Four years ago I wrote this after my night of being stranded with many strangers at IHOP
After a soak in the tub, two showers and probably five times brushing my teeth I can now sit and write about my stranded experience. I’m not going to discuss how GDOT, our mayor and governor failed Atlanta, surrounding counties, the people and even children but instead about the love I witnessed.
On Wednesday January 29th, I left my office at 19:30hrs after an already rough day at work to drive three hours and only travel two dang miles! But on those two miles were people helping people who were absolute strangers. There was a woman who had brewed hot coffee and gathered a basket full of snacks from her home, she walked up and down Mt. Vernon Parkway offering a smile to many of us inching along the road.
I finally made my way to the main street (Roswell Road) that feeds into 285 and my route home. I sat in the same spot outside of IHOP for what seemed like forever and something told me to just pull in and wait for the traffic to die down. I was greeted by the smiling faces of IHOP staff who had been there way past their shifts as those who were scheduled to relieve them were trapped by snow or traffic. They tended to those who only wanted hot water with lemon and those who wanted the unlimited stack of pancakes with the same warmth and caring attitudes. Somewhere along the night a young man came in with his classmate, he was in town from Ohio for CSX training but class had been canceled due to the weather. Instead of laying around in his hotel he chose to take his 4x4 and pull cars back onto the road and give others much needed rides. Then there was the loving couple pictured here, they just lent smiles and spoke to almost everyone who wanted conversation. But it wasn’t their conversation that captured me, it was their non-verbal communication. There was an unspoken bond between them, they could have been together for 50 years but they touched like young loves, they held each other with their hands but mostly in their eyes.
Someone joked about washing clothes and taking baths in the restroom and all I could think was well thank God I’m not wearing any panties to wash! Yup I’m one of THOSE girls, I had on a long skirt down to my ankles and knee boots, I would have been devastated if I fell on the ice and all of my glory were on display for the world to see! Alone,I sat at my table with my blackberry checking in with my coworkers and manager plus my iPhone checking in with friends and family. Via Facebook friends and friends of friends I was invited to hotels and homes if I could just get there. The overwhelming outpouring of love kept me warm and feeling loved throughout the night and into the early morning.
Then came in two truck drivers with hearty appetites and comic relief. The co-drivers were en route to Louisville from Orlando and could not believe the madness, after a few stacks of pancakes I was invited to join them in their booth. Somewhere in the wee hours of the next morning I had taken a nap and ate another meal, we were watching Batman Begins on the drivers phone and he decided that we were on our second date and thought to document the occasion with a photo, we all looked a weathered mess and no one cared. Throughout the night we learned so much about most people in the restaurant, their families, occupations, fears and concerns. Before getting on the road the next morning my new driver friend decided it best to escort me to test the roads. The roads were still very icy and crowded. My new guardian angel pulled over my car, turned on another movie and immediately fell asleep leaning on my arm and I just had to document the sweet moment. It was if he exhausted all of his remaining energy watching over me all morning. I made it home Thursday afternoon and had never been more excited about getting to my warm home and bed, only to view the news reports about many who were still stranded with no relief but still held hope.
On that Wednesday night in 2014 much of Atlanta experienced Southern Hospitality and Loving Kindness in abundance. Perfect strangers were brought together and bound by just a few inches of snow, even if it were just for the night. I felt the warmth in the atmosphere and didn’t get my panties in a bunch.