Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

A picture that’s worth at least 700 words

I just finished another Aunt In Residence stint with my Atlanta nephews, B and C, while my brother and his wife took a brief and well-deserved breather. B is nearly four and has an insatiable appetite for stories and humor, a combination that makes him one of my favorite victims. One evening, B and I got to chatting about his recent adventures snow-tubing at Stone Mountain. This led me to tell him the story of my sister Lynne’s and my fateful trip down a slope known in family folklore as “Fox Hill.” The words and hand gestures I used to tell the tale (which I posted here last year) weren’t enough for B to get the picture, so I decided to draw it.

As befits a classic, I’m re-releasing it, this time featuring an exciting, new illustration!

Mother Nature went easy on D.C. when she sprinkled some confectioners sugar-weight snow on us yesterday. The accumulation totaled 5-8″, enough to trigger our collective Panic And Close reflex, but not so much that we couldn’t enjoy it, especially once the sun came out and temperatures rose into the 30s.

My friend Bud and I met up and took a late afternoon stroll along the Washington & Old Dominion trail. We pit-stopped at various points to take photos, make snow angels, and live vicariously as dozens of kids sledded down a hill of moderate steepness that ends in a park.

Though a respectable hill by any measure, it pales in comparison to Fox Hill, a three-tiered beauty of a slope near my late grandmother’s home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania. My father grew up sledding on Fox Hill and made sure my siblings and I got to enjoy the fun any time it snowed while we were visiting Nana. I have Fox Hill to thank for the most memorable sledding experience of my life, which occurred when I was eleven or twelve.

At the time, my family had four pieces of sledding equipment: two Flexible Flyers, one plastic saucer, and a waxy, blue, plastic rug of a thing that retailers would have called a “toboggan.”  Our family never used that term, perhaps because it implied structural soundness and amenities such as steering. In our house, the waxy, plastic rug thing was known simply as the “Sheet,” which is also a word for the linen that would cover your corpse after the Sheet was done with you. The Sheet was a ruthless disciple of the “every man for himself” school of thought. It frequently ejected its cargo without notice so it could continue its merry journey down the hill unburdened. This made it the vehicle of last resort for the four Yankosky sledders, except when the need for an adrenaline rush seized one of us.

On the day in question, such a need took hold of me and my sister Lynne simultaneously. Hours of sledding had caused the little plateaus between each of Fox Hill’s tiers to become icy ramps. After attempting some quick physics calculations, Lynne and I suspected that, if we rode together, we might be able to hit those ramps with enough speed to catch air. It would also require us to ride the thing that gave us the largest, slickest surface area: the Sheet. Being even less skilled at performing cost-benefit analysis than physics calculations, we concluded it was worth the risk and we boarded.

Our descent had barely begun when the Sheet turned us one hundred and eighty degrees. We approached the first ramp backwards, which is also the direction we were facing when we went airborne. The Sheet probably thought that act would be enough to get rid of us. I, however, had grown wise to the Sheet’s ejection tactics over the years and had its plastic handle in a death grip that I reflexively maintained. I held on even after we landed with such violence that it felt like we’d been dropped out of a tenth story window and onto a sidewalk.

My stubbornness angered the Sheet. As we crested the next ramp, still accelerating, the Sheet sent us sideways. We found ourselves careening away from the sledding course  and straight towards a clump of enormous wooden spools that sat at the border between Fox Hill and the adjacent property.

Our only hope for avoiding a crash was to let go of the Sheet, which I promptly did. This altered the Sheet’s trajectory, but not mine and Lynne’s. We ran straight into a spool, caromed off of it, and landed in a dazed heap. The Sheet, meanwhile, continued down Fox Hill without a care in the world, whistling the “Andy Griffith” theme song as it went.

As I lay on the ground, I saw birds circling above. Whether they were cartoon sparrows or vultures preparing to claim their carrion I will never know, because my father appeared and dragged us off.

Watching those sledders yesterday brought back the memory of that day on Fox Hill, in all its concussive glory. No wonder I attempted nothing more dangerous than a snow angel.

This picture is worth at least 700 words, right??

This picture is worth at least 700 words, right??

Bread (and milk and toilet paper) and Circus

Last night I met my friend “Eric” for happy hour in Chinatown. Our friendship, which goes all the way back to my Orange Hunt Elementary and Lake Braddock Secondary School days, had been dormant for a decade or more, so I was looking forward to waking it up. 

To avoid the hassle of trying to find parking in that area, I decided to Uber and arrived at the restaurant at 5:30. When Eric and I emerged at 8, a dusting of snow coated the ground. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see it. A radio forecast I’d heard that afternoon mentioned the possibility in passing, and then, like a football team that mentally moves on to the next game while before winning the game currently in progress, encouraged residents to go ahead and pre-panic for this weekend’s Potentially Monumental Snowfall. Because no one wants to be caught off-guard when PMS hits.

