Reminiscing the Snow: AAC&U Snowbound in DC
At the time, we were all asking each other, “when will you get out?” Running through our minds were questions about whether to keep the room another night and would the planes fly. But, looking back, I now find myself nostalgic for those days when a large number of us – especially the eportoflio crowd – were all there, all the time, eating each night in the only restaurant in the hotel and, for one night, about the only restaurant open in downtown DC.
The snow had started to build on Friday of the AAC&U Annual Meeting in January. Many who had planned to stay for the portfolio forum left when they could still get out of town on that Friday. Others who had planned to fly in to speak on Saturday could not. By early afternoon, an odd feeling of being left behind crept over me, of being among those who foolishly stood against the blizzard. The oddity was attending sessions as scheduled even though we had all made the decision to be snowbound – normality in the midst of a maelstrom.
Friday night, Susan Kahn and I rode over to an impossible-to-book restaurant in DC just blocks away that was luckily willing to stay open long enough to serve us. It stood up to its reputation. After we finished dinner, we put our layers of winter gear back on, and found that our only choice was to walk back to the hotel.
The blizzard had indeed begun to bury the city. We made our way to 8th Street and headed north, right into the wind and snow, for a few blocks. We headed west on G Street, easier now, heading west, not right into the wind. Stepping off some curbs, or what seemed like curbs, we’d find our legs sunk into deeper snow than we had expected.
No cars moved in the white. A few other people walked, their heads, like ours, down and not taking note of anything other than their next steps. Street lights lighting the snow as if there was some reason to show the way to whom and toward what?
Arriving another block west, at 9th Street, not yet at the hotel, we again faced the prospect of heading north right into the wind and snow, not inviting nor even bearable. We, instead, found a pathway that was shielded from the north wind and went that way instead.
And, aha, we arrived another block west, and were at the east side of the Hyatt! We tried a side door of the hotel but were rebuffed because that was a service entrance only! In a blizzard, you don’t let people inside just because it’s not the right door??
We pushed into the wind, huddling along the side of the hotel, and, reached H Street and the front of the hotel. We happened to glance through a window of the hotel and saw Kate Coleman taking a picture out the window! We slipped in the nearest door and we were inside and warm and out of the wind! And immediately, we were among those other survivors of the Blizzard of ’16.
That night, the AAC&U staff had to re-work the Saturday program around those attendees still in the hotel. If you were not already at the hotel, you would not be at the hotel on Saturday.
What an amazing and brilliant re-working of the schedule! It is hard to know – with no intention to doubt the value of what the speakers who could not fly in to DC would bring to us – it is hard to know if the program could have been any better than how it turned out on Saturday. Congratulations to those AAEEBL leaders who stepped up to provide excellent sessions almost on the spur of the moment.
But, the camaraderie, enforced or not, over-rode all inconveniences and all regrets. We all had time to talk and talk and move to new tables and talk anew, over two nights (and more for others). It was at that hotel in Washington DC that I came to know again how affiliative, inventive, social and imaginative the eportfolio community is. And how much fun it is to talk with everyone in our community.
I myself was able to “get out” Sunday morning because I was visiting my daughter and family who live not far from the hotel and because I had a car with perfect four-wheel drive. Still, it was odd being the only car on the road that Sunday morning as I made my way through downtown DC and out onto the Southwest Freeway and onto the 14th Street Bridge. The lanes were clear and dry; but the exit to the George Washington Memorial Parkway was only a cowpath – the 4-wheel drive was essential.
Others stayed on as late as Tuesday when the airline backup was cleared.
At that time, our thoughts may have been on disrupted schedules and just “getting out,” but now looking back, I would not trade that time with colleagues for anything.