Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just in Case

“Please don’t keep-a me waiting

Cause I’m so tired

Tired of waiting

Tired of waiting for you”

- Davies; Ray. Song “Tired of Waiting for You” The Kinks*

My alarm sounded at 5:25am, forcing me out of bed. Shuffling to the coffee maker, I pressed the “On” button. I’m too tired in the morning to fumble with the machine, so I set it up the night before. Afterwards, I did my morning sit ups and pushups, then I took the phone (just in case), poured my coffee, opened my laptop, and caught up on e-mails, comments, and so on (If you’re a regular reader, you’ve read something similar). Around 6:00am, I decided to check the CPSD website for jobs. A large box displayed the above message.

Peering out my window – no show. I checked, which predicted that the snow wouldn’t start until noon. Groaning, I regretted not checking the CPSD site first. If the previous evening, the superintendent had decided to cancel school, we would’ve received a call and I could’ve slept in. I’m always sleep-deprived since I can’t tuck myself in at 9:25pm to enjoy my requisite eight-hours of slumber. My son’s bedtime isn’t until 9:30pm, so I’d like to last a little longer (If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard me complain about this too). Although I was full of caffeine, I crawled back into bed.

I knew why the superintendent had cancelled school even though there was no snow and the prediction wasn’t for more than three-to-five inches of accumulation. About four winters ago, it began snowing just before my old school ended at 2:00pm. I cleaned off the car, and then drove to pick up my three-year-old daughter from the babysitter’s house. Visibility was likened to driving in a fog. After I bundled up my preschooler and strapped her in the car seat, I started the car and the windshield wipers. The driver’s side wiper BROKE. The only way to make it home was to open my driver’s side window, and stick my head out the like a dog so I could see as flakes assaulted my face.

Knowing I wouldn’t make it to my son’s school in time to pick him up (and driving any further with an open window would be suicide), I called the school. The secretary told me that the busses were still driving the students home from the 2pm schools, and hadn’t picked up the students at the 2:30pm schools, let alone my son’s 3:00pm school.

Then I played the waiting game. Every twenty-minutes, I called the school. The busses arrived at 4:00pm, so I conservatively waited at the bus stop at 4:30pm, even though he was usually home by 4:15pm. His bus didn’t arrive until 4:45 and my son wasn’t on it.

I banged on the bus door at the traffic light. The bus driver opened the door. “Where’s my son?” I asked. “He got off at the last stop.” No time to yell at the driver for letting a six-year-old off the bus with no parent. I raced over to the previous stop with my daughter in my arms.

But the street was a sheet of ice. I slid and she went flying out of my hands. I screeched as she flew down the street, but luckily there were no cars and she was cushioned by her snowsuit. I picked her back up, going as quickly as I could manage without falling again. Before I reached the other stop, two older boys that I recognized from my son’s school were in front of my house. “Did you see my son?” I asked. “We helped him walk home. He rang your bell, but you weren’t there, so he rang your neighbor’s bell, and she took him.” I could’ve hugged them, but I just profusely thanked the boys, and then ran in my house, climbing up to the third floor.

I was never so happy to see my son that I didn’t hassle him too much about getting off at the wrong stop, especially since it was my fault because I had asked him to switch to a different stop at the last minute because it was provide more shelter for my daughter and me. Thanking my neighbor, we climbed down to our first floor condo. A minute later, there was a knock at my door. My third-floor neighbor had closed her door when she was talking to us, and locked herself out. She spent the next two hours with us, waiting for her roommate to trudge through the snow to bring the key.

The second incident occurred two years later, when my daughter was in kindergarten and my son was in third-grade. The snow began about an hour before my school ended. This snowstorm had received so much hype that the mayor of Boston let city employees leave early and encouraged businesses to do the same. By the time I left work, the streets of Cambridge were a parking lot. I tried to head to Cambridge Street, but after fifteen minutes I’d only moved three blocks, so I took a side street to take another route. Coincidentally (Ironically?), I saw the now former superintendent on Thorndike Street, dusting off his car. It took A LOT of willpower, not to roll down my window and chew him out for putting my kids in the same situation for a second time.

