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The shot heard round the world (of Mary El's head)

Dec 29, 2009

If you live in DC – and chances are if you don’t – you probably heard the story about the snowball fight gone awry during the recent blizzard, aka Snowpocalypse 2009. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you may read the story HERE. (Other coverage showed up in the Washington Post, the New York Post, and even BBC News – that’s right, we went international!)

And now, for my version.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I wasn’t all that thrilled about the snow. I had planned a lingerie shower for Megan on the very day the heavens dumped 16 inches of the most beautiful, powdery snow I’ve ever seen on the city. At first I was pouting, but then I realized everyone’s weekend plans were kaput. Margaret had a friend who was supposed to come visit that day, but her flight was cancelled. And countless other friends, including Ashmi, missed their flights home for Christmas. When my Aunt Lucia (one of my mom’s oldest and best friends and an avid reader of this blog – she deserves a shoutout! Woot woot!) wrote me and told me to get over it, everyone would be outside and I would have memorable fun, I did just that.

One of the great things about having a roommate is you have a friend on days like Snowmageddon. While others were cooped up in their apartments with no one to talk to, Margaret and I began scheming how we would spend the day. Because I went skiing last January I had snow gear, and that is the only reason, because we don’t get snow worth mentioning in Georgia, and I never imagined I would see snow like this. Let me say as an aside that I have never been happier to have my genuine gray full-length Uggs. Not until the end of the day did my toes even begin to feel less than warm.

We first got a hot breakfast downstairs in a little cafe and observed all the people who were braving the blizzard. The people watching was terrific! Everyone’s funny hats and homemade scarves were on display. Two men, who obviously didn’t know each other but were both smoking cigars, had a passer-by take their picture then parted ways. The snow had piled up around parked cars, and two guys attempted to get their BMW out. After about an hour, help from at least three other people on the street, a broom from the cafe we were sitting in, and a friendly tow truck, they were able to get out. Whether they made it to their destination I’ll never know, but we all cheered when they finally drove away at approximately 3 mph.

There was an atmosphere of excitement, togetherness, and fun. When we ventured out, we thought we’d make a snowman. But as we walked toward 14th St we noticed a large crowd and realized they were having a snowball fight! About 200 of our neighbors had gathered on either side of 14th St, and we arrived right as the fight began. (This included Hot Trash Breath Guy, who I saw hiding behind a trashcan, thus perpetuating the image of hot trash odor coming out of his mouth.) Some people were prepared with bags of pre-made snowballs. Mine were just kind of flat and fell apart by the