Storm of the Century

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December 1, 2010. Prague, Czech Republic.

Blizzard. -13C. At work until 6. Bad traffic, accidents. Snow pours down, unrelenting in glittering glass shards. Outside, 15 min waiting for a tram. Not mine, but warm. People packed like sardines. Slush on the floor. Slippery. Madman driver. Injured my wrist holding on for dear life.

Tram stuck mid-road, huge intersection. Everyone tramples out, start walking toward Metro. I get back on tram. Metro station is not close. Snow and wind are fierce. 7pm, still sitting on the tram. Drunk old guy, old man with a cane, zombie, middle-aged woman with baby voice, two twenty-something hipsters, me. No heat. Door open. Freezing. Body goes in shock. I start shaking. My heart a jackhammer in my chest. I can’t breathe. Almost throw up, I’m going to faint. Drift out of my body. Look down. Fainting feeling heightens. Yank back into my body. So cold. Use my Sephora stress stick. Helps for a few minutes. Sick feeling returns.

I have to get out of here.

Talk to tram driver. One Metro is 10 minute walk. Other is 5 minutes. I don’t know the 5 minute one. Hope for the best. Exit tram. Snow and wind lashing my face with cruel icicles. I pop out of my body again. Terrified. Call husband. I walk in direction of Metro, see nothing. Too cold. Hubby sounds scared. I get more scared. Tells me go back to tram.

I’m going to die. Drift out of myself. Pull myself back. Re-get on tram. Panic. Credit on my mobile depleted. Battery in the red. This has to be a nightmare. I leave my body again. Desperate.

By grace of Taxi Driver Goddess I see one at the stoplight. But not me. Doesn’t feel like me, it’s someone else who runs into oncoming traffic. A desperate and crazy woman. Puts her arm out to make the cars stop. They do. Taxi driver gives her a strange look when she tells him address. She says something else. He understands. She gets in. It’s warm. Back in my body. So thankful. I want to tell the driver how thankful I am, that he saved my life. He speaks no English. 30 minutes to get home, but warm. Hubby calls me every five minutes since I have no credit and not enough cash for the bill. I drift in and out of myself. The phone ringing pulls me back. 836pm. Home. “God bless you,” I say to the taxi driver giving him a big tip. He smiles, maybe understands more than I thought.

Upstairs. Frozen. Freaked. Sensation this happened to someone else while I watched, clashing with the embodied memory of that extreme cold. -13C, felt colder with the gale winds. Realised that Death was all around me. Not a person, like Wendy’s murderer. But nature, timing, bad situation. Flashes of what could have been: collapsing in the snow, buried, not found until the spring thaw in March 2011. Collapsing on tram, weirdos steal my shit, ambulance takes too long, who’s going to finish American Monsters in Prague if I’m dead and these fuckers steal my notes.

I marvel at how the cold overrode all of my anxiety relief mechanisms. How my body started to shut down. Nothing I could do. Body and mind are connected, but extreme cold trumps them both. My wrist hurts.

I’m home. I’m safe now. Alive. I eat. Delicious meal by chef-to-be hubby. Throw up. Feel sad about the wasted food. Drink some tea. Nibble on a piece of chocolate. Stomach heaves again. Pass out on the couch.

Someone up there watches over me, of this I’m sure, but I don’t think they like me very much.

8 Responses to Storm of the Century

  1. Oh, Sezin. I felt like I was right there with you reading this…. how scary and so glad you made it home safe. I remember a couple years ago when I was pregnant with Lina, fog stopped the ferries from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul. I was there for an interview that went awry, and already upset. I managed to catch one after waiting with a multitude of stir-crazy people. I had no idea where the ferry was going because the schedule was all screwed up, but I got on. It went to Uskudar, where I tried to catch a taxi and found myself wandering around crying because no one would stop and they were all going the wrong direction, anyway. Called my husband. He managed to talk me into finding a bus that I had to wait an hour for and then had to run down the street for to catch. It was a bad day, but the worst was feeling disoriented and out of my body, like you say. I felt like anything could happen and no none would notice or care.

