Russian Drivers and Gum Hold it Together

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It only takes a few days of watching the snow fall before we start remembering “The Worst Snowstorm Ever.” Maybe it helps us get through this one? Hey, we’ve survived worse than this!

I’m sure you have your worst ones. Mine was the year that my mother and I decided to take a seaplane from Seattle (where she lived) to Victoria. We’d always talked about it–this was the year! This was also a year when only elite people owned cellphones and weather prediction was not so predictable. Yes, there was a possibility of snow, unlikely to be a big event. A friend dropped me and my suitcase at the bus where I rode the 10 mile stretch to where I’d catch the ferry to Seattle. On the bus ride, some fine snow started. Should I turn around and go home? No, this wasn’t bad. And I’d be catching the bus in Seattle to Mom’s.

The snow got progressively thicker on the ferry ride between Bainbridge Island and Seattle, but my bus was waiting right in front of the ferry terminal! I had it made! I got on the bus and sat and waited. And waited. The seaplane plan was looking iffy. Finally the bus driver let me know that he wasn’t going anywhere–it wasn’t safe to drive.

Panic set in. I had to get off the heated bus, but then what? If I went back on the ferry, the buses might not be running on the other side either. I had no way home. I decided to walk up the street and find a phone and call a taxi–would a driver consider going up Queen Anne Hill, the biggest hill in Seattle, in this weather? If not, then what? I really couldn’t afford a hotel stay in downtown Seattle.

But the first open business I found was a small hotel that looked like even I might have afforded it for one night. When I asked to borrow a phone to call a taxi, the woman at the desk offered their hotel taxi. In only a few minutes, the driver was at the door to pick me up.

He was a tall, rough-looking Russian with a thick accent. He paused when I told him I wanted to go to the top of Queen Anne Hill. He would see what he could do. By this time the city streets were packed with snow and he drove like a maniac. I remember flying through intersections in the very center of the business district, regardless of the color of the traffic light–he let me know that if he slowed down, he might get stuck. Occasionally the wheels would spin, he’d utter some words in Russian, and then we’d get going again. No chains, of course.

He went up the back side of the hill, avoiding Queen Anne Avenue which went straight up. This meant winding around a bit more, but somehow we got to the top of the hill. I insisted he let me off there, even though Mom lived down the other side a few blocks. I remember paying him $25, and feeling so, so relieved to step out of that cab alive.

I walked down the hill in tennis shoes, pulling my suitcase behind me and leaving a crazy trail in the now ankle deep snow.

We never made it to Victoria, and I was housebound there for several days before being able to get out. As it began to thaw and rain, water began to leak into the basement through cracks in a cement wall,  and one or the other of us would get up during the night to mop up water. Mom finally patched some of the cracks with chewed gum which worked amazingly well. Many people on the hill and around the city had drainage problems in that thaw.

We do what we have to do in tough situations, and we learn that we’re stronger than we thought we were. Kind people offer help, a mother’s hug warms the coldest of toes, and even a wild Russian driver can be a godsend.

5 thoughts on “Russian Drivers and Gum Hold it Together

  1. I should forward this to Lisa. Igor is Russian. He’d probably use some of the same words you heard but I don’t think he’d drive in Seattle with or without snow…

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

  2. I wonder if that was the Seattle storm of ’96? Jen, Eron Diana and I have all recently shared our storm of ’96 stories. Now those tails are topped by the storm of’19. Mary, that is a wonderful story. I lived at the top of Queen Ann at that time also….

    • Oh, I did watch one just now, Suzie, and loved it. Am wondering if he’s driving in all of them. At one point he realizes (as he’s talking non-stop) that he’s in the wrong lane. Have suggested these to Bev (above comment) who has a son-in-law who is Russian!

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