Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Snowy Seven Hills

This is likely a post of local interest only, but if you've ever sat in nightmarish traffic during a snowstorm, please bear with me...

Cincinnati got a wallop of snow Tuesday, six to eight inches (a "light dusting" to folks in Green Bay, Wisconsin) depending upon where you live. Still, we're a city of hills, and it caused many traffic problems. It didn't help that the snow started around noon and continued until late that evening. It also didn't help that most downtown and area businesses let their employees go home early, creating an artificial rush hour right in the middle of the heaviest snowfall.

Now, I didn't get caught in the snow at all. I work at a restaurant, not exactly an essential business (because you folk mob the grocery stores in search of milk and bread and cold cuts in fear of being snowed in for weeks), so we closed and called our evening employees to let them know they had the night off. What's the point of stacking your payroll when you know you're not going to do any business that night? I spent the entire day in the comfy confines of my home, watching from my window, a vantage point which made the snow appear beautiful, magical, and sanguine. You can be any age and still experience the unexpected joy of a "snow day." I felt entirely childish, and I loved it.

After watching the local news go nuts all day, I couldn't resist (in what I will admit involved a bit of schadenfreude) visiting the Cincinnati Enquirer's blog to read the travel nightmares of my fellow Cincinnatians. Most were the usual complaints about the Kenwood cut-in-the-hill traffic. Why can't they ever, ever seem to anticipate this snarl, and why is it that reporters never seem to show up at the exact place causing the most problems in order to report them? Oh, wait... they realize they'll never get home, either. They'd rather report from the flatlands of West Chester, and I can hardly blame them, but I wouldn't call it reporting from where the news is actually happening. Still, it took many commuters three and a half hours (at least) to get from the Ohio River to, say, Montgomery (about 14 miles), and that's understandably horrific to the average commuter. It was interesting to read their accounts.

It jogged my memory, reminding me of my last experience traversing the Kenwood cut in the middle of a wintry blast. It's been years since I was stuck in what I can only describe as a snowy armageddon on I-71 northbound. Motorists all around me were experiencing overheating breakdowns and running out of gas. The interstate turned into a parking lot, and there was just nothing to do but sit and wait. Out of nowhere, a spirit of camaraderie erupted, and I joined it, leaving my own car to help others push their autos to the side of the road, but I'm a small girl, so I was of more help offering the hoards of snack bars I kept in my car (I worried constantly about snowy traffic hunger-filled snarls in those days), hugs, and tissues to the most distraught. It's a great memory I have of how the city pulled together that day to help each other. I was feeling pretty good back then, about how awesome we are.

Then, I came across a comment from a reader named Teasha, detailing her much more recent experience on Tuesday.

I always took pride in my little family sedan and her inclimate weather skills. Today, she had a rough time. When she stopped dead in the middle of 71N, the only person that came to our rescue was an out of town truck driver. Thanks Cincinnati. I'm glad your SUV's could go fast enough to get away from my tear soaked face, all alone, in the middle of 71N.

Reading Teasha's current account on the Enquirer's blog, and the rather sarcastic and obnoxious replies to her story, made me concerned, and, frankly, angry. And I can't help but think of the many, many commuters who had similar experiences but wouldn't dream of writing about them; sharing them with anyone but their own families.

In a city that prides itself on being friendly and compassionate.... how do we really measure up? I read her comment as a bystander, someone sitting before a computer in her pajamas, quite comfortable and warm, but it got me thinking... if this were an actual emergency, something unexpected, instead of a widely-predicted snowstorm, how would we behave toward each other? Would we offer help and comfort? Would we speed by and make obscene gestures? Would we care for only ourselves, or would we reach out to each other?

In a way, it's analogous to my experiences behind the bar, and the way attitudes have morphed in the past ten years. Can we really call ourselves a friendly, kind midwestern city? Can we truly take pride in that, are we who we say we are, if we don't act kindly and gently toward each other when it's called upon? Can we claim our reputation, if we don't earn it?

I hope her account is some kind of aberration, but Teasha's experience alarmed me, and made me realize that it's always a good idea to take a look at each other, and imagine how we'd behave at our worst, and not just our best.

It's not pretty to write about who we really are, which is probably why nobody ever does.

Out all night in the Seven Hills
We had time to kill in the Seven Hills
From Mount Washington down to O'Bryonville
The Seven Hills

We went to investigate
The subways that never came
And the abandoned tunnels of Camp Washington Station
Happy vandals all at play
Underneath Central Parkway
We had the key, and we were fearless... we were fearless

Out all night in the Seven Hills
We had time to spare in the Seven Hills
From Mount Adams down to Madisonville
We were out in the Seven Hills

Sneaking through Ault Park
Several hours after dark
Hiding from each other in old man Kilgore's gardens
We could live like this, blissfully oblivious
It never got old
It died eternal, it died eternal

Every night in the Seven Hills
We were out of time in the Seven Hills
All over the Seven Hills

So give that old Queen City a chance
She's the wallflower of the dance
Yeah, she's the one that never went all the way

- Justin Lynch, "Seven Hills"

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