I requested an Uber for my trip home and the app informed me there would be a surge charge of 3.8 times the normal fare. It asked if I still wanted a ride. With my home a mere 6 miles away from the restaurant, five words that sealed my doom scrolled through my brain: How bad could it be?

The Uber arrived and I got in. 

One hour, one mile and $50 later, I ditched Uber. Clad in fashion boots, a skirt and tights –I had at least worn a reasonably weather-worthy coat and a pair of gloves– I began the three-quarters of a mile walk to the Metro stop at Farragut West. I forced myself not to think about how I could have saved an hour, $50, and an unplanned stroll had I just gotten on the Metro in Chinatown, a block from the restaurant.

At Farragut West, I was greeted by an uncooperative fare machine, which meant I missed the next train and had to spend $20 on a Smartcard I don’t need. In fact, based on the way things were going, I shouldn’t have been in possession of anything bearing the label “Smart.”

I caught a Silver Line train twenty minutes later and soon had reached my stop at East Falls Church, just over a mile from my home. I had been operating under the mistaken belief that cabs would be lined up at the station, eager to benefit from people like me. I saw not a single cab. I began the 1.1 mile walk home, which actually was uphill, in the snow, in my boots. When I was a quarter-mile from home, I began to celebrate my good fortune in being reasonably close to public transportation and healthy enough to walk the few miles to it in my work clothes. I even patted myself on the back for having bought boots constructed of all man-made materials that don’t breathe at all. They were keeping my toes warm, so who cares if they make my feet sweat 90% of the time? 

I reveled in these thoughts and my proximity to home, oblivious to the fact that The Universe might be listening. The Universe reveres humility. It does not reward those who engage in congratulatory self-talk, especially when such talk celebrates an inadvertently astute footwear purchase. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when The Universe knocked my legs out from under me, causing me to do a complete and total butt-plant. Actually, it was more like a butt-plant/wrist-jam combo because, once I lost my balance, I reached out in a failed attempt to brace myself. Speaking of which, I’d like to have a word with whoever is responsible for human evolution. If humans in the act of falling universally and instinctively reach out to brace themselves, could you please give us something sturdier to use than the wrist? It’s like trying to prop up a refrigerator with a toothpick. 

I stood up, checked to see if The Universe had held up a score card, and limped home. As I changed out of my work-turned-workout clothes, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed one of the hoop earrings I’d been wearing–my very favorite pair, given to me by a dear friend–was missing. So not only had The Universe knocked me flat, but it sent me home looking like a pirate. 

When I woke up this morning, my toothpick hurt like hell and I thought I might have fractured it. I went to urgent care, got X-rays, and was diagnosed with a severe sprain, though I learned a fracture may not show up for a few days. So I’d also like a word with the people who are always telling you to seek prompt medical attention. Evidently sometimes you should be fashionably late. 

From the urgent care I went to the grocery store, which, based on inventory levels, had last been stocked in 1923. Every vegetable or legume ever canned and/or bagged had been purchased. Even the beets were gone. I think we can all agree that nothing heralds the Apocalypse like a run on beets. And when I say the place had gone bananas, I mean it, because the only variety of bananas they had were the gone kind.

And common sense, the one commodity we all really need to stock up on when it snows around here? Long gone.

We probably won’t see it again for at least a week, so here’s hoping everyone rides out the PMS in warmth and safety!

The Universe probably didn't like it when I snapped this pic of a 6-car pileup on a side street, either.

The Universe probably didn’t like it when I snapped this pic of a 6-car pileup on a side street, either.

Christmas is over: Make way for the flakes

We residents of the Washington D.C. area were still in the process of taking down our Christmas trees when we got sucked into the Vortex. I’m not referring to the Polar Vortex, the natural seasonal phenomenon involving the two cyclones that circle Earth’s poles, but rather the I.Q. Vortex. The latter is a special brand of stupidity that takes hold of the greater D.C. region the moment the word “dusting” is uttered and doesn’t release its chokehold until cherry blossoms appear around the Tidal Basin. The I.Q. Vortex descended a few days ago when local forecasters mentioned the possibility that frozen precipitation might fall during rush hour on Tuesday morning.

This precipitous drop in the collective regional I.Q. typically causes a two-part preemptive panic. According to this well-established ritual, the general public initiates the first phase of the panic long before the first flake falls and then the local authorities take it from there.

The citizens of the D.C. area did our part by springing into action the moment we heard that snow accumulation might total upwards of an inch and was expected to start between 4-6 a.m. We raced out and bought essentials, with the result that, by Monday night, you had to drive as far south as Chile to find a roll of Charmin.

Satisfied with our work, we sat back and waited for the authorities to do their part. They started out strong. By late Monday afternoon, the pavement of our major thoroughfares sported thin white stripes, a clear sign that the Virginia Department of Transportation had pre-treated them with anti-icing chemicals.

Before I go any further, let us pause for a moment to consider the word “pre-treat.”  The use of the prefix “pre” before “treat” implies that, once the treatment is applied, some sort of follow-up action will occur. For example, when you pre-treat a stain on your favorite shirt by spraying it with Shout before you toss it in the washer, it’s understood that your work is not done. In fact, you’ve barely started it.  You must then put the item in the washer and turn the appliance on in order to complete the process.

Based on what happened yesterday morning, you get the impression that VDOT has never done laundry before.

When I woke up at 5:15 a.m. yesterday, an inch of snow had already fallen. I phoned the Fairfax County pool where I usually swim on Tuesday mornings, expecting a delayed opening or maybe even a closure.  I reached a live human who assured me the center was open on time, as usual, and I subsequently learned that the schools were opening on time as well. From this I inferred that VDOT had salted, sanded and/or cleared the main roads at the very least and had probably begun to work on the secondary ones, too. It only made sense, since the authorities had access to the very same forecasts I did.

When I arrived at a major artery near my house and found it snow-covered and untreated, I still didn’t panic. I assumed VDOT just hadn’t gotten that far. But surely I-66 would be clear, right? Right?!? Riiiiiiiight. The only clearing, if it could be called that, was being done by cars whose drivers were either inching along at the rate of hair growth of rocketing through the sound barrier. And the Beltway was barely any better. Before long, the roads were blanketed in snow, jammed with cars, littered with wrecks, and…did I mention the school buses?

Let’s just say that, after this fiasco, I wouldn’t trust the county governments to do the laundry, either.

Since winter has just begun, the local authorities are likely to have plenty of opportunities to brush up on their preemptive panic skills and redeem themselves. We are, after all, in this I.Q. Vortex together.

This shot of one of the side streets, taken by a resident of my neighborhood, is representative of life in the I.Q. Vortex.

This shot of one of the side streets, taken by a resident of my neighborhood, is representative of life in the I.Q. Vortex.




Tuesday: An Open and Shut Case

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like Tuesdays.  But that doesn’t mean I have some sort of Tuesday prejudice. I really don’t, I swear.  I go into it with an open mind, and Tuesday then proceeds to slowly nudge it shut.

  • On waking at 5:17 a.m., I went downstairs to make coffee.  Due to a textbook case of  Chicken/Egg Syndrome, I inserted a filter, dumped water into the receptacle, flipped the “on” switch and walked away.  Five minutes later I made my triumphant return to a nice, steaming pot of water.
  •  After making a pot of coffee that featured actual coffee beans, I downed a cup and then drove to the pool for one of my ritual swims.  I walked onto the deck of Providence Rec Center in Falls Church at 6:30 a.m., just as a masters team was completing its practice.  I remembered then that a co-worker had told me she swims with that team, and what do you know, a woman who had her features and was built just like her got out on the opposite side of the pool.  I gave a very enthusiastic wave.  My friend waved back somewhat anemically, as people tend to do after finishing a taxing workout.  Moments later I hopped out of the water to grab a kickboard, just as my co-worker was approaching.  I had already said, “Fancy meeting you here! I’m jealous that you’re already done and I’m just getting started,” when I realized that it wasn’t my co-worker.  This woman probably had 10 years and twice as many pounds on my colleague.  I’d gotten the gender right, but that was about it.  “I’m sorry, do I know you?” she asked.  I then set about working on my verbal backstroke.
  •  By the time I emerged from the Rec Center, snow had begun to fall.  This confused my ears, which could have sworn they were hearing birds chirping, what with it being spring and all.
  • I drove home, where I planned to work while I waited for a guy to come and pick up my lawnmower for a tune-up.  My father called just as the guy arrived, and rather than just saying I didn’t have time for a chat, I stupidly explained why.  I don’t know what Dad enjoyed more, the fact that I was thinking about cutting the grass while the skies were busy obscuring it with snow, or that the job title “lawn mower courier” exists.
  • The lawnmower guy left just in time for me to hop on a conference call.  Because a friend who’s staying with me was working in the upstairs office, I grabbed a pair of earbuds so I could take the call hands-free without disturbing him.  I proceeded instead to disturb my right ear canal by inserting not the ear piece but the metal prong that plugs into the phone.

I was then afraid to leave the house, my IQ clearly being far too low to risk operating a car or any other heavy machinery. Next Tuesday is April Fool’s Day, and I’m thinking it’s time to go ahead and be close-minded.