Friday, February 12, 2010

Commuter SNAFU

Tonight's commute home turned into a real SNAFU and an example of why you should be prepared to deal with unexepected situations, especially during Winter.

Background: I work in Center City Philadelphia, PA, and commute to and from there on the SEPTA R6 line.  In the past week, we had two Nor'easters blow through, dumping around 40 inches of snow in the  Philadelphia region.  (We're at 71.6" of snow for the season, making it Philly's snowiest on record.)

My ride into town today was delayed about 45 minutes.  My train home was a few minutes late leaving Suburban Station, then when we got a bit past Temple, sat on the tracks for about 40 minutes.  Apparently, a switch was frozen in place, preventing my train from getting on the correct track for the remainder of the trip.  Eventually, we got diverted to Wayne Junction, a station not on the R6 line. Incidentally, it's not in what I'd call a good neighborhood.  More like, "Da hood."

I got off the train at Wayne Junction and called my wife and asked her to come get me.  Thankfully, she exactly where to meet me, since she drives by the station on her way to work.  I had to wait at least 45 minutes for her to arrive, however, due to heavy Friday night traffic and poor road conditions left over from the storms.

OK, so why is this a preparedness post?  A few reasons:

1. The temperature was in the 20s.  I was appropriately dressed in a fleece vest, Wall's Blizzard Pruf jacket, wool gloves, ball cap, and Merrell Outlander boots with wool socks.  I started to get cold about 10 minutes before my wife showed up but I could have held out a while longer.  Many of the other people on the train weren't as well dressed for the conditions, most notably in the lack of a hat and/or hood on their jacket.  Also, while tight pants and high heeled boots look great on fit young women, they don't insulate all that well, nor are such boots good for walking in snow.

2.  I was stuck down in the 'hood and needed someone to come get me.  Commo was in the form of my cell phone, a Motorola Droid.  This helped me in identifying exactly where I was with the built-in GPS and Google Maps.  My battery was getting on the low side so I was able to swap it out for a fully charged spare.  (This is one reason why I won't get an iPhone -- no user-swappable battery.)  If the Droid had failed I also have a Blackberry on me, which I have because I'm a floor captain at work.  I'd say for most folks a second cell phone is overkill as long as you have a spare charged battery, or some kind of booster that you can plug into your cell phone.

3. On the way home, we got diverted onto a side street.  Now I understand why Philly schools have been closed since Wednesday.  The roads in Philly are atrocious.  The side street was covered in a good 6" of hard packed snow with ruts.  My wife's Mazda 5 got caught in a rut so I got out an pushed, to make sure she didn't drift into a parked car.  I was really glad I was wearing my Merrells.

Two things I will change: I'll add a knit watch cap and a snack bar or two to my bag.  I already have a 24 oz. Nalgene bottle of water, a flashlight with spare batteries, first aid kit, and even a space blanket.  Had it been raining or snowing I had an umbrella to keep the precipitation off.

Just because you're within the realm of "civilization" doesn't mean you won't have to deal with some uncomfortable situations.  Be prepared. 

No comments: