the same clothes, sleeping in a cold hotel room.
The ice took down hundreds of thousands of trees, all power lines, telephone service, etc. I got to go home Thursday. We had another event like the one this week in 1982. It took my spouse just five hours to make it home then, but the drive was shorter.
Two points: First, though hundreds of thousands of people were dramatically inconvenienced and in other cases really suffered, it was eerily quiet, except for small groups of people talking. No car horns, no yelling. Second, there was a lot of helping and cooperation.
Social media was in overdrive to make sure kids were fed and warm, diabetics got there insulin, etc. I have no doubt our governor and Mayor will make different decisions next time, but I also know them both to be good people who did their best based on the information they had.
The real problem in Atlanta? Members of the press and media, who clearly KNEW the snow was coming, failed to tell the Mayor and the Governor beforehand.
But I digress. I meant to write on the State of the Union Address.
To paraphrase Groucho, “The President gives good speeches. But this wasn’t one of them.”