Snow Day: A Tale of Two Commuters

7 Feb

On the morning of February 4, 2015, several inches of snow fell on top of the 6 inches that blanketed Omaha two days earlier. Let’s hear from two citizens coping with the weather.

Snow day

Part 1: The Automobilist

Like every Wednesday, I start early for a 7:00 AM meeting with friends at a local restaurant. I peek out the window: more snow, as expected. But I’m ready for it.

Preparation
I don my snow clearing clothes and begin my standard operation. Assisted by my trusty snow blower, I clear the fresh snow and I manage to cut a path through the windrow of large frozen chunks that, as usual, the city snow plow left along the end of my driveway.

Commute
I leave my car idling while I change into my driving clothes – no need for boots and parka in a warm car – and soon I am on the road. My destination is nearby, but the vicissitudes of Omaha streets force me to drive out of my way to major streets and intersections. Despite the midnight passage of the snow plow, the streets are white and slippery, but thanks to my all-wheel-drive, ABS brakes, and new wipers, I feel safe in my warm cocoon. But I am not alone. A van from a construction company materializes in the morning gloom, spinning its rear tires as it attempts a steep climb. I wait until it sees me and drive around it. Next, a car breaks out of its driveway and skids uncertainly ahead of me. That’s the problem: I do everything to be safe, but I can’t count on others to do the same. I leave the neighborhood, join the slow moving caravan on the major streets, with ponderous traffic light stops.

Cars at Intersection

I close in on my destination and find that the best parking places are taken or piled with plowed snow. I park at a distance, make sure my snow scraper is ready for action when I return – the melting snow will have caked the windshield in ice – and I brave the cold, slippery walk to the restaurant.

Arrival
I burst into the restaurant with scalding ice crystals melting on my brow. I check my watch: 5 minutes late. I need some coffee. And a big breakfast. I’ll work off the calories later, when I drive to the gym and walk 40 minutes on the treadmill.

Part 2: The Pedestrian

Like every Wednesday, I start early for a 7:00 AM meeting with friends at a local restaurant. I peek out the window: more snow, as expected. But I’m ready for it.

Commute
I don my parka, boots, hat and backpack, and I step out the back door. My boots contact the snow with a satisfying crunch. My destination is nearby, a 40 minute walk through neighborhood streets and trails. Crystals settle on my hat and parka. My footsteps are muffled as I walk the empty streets, suffused in a glowing, pearly light. I walk by a construction company’s van, wipers sheathed with ice, attempting to climb a steep grade. It drives off in search of a less inclined alternate route. A car breaks through the icy windrow blocking its driveway, and skids uncertainly out of the neighborhood like a dazed mammoth. Otherwise, I have the streets to myself.

Empty street

Arrival
I walk straight into the restaurant and shake the snow off my parka and hat. I check my watch: ahead of schedule. I’ll enjoy a well deserved coffee and breakfast.

Part 3: The Comparison

The Automobilist The Pedestrian
Equipment

  • Parka, boots, hat & gloves (snow clearing clothes)
  • Snow blower (including fuel, storage, and maintenance)
  • All-wheel-drive vehicle (including fuel, storage, and maintenance)
  • Ice scraper
  • Gym membership
Equipment

  • Parka, boots, hats & gloves (walking clothes)
  • Backpack
Time

  • Snow clearing: 15 minutes
  • Car warming: 5 minutes
  • Drive: 13 minutes
  • Park: 2 minutes
  • Drive to gym: 15 minutes
  • Walk on gym treadmill: 40 minutes
Time

  • Walk: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour and 30 minutes Total: 40 minutes
Stress & Health

  • Stress: High
  • Health: Average
Stress & Health

  • Stress: Low
  • Health: Excellent

Author’s Note: The pedestrian narrative is from my actual experience. The automobilist narrative is derived by superimposing past experiences on February 4, 2015 — Chris Behr.

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