As anyone who reads my blog knows, gnomi (Nomi) and I spent the weekend at the Arisia science fiction convention in downtown Boston at the Park Plaza this past weekend.
The Blizzard definitely affected the convention, in bizarre and delightful ways. The changes started on Saturday morning, when the news reported that a major snowstorm would be starting in the afternoon. Quite a few non-local program participants decided to bail out before the storm hit, which made a lot of sense to me. So a few people did their panels and told Program Operations to remove them from Saturday evening and Sunday panels, as they would already be on their way out.
I hope those people got out okay.
Being from Brookline, of course, Nomi and I didn't feel the need to vacate the hotel. We always get a room at the convention hotel anyway because we observe shabbat, and we figured that even if the snow got really heavy, in the worst case scenario we could always walk home from the hotel. So we did our program items, saw the snow begin around 4 PM, and had our traditional Saturday night open house to celebrate Nomi's birthday, which was this past Monday.
Now, our usual plan for the Sunday of Arisia is to wake up early, check out, take a cab back home to Brookline, and drop off our stuff at home. Then we go to Rubin's for a large breakfast, to fortify ourselves for the rest of the day. We day-trip the Sunday of the convention with a backpack each, and then eventually take the T home.
Saturday night we decided to go with a different plan. Since we had heard that the snow would be continuing throughout the night and into the morning, we decided that we would not even try to get a cab home early Sunday morning. Instead, we would stay at the hotel, do our program items, check out at the usual time, carry our luggage around with us, and eventually take the T home.
We knew we had made the right decision when we woke up at 9 AM and found a letter from the Park Plaza under our door, informing us that Governor Mitt Romney had declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts. We most likely would not have been able to get a cab back to Brookline so early in the morning, because people were being asked (or told) to stay off the roads. Furthermore, the hotel had informed the convention members that we could keep our rooms until 2 PM for no additional charge in case the snow was delaying us. And later on, a phone call to Rubin's confirmed that the restaurant was closed today, meaning we wouldn't have been able to eat our traditional Sunday morning breakfast.
Nomi and I got ready for our program items, and we packed up all our stuff so we could check out quickly. We still had to deal with the question of whether or not we'd actually be able to make it home; we didn't want to check out of the hotel and find that we were stranded because the T wasn't running. A phone call to Nomi's parents in Burlington got us the news that the whole subway system was supposedly running, but soon enough we got actual visual evidence. Shortly after we got to Program Operations, we spotted film critic Dan Kimmel and his daughter. Dan commutes to the convention, so we knew he had taken the Green Line D back in this morning. He confirmed for us that the T was running just fine. Of course, things might change by the time we were leaving the convention at 3 PM...
We did hear one report during the day that the Green Line trains were stopping at Kenmore Square, and that buses were taking people the rest of the way. We figured we'd take the train to Kenmore Square and see what happened from there. Worst case scenario, we'd walk from Kenmore Square to Coolidge Corner. We've done it before, and we've done it before in the snow; the only added factor this time around would be our duffel bags.
For the next few hours, people who didn't realize we were local kept expressing concern that we wouldn't be able to make it home; we assured them that it was a straight shot on the T. We did our panel items (I even filled in for a missing panelist on one item) and we left the hotel shortly after 3 PM.
The snow drifts from the hotel to the Arlington T stop were huge, but the streets had been freshly plowed. Nomi and I stepped over the snow to the T stop, only to discover that neither of the two token booths were staffed. Nomi has a monthly T-pass, so it wasn't a problem for us; we walked through the free turnstile that T-pass holders and their guests are usually ushered through by the attendants on Sundays. But the people who came down the stairs behind us needed to buy tokens and there was no one to sell tokens to them. We pointed out to them that the leftmost turnstile would let them go through without a token, and in the end that's what they did. (I have no idea if they put money in the box, but I know they did want to do the right thing. I'm presuming the MBTA will forgive them due to the fact that there was a snowstorm and that their own staff were apparently unable to get to work today...)
We listened to announcements that the T was running fifteen minutes late, but since we didn't know the schedule anyway, we didn't really worry about it. Sure enough, a Green Line C train showed up soon enough, and the driver confirmed for us that he was taking the train all the way to Cleveland Circle.
Nomi and I looked out on a beautiful snowy wonderland as the C train ascended from Kenmore Square onto Beacon Street. We saw that some sidewalks had been cleared, but the huge piles of snow between the plowed streets and the sidewalks made it difficult to see just how many sidewalks were clear. When we got to Coolidge Corner, we noted that Harvard Street appeared clear enough to walk along should we need to back track.
We got off at Summit Avenue and used our usual shortcut that took us along the length of Atherton Street. Some of the sidewalk was clear, but from experience we knew that much of it would be blocked by snow. So we walked down the middle of the street. Oddly enough, the street had been nicely plowed for quite a few meters from Summit Avenue, and for quite a few meters from the other end where it bottoms out on Winchester Street. But a foot-high pile of snow layered the middle of the street, and we passed a man pushing a car with a Michigan license plate through the unplowed section. (I have no idea how and why the snowplows would clear the two ends of the street only to leave the middle impassible, but on a day like today, I'm not exactly about to take them to task for it.) We also saw a lot of neighbors working together to dig out their driveways and, much more importantly, the pathways to their front doors.
Nomi and I made to to our apartment building, where there are snowbanks almost as tall as we are. Fortunately, someone had dug a cutout in the snowbank from the street to our front door, so we had no problem getting access to our building. We were finally home.
And it was only 3:45 PM. The T got us home in about the same amount of time as it would have taken even without the snow.
I have to admit that part of me feels it would have been nice to stay at the hotel for the extra continued version of Arisia (similar to the way the Boskone science fiction convention evolved into Snokone back in February of 2003, and we missed that continuation as well). But it's nicer to know that we're safely home, with a well-stocked kitchen and a happily full TiVo.
Kudos to the Boston Park Plaza for dealing with the Blizzard as best as they could...and major kudos to the T for getting us home.