My normally three-minute ride home took another twenty-five minutes. Knowing I wouldn’t see my children for a l-o-n-g time, I called the school every twenty minutes for a status. After two hours, the secretary assured me that the teachers had stayed to entertain the kids, who were all fine. The middle school students were in the gym, playing various games, my son’s class was watching a movie, and my son was in my five-year-old daughter’s class so she wouldn’t be nervous. I called the kindergarten room, and spoke to my son, who I could tell was keeping a brave face for his sister.

By the time it was 5:30, I wish I had known it would take this much time because I would’ve walked to take the T (subway) from Central to Porter Square. Even though it would’ve been a long haul, I could’ve gotten them home earlier. Guess what time they made it home? 6:45pm! And the eight-hour schools that ended at 4:00pm, some of those students didn’t arrive home until 8:00pm.

When the bus arrived at my son’s stop, I gave the driver a package of snacks, figuring he’d had no break for hours. My daughter burst out of the bus, declaring, “I had the BEST day!” My son looked relieved. I was relieved too. In my hours of anxiety, I hadn’t made dinner, so I gave them a “breakfast for lunch” treat like they do at school, except it was for dinner. They dug into breakfast sausages and French toast sticks that my husband whipped up.

The next day, the teachers at my school were disgruntled. The kindergarten teacher encouraged me to complain to the superintendent. But I didn't have to - there was such public outcry, it made the “Cambridge Chronicle”.

Last year, we had another afternoon prediction and they cancelled school. The flakes didn’t begin until around 1:30pm. I heard quite a few people laugh that school had been cancelled with little snow accumulation by the time school would’ve ended. My reaction was to defend the move, reminding them that those two times hadn’t had a lot of accumulation by the time school ended either.

As I type, it’s 9:57am, and it’s only been snowing for about ten minutes. So far, it’s not sticking. As I edit, it's 10:49am, and the flurries still haven't accumulated. Compared with other parts of the country (including the southeast), Massachusetts has had little snow this year. We have a couple of snow days in the bank so why not have a snow day? Just in case.

*Another quote that fits this theme can be found at a previous post:


  1. There is not a worse feeling than being anxious about your children. I once forgot it was a half day of school. My son went to a neighbors, he was fine, but I was a wreck.

  2. I won't be a wreck today, Sheila. It's 1:17 pm, still flurrying, but not sticking, and we're home.

  3. Wow, what stories! Glad you're all safely home today, and hope you continue to have only flurries.

  4. Hi

    I don't envy who has to make the decision whether a school closes or not when there is the potential of snowfalls becoming dangerous. During the two weeks of really bad snow storms here, schools were under fire for either closing too late, not closing, closing too early... can't win. But I think it's always, always best to err on the side of caution. We are talking children here! And worried parents.

    I hope you all stay safe and warm in one place today!

    Take care

  5. Shelly, it's 2:39pm, and it's now raining.

    Old Kitty, I'm glad I'm not in charging of making the decision either. I'm sure most of us in Cambridge are taking it as a mental health day.

  6. My kids here in Missouri had two snow days this week. The first, Monday, they must have called school off as a precaution, and nothing ever happened. We had snow on Tuesday, but they kept the roads cleared. The kids could have been in school both days. But I agree, better to err on the side of caution, and I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions!

  7. Susan, at 3:27 it's still raining, so I guess it isn't yet cold enough, but the weather guru say maybe 1-2 inches today and 2-4 possible tonight. I'm sure we'll all be back in school tomorrow.

  8. Kids! My mom has a story about leaving work early to meet me at the bus stop so I wouldn't have to walk home in the rain one day. Turns out, I'd gotten off the bus one stop early specifically to walk home in the rain.

  9. Theresa, frightening stories! I can only imagine your fear of being separated from your children when the weather was so bad. I had to laugh at your daughter's "best day" quotation however!

  10. Edie, I told my kids I was writing a post about that day, and my son again said, "That was the best day!" and my son responded, "I didn't like being at the school all that time."

  11. So, do you always get up that early? Are you a morning person? When do you get to bed? I ask all this because I would kill to be an early riser!

  12. Rebecca, the sub call can come any time after 5:30am. Last school year, I used to get up later, but I'd think the phone was ringing in my sleep. For my sanity, I now get up before a possible call. If I don't get called, I'm up early for nothing. Such is life.

    When I don't sub, being up until 11:00 or 11:30 would be nice.