Help From Above

No not that high above. I am not that religious a guy. Let me explain.

Snowmagedon: Day Two. Two to three feet of heavy snow on the ground. Get up early (reasonably) and get in 30 minutes of shoveling before a day of work calls commences. Just enough time to shovel my way out the back and to clean off the stairs by the front door.

Late afternoon and work finally pauses. My wife has partially shoveled the walk but it has snowed since the morning and most of what I had done was covered with 4 more inches. I know that I need at least a shovel-wide path the length of the house and then I have to tackle the snow in the alley. Why clear the alley you ask? Because our garage faces the alley and with a small car with little clearance either the alley snow goes or I do not get to work tomorrow.

The length of the house takes an hour. I am cold and wet, tired and my back is killing me. Yet the alley awaits. The city plows do not even do a first pass of the street in front of my house until 4 pm. That pass clears one lane down the middle of the street. It also leaves a snow bank four feet high and 5 feet from the end of the alley. My driveway is another 15 feet behind that. The math is far too complicated for me but I estimate approximately one million cubic feet of snow needs to be moved if my car is to be set free. I regret letting my teenage son, wait make that my recently turned 20-year-old son, go away to college when he could be doing this instead of me.

I hold out little hope that I can clear all this but it is just me and the snow and I have little choice but to try. Away I go. As I work, another snowplow passes, widening the path on the street but moving that snow in front of my alley. Damn. Keep shoveling, just keep shoveling. I feel like those people on The Biggest Loser. The trainers are in their faces, urging them on to work until they drop. I wish I had a trainer. I would hand him my extra shovel.

But wait, help comes from above. O.K. not really above but the height of a truck seat. More specifically a snow plow seat. The driver sees my plight. Now I know he probably has several more hours of work and has been going at it since early morning. He just want to go home. And yet…

I am not sure but I believe that he catches my eye. At first he just clears a wider path in the street but even that shortens the distance I need to remove snow. Then he backs up. Pushes more snow away from the alley. He backs up again. He points toward my garage as if to say “is that one yours?”  I nod. I am the house on the corner so the one closest to the street. He turns off the street and plows through the alley. Not once, not twice but three times. He gives me a thumbs up . I nod and say thank you. And then like the Lone Ranger he heads off into the sunset.

This maneuver helps only me. No other car will be able to get through the pile of snow he leaves in the middle of the alley. Even I have another 40 minutes of shoveling to clear the snow he had to leave up against my garage, However, without this gesture of kindness I would realistically never finished. I complete my second hour of moving heavy snow from one place to another with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Every once in a while someone does something nice that makes your life easier. I will find a way to pass this forward.

You Know Its Been Cold When…

…23 degrees seems tolerable.

Stormy Weather

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…its raining all the time.”

Remember that old saying that April showers bring May flowers? This year April was warm like June, May was cold and June has been Storm Month. Don’t know if this is due to global warming or just one of those years but it has been bizarre.

This past Wednesday night was the second major storm in the Chicago are in less than a week. In fact, Wednesday had two distinct storms. In the morning I was heading in earlier than usual. The sky’s were overcast when I left the house at 6:15.  30 minutes later I have 2 miles to go on the highway before my exit the sky turns black and sheets of rain pour down. I can barely see the road and cars are going 60-70 miles an hour.

Later that evening a second front rolled through that made the morning seem sunny. High winds, a funnel cloud touched down just west of the city and more sheets of rain. This went on for hours. I was supposed to meet a friend for birthday drinks but the commuter trains all came to a stop for over an hour due to the weather. Large branches, eve several trees were down in some areas. Stories abounded about how the worst of the winds had blown lawn furniture down the block and had even taken off a few roofs.

So how was my drive in the next morning? It was a beautiful morning. Bright blue, cloudless sky. Temps in the low 80’s. It was a gorgeous.  If you had slept through Wednesday there is no way one could be living this day and had any idea that the gods had been angry 24 hours earlier.

Now it is Sunday morning. It was darker than normal from the moment I awoke. Then the sound of thunder came…well thundering down. Moments later form nothing came more sheets of rain. I just stared at it through the window. It was glorious in its own way. Just as I thought it could not rain any harder, it did. Twice I could hear the sound of the rain change and become more intense.

This went on for 30 minutes. Then gone. There is still a river of water running through the street outside my home so I know it happened. The sky looks as if it will happen again.

Nothing left to do but listen to the sultry sounds of Lena Horne.

At The Mercy Of The Weather gods

One night trip to NY and back.

Last Night. 3 hour delay. In hotel at 1 AM. 4.5 hours sleep. Perfect set up for a big Monday morning meeting.

Today. Flight canceled. At airport by noon. Rescheduled for an 8 pm flight which undoubtedly will be late.

On standby. Will try to get on one of the flights not yet cancelled. Earliest departure time would be 5 pm.

I must have done something to really piss off the weather gods. It is January and there is not a snowstorm. Just a little rain. Why that would cancel flights I do not know.

Have learned to pack extra underwear and socks.

Heaven Is Down

I am not making a theologic argument about the juxtaposition of Heaven and Hell– though that would make an interesting post.

Down today is not about direction but the warmth of goose down. Some nights it becomes more critically important than others. Such as last night.

Let’s take another angle to this story.

54 degrees in December in Chicago. Most times that would mean an unusual confluence of atmospheric anomalies occurred to provide Springlike temps in Winter. All true if I was referring to the temperature outside. Nope. That was a frigid 23 degrees yesterday.

It was 54 degrees INSIDE MY HOUSE. Things were toasty when we left the house at 4 pm and frigid when we returned at 6:30 on Saturday night.

Yes, I am cheap and I keep the thermostat at a lower setting than my wife and son prefer– I claim it is my part to slow global warming; always a matter of perspective. But no, I do not keep the thermostat at 54 degrees. Typically 68.

Every two years or so the electric starter on our gas boiler goes out. Almost always on a weekend. A time of double or triple rates for service calls. So our idea was to tough it out until Monday morning.

So we put on several layers of clothes and pulled our down comforter tightly around us. I was actually comfortably warm all night. I even took off my sweatshirt and slept in a T-shirt and shorts.

The upside of this adventure was that we stayed in bed until 10. How decadent. Neither of us wanted to get out from under the warmth of the down. While there was lots of snuggling, that is where that activity ended. Neither of us was willing to take off any additional layers. Oh well.

By Sunday morning we knew we could not make it 24 more hours without heat regardless of the cost. I cursed the technician who had installed the electric starter. When we first moved into the house, the boiler had a 24/7 pilot light. If that ever went out, I could relight the boiler myself.

Fortunately the first technician that returned my call (I tried 3 places) had no more desire to come to me that I had to pay the $250 for the service call (a premium of $150 over normal office hours). He talked me through some options though most of the time he was speaking a foreign language– someone will need to show me what the damper looks like. Finally he let me know that it was OK to relight the furnace. I will have to do that several times today since it is only a temporary fix. That should however get us through until tomorrow.

The temperature is climbing slowly. After 3 hours we are only at 58 degrees. I think it is time to take a nap and get back under that down comforter. Ahhh.

Global Warming

Last Thursday was one of those rare days when it was warmer when I left work than when I left the house in the morning.

Morning:  3 degrees

Late night: 10 degrees

Proof of global warming. Take that Fox News.

Winter Hath Arrived

On Thursday I cleaned snow and ice off my windshield. Then flew to a more moderate climate for a day.

On Friday I could see my breath as I stepped off the plane and onto the jetbridge.

It was the 4th of December, not the 21st of.

Despite the date, Winter has landed in Chicago.


After getting up before dawn to begin a day trip to Richmond Va. for a 2 hour sales call, any break on what was already going to be a long Friday was definitely welcome. I got two.

All through the 2 hour meeting I faced a window and received a clear view of  a major rain pour down. While focused on the task at hand, in the back of my mind I am thinking that the plane will be delayed and it will be an even later night than planned. I hate losing Friday nights to business travel even though it is all part of the career I chose.

The first break came when I saw the plane on the ground and the sign telling me it was leaving on time. The best came a few minutes later.

I was in seat 4B, an aisle on the small four seat across regional jet. As the flight began to board, the counter guy was calling names of stand-by passengers that were getting seats. I paid little attention as I already had a ticket. But then I heard my name or so I thought. I wandered up to the counter guy to find out if my hearing failed me– as it often does these days. No, not this time. He wanted to know if I would mind sitting in first class. Mind? Always willing to do the airline a favor I replied. Seat 2C.

I fly often enough to have accumulated a few first class upgrades but not often enough to be able to do so every flight. I tend to save them for flights at least 2 hours long. This  was a pleasant treat at the end of a long day.

Now this was a regional jet so the upgrade meant that I could get drinks when I wanted and a bigger, more comfortable seat but no haute cuisine or foot massage. Yet when it came to the algebra of this flight, as my friend Frank would say, “It’s all good”.

The Great Chicago Desert


Desert, waste, wildernessDesert emphasizes lack of water


The Village of Lincolnshire is a wealthy suburb north of Chicago best know for being the place where I work. Today it was a desert. No water. At least none that you could use.

There was a “boil water alert“. At work you could not use a drinking fountain, drink the coffee, get ice OR EVEN WASH YOUR HANDS. Thank the lord for swine flu. Without it there would not have been a large supply of hand sanitizer in the building. I would have been forced to drive to the nearest gas station every time I had to go to the bathroom.

By the end of the day my mouth was dry. I was thirsty and the vending machine was out of bottled water. Tomorrow. Bringing a canteen.

A desert. Right in the middle of the Chicago suburbs. And I was there.

Spring Blues

March 29 ???

March 29 ???

What is it with Chicago weather? Spring officially arrived a week ago. And yet…

First on Saturday I sat for 2 1/2 hours in 30 degree weather watching my son’s home baseball opener. It took all 5 layers of clothing to keep me warm through seven innings. Too bad the game went eight.

Then we wake up Sunday to this.