    I’m used to a sense of camaraderie when there is a inclement weather in the Midwest. People helping each other shovel out snow or push a car. I never expected to feel so isolated at a time I needed help.

    • @Lynne I sure hope so! Last winter was horrible and even with my horror-oriented mind I never could have imagined how much worse this one is. Thank you for commiserating and I hope that your winter will be a manageable one.

      @Anastasia Thank you. Yes, when I think back on those moments my heart starts to pound. I can sometimes be a bit dramatic, I’m an Aries, born that way, but in this instance I knew how close I was to a really unhappy ending. Whenever I pass that spot on the tram I have to send my mind elsewhere, but my tummy still wrenches and I break out in a cold sweat.

      @Rose Stir-crazy people! Oh goodness, that’s a storm in and of itself! And being pregnant at the time must have heightened the anxiety as well as the desire to not get anxious for the sake of the baby. It’s an awful feeling to realise that nobody will help you and like you say, how isolating it is. I’ve never been in extreme weather like this before so I had no idea that in some places people actually are willing to go outside their comfort zone to help another. In some ways that makes me feel a bit better, and also solidifies my anthropological assessment of Prague as being an emotionally cold place as well as physically. I am so glad you got home safely without any harm to you and Lina!

  2. wow. I mean, I read your tweet and FB status about this, but those were just teeny drops in the vast ocean of hell you experienced. My heart goes out to you 🙁 I’m not a fan of the cold myself, but I don’t think I’ve been “assaulted” by it the way you were. Ugh. Whatever it is that brought you to and hubby to Prague, can it now bring you elsewhere? Somewhere a little more south and sunny? 🙁

  3. Sezin!! What a story. A 2 1/2 hour long nightmare. Thank God for that taxi driver and your chef-to-be hubby. Catherine is so right about taking provisions…better to look like a bag lady than be found after the spring thaw.

    Not sure why Prague is testing you so harshly, but those of us down here need you. So Michelin Zuzu yourself, please! XO

    • Thank you, Catherine Y, Catherine B and Sher!

      I am feeling better today, but that’s because I only left the house for a few minutes yesterday to get water.

      What’s funny is that I’ve looked like Zuzu Michelin since October, with my extra hats and sweaters in my bag, vitamin bars, cough drops, tissues, etc! I’ve donned my thermals and two pairs of socks for the last week, which helps when one only has to be outside for a short time, but doesn’t do much against extended exposure. This morning I read an article in our Prague Daily Monitor that sums up this place in this moment: http://blogs.wsj.com/new-europe/2010/12/02/snowfall-calamity-traffic-collapse-it-doesnt-have-to-be-this-way/. Insanity! And it’s only December 3! Oh Gaga.

      I have a feeling that Prague testing me so harshly has to do with all of the creativity that’s flourished for me here. Prague isn’t a city, it’s an entity, and for everything we get from it, it exacts a heavy toll. I’m tired of paying it.

      Wish me Godspeed extracting myself from these Mother Claws!

  4. Hi Sezin,
    Sure hope you’re feeling better today. The cold has been very bitter–not normal for this time of the year in Prague.

    I had to run errands, walking, and when I got home it took me quite a while to get warmed up again. My experience was nothing like yours…nowhere near, just a frozen face for me.

    Anyway, take it easy, and take an emergency kit with you like Catherine suggested when you have to go out.

    Take it easy,
    Sher

  5. Sezin what a terrifying experience. I am so glad you got home ok and had someone there to care for you and make sure you were warm.

    I’d probably be booking the Bahamas or buying up all the thermal undies I could find if I were you, forget fashion let the Prague monsters include Sezin the thermal Michelin woman. Never leave home without hand warmer packs that you can break open, a flask of coffee and dried fruit. (Was going to suggest chocolate but DH broke his front teeth on choc when skiing, it gets damn hard when cold!)

    Please, please take care of yourself honey, you’ve got so much more to write…

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