Weddings and funerals. Twelve(!) years ago in college I made some of the best friends I'd ever had, the closest thing to brothers and sisters this only child would ever know(and some of them certainly pick on me the way I imagine biological brothers would have), and those are the only times I seem to see them these days. We saw each other every day in school, and got together more and more frequently since then. Things change with time. People get jobs, get married, have kids and at some point social get-togethers dwindle. I'm lucky to work with one of my college buddies, but I don't get to see the others that much. So when my friend Tom decided to invite us all over to his apartment for the first time since his wedding a little over a year ago, nothing was going to stop me from going. I've been battling that pesky problem with panic attacks while driving, and getting a handle on the problem. After six months of this, I'm convinced I'm not going to pass out so when I get those feelings, I can press on. I've even rediscovered the “zone” where I sort of blank out parts of my mind and “come to” once I've arrived at my destination. Getting to and from work is getting easier and easier every day with each successful journey, and I've even started driving my friends at lunch again instead of relying on them to ferry me around.

I was looking forward today with mixed feelings though. On the one hand, I needed a social outing, needed to catch up on the present and laugh at the past. But it also involved driving somewhere new, from Nassau to Queens, and at night on a highway. Part of my driving disorder involved making it to parking lots and resting until I calmed down. I slowly weaned myself off of that practice, making it to a “safe point” and continuing on rather than stopping. From there I worked my way to traffic lights, breaking down the “long” journey into smaller increments. I've only been back on a highway by myself once since this nonsense started though, so I used Mapquest to plot out two possible routes, one with the highway and one with local roads. I was determined to take the fastest route and only take the “cowardly” way if things got really bad.

As the week progressed, the forecast was grim. A blizzard. A Noreaster. A very, very bad storm dumping several feet of snow on us. The party, originally scheduled for 6PM, was moved up to 1PM to beat the storm. When I left my home just before noon, there were a few flurries. By the time I got on the parkway the snow was heavy, and the lines in the road completely obscured. Halfway there I detoured to a local road. Traffic was slow, but it was also safer. I arrived about a half hour late and was buzzed in. I decided to take the elevator because I've yet to foresee the things that can go wrong, as often as they do. It was an old-fashioned elevator with a hinged outer door, and the buttons didn't seem to do anything. When the inner door closed and I moved up one floor, it must have been as a result of the young girl waiting there with a bag of laundry. Good thing I had a cellphone, and my friend Rey had the presence of mind to program his numbers in to it a while ago for me. Somehow I got a signal, and they were able to rescue us. Later on I understand Rey's son was still talking about how I got stuck, no doubt echoing the whoop his father let out when he received the call. That kid is amazing. I'm still in awe that he knew all the words to ”O Holy Night.” Sure, he belted them out with the yelling enthusiasm of a 3.5 year old boy with a captive audience, but he was a 3.5 year old boy WHO KNEW ALL THE WORDS. Very impressive.

There was great food, great dessert and a lot of laughs. Rey's son and and another friend's daughter kept us entertained, but when I saw the snow outside covering my car and above the hubcaps, I knew I had best be on my way. I decided to take the Long Island Expressway home, since the volume of traffic would certainly help with the unplowed roads moreso than any local routes. I left a little before five, starting a journey that normally should take a little over half an hour. Idiots flashed their lights and beeped when I stopped for red lights. Pedestrians crossed against the lights, thinking in this weather that the rules don't apply and erroneously assuming any driver could stop on a dime in this mess. By the time I reached the LIE, my back window was completely covered in snow, despite the rear defroster. Most cars were moving between 10 and 20 miles per hour, and I managed to make my way in to traffic. I began to feel very trapped. It was taking forever to get from one exit to the next, I had no visibility, and lanes and shoulders were nonexistent. SUVs sped past while smaller cars fishtailed or threw on their hazards, forcing me to change lanes. I began to feel very dizzy, reinforcing the fact that my problem is anxiety and not fumes in my car since I was driving my dad's new car tonight. I'm actually a little dizzy DESCRIBING the situation right now.

I had no choice; there was nowhere to pull over, nowhere to go. If I passed out, I passed out, but I wasn't stopping. I faced my demons head-on. It was like learning to swim by being thrown in the deep end of the pool without a lifejacket. Of course, I've never actually learned to swim despite growing up on an Island and living five minutes from a beach for thirty years, but that's another story. The expressway was crawling and the snowdrifts were pretty big. Any time an SUV changed lanes it messed up the grooves I was driving in, and the sudden diagonal wall of deep snow resulted in some loss of traction. I got off at the next exit, still a long way from home, and found a local eastbound road that was bad, but in better condition than the expressway. I tried not to think about the hills I knew were ahead, steep and curved, or one very long bridge. My dizziness subsided, and only returned when I thought about it. I began to think of other things, and zone, and even admire the beauty of the snow. I made it down those hills, and detoured around that bridge, and before I knew it I was at the base of my driveway struggling to drive over a foot and a half of snow. It was seven PM, two hours from the time I'd left. If I can drive through this, I can drive through anything.

Appropriately enough I watched The Day After Tomorrow tonight. Between that movie, the recent tsunami, and what's going on here, I can't help wondering what's in store for us. The seasons have been shifting every year. Warm weather lasts in to October. Snow has still been with us in April. It's been a gradual progression, but weather's different than it was when I was a kid. Jerry linked to some interesting material on the subject. There is some strange stuff going on out there. Even Curt was unable to blog today.

Dennis Quaid turns out to be right(not a spoiler for anyone with a vague idea of what the movie is about). So was Jor-El. If something is going on with this world and someone has a good grasp on what that is, let's hope the people in power are listening to them....


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