Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oh, the Irony

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to work from home. The only reason I left my house was to attend a training session for the Point in Time Homelessness Census. Next Wednesday night, weather permitting, I will join about fifty teams of people to canvas every neighborhood in the District, surveying those experiencing homelessness on the street that night. The training consisted of an overview of the survey we will administer through relational conversations and explanations of how to keep ourselves safe and care for those we encounter who need emergency services for problems like hypothermia. We were told to prepare to be outside for four hours 10 pm until 2 am at the end of January. It will be cold. It will not be an easy night.

Five months ago I may have had a few more reservations about this work. Despite my extroverted, friendly nature, I may have been more hesitant to wake people up to ask demographic questions. However, I have been having these conversations on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Depending on where my team is assigned, I could even run into some of our Radcliffe Room guests. I am genuinely excited about this event, what data we will collect, who we will connect with more resources, or just a McDonald's gift card.

As I rode the bus down toward Logan Circle, I saw the snow start in small flurries. Immediately, I told my roommates.

"It shouldn't be too bad," they said.

I left the training at around 8, and the snowfall had covered the ground with a nice solid dusting. I waited inside until my handy dandy NextBus app told me I had five minutes until my bus came. All bundled up with my leggings, yoga pants, socks, tennis shoes, t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, jacket, scarf, headband, hat, gloves, and hand warmers, I confidently walked across the street to the bus stop. I even paused to take a time-lapse video of the snow, which I still considered beautiful and mystical.

This was nice and cute when I thought I would get on a bus in 4 minutes...not in an hour. DC, why are you struggling so hard with the snow this early?! #snowmageddon #notquite

Then five minutes turned to four...for over ten minutes. Then the sign at our stop went to eight minutes. About twenty minutes later, the first bus passed us by, completely full, without stopping. It's ok. Another one was coming in three minutes. That bus flashed the "NOT IN SERVICE" sign. After waiting for thirty minutes, I decided to start actively walking toward a different route rather than passively waiting in the cold to watch buses pass me by.

From 16th and P, to 14th and Q, then to 14th and Rhode Island, and 14th and N, and finally 14th and L, I walked trying to meet a bus at a stop that would actually let me board. According to my phone, those maneuvers added 2 miles to my daily distance. I had waited in the cold for an hour when I was finally able to board a bus that would take me closer to our house, rather than walking farther away from it.

I felt frozen and incredibly angry. Come on, DC! You're not South Carolina! You have to know how to deal with snow better than this. Meteorologists exist for a reason! We knew this was coming...where was the salt? Why couldn't the buses be on time? What good is public transportation when it doesn't run the normal schedule or pick up everyone who is patiently waiting? Why were all of the transportation apps (Uber, Lyft, Split) busy or incredibly overpriced? Why didn't I wear better shoes? Why couldn't I just get home to my warm bed? Why did I even decide to leave my house tonight? Ugh.

In the midst of my angry mental ranting and curse-filled texting, it hit me. I left my house to be proactive about caring about our neighbors who experience this on a nightly basis. If I could barely stand an hour in this cold, what about our guests who will be sleeping in this or trying to find a place warm all night? What about when they get kicked out of a McDonald's or CVS for not being a customer? Would I receive that same treatment?

The bus ride was slow-going because of so much traffic, ice, and the panic that always induces. The hour I spent on the over-heated bus gave me plenty of time to thaw. As we rode along, I saw that the bus I would normally transfer to had stopped operating for the night. Curse you, E4. So I walked the remaining 9 or so blocks back to the house. I opened the door feeling cold, but not as cold as when I had first boarded the bus. Immediately, I took off my snow-filled shoes and yoga pants and peeled off all the extra layers. I was able to come into a warm house with freshly clean sheets to put on my bed, a computer where I can write this blog to help process this experience, and a functional intentional community full of people I love dearly.

Ok, got it. Privilege: checked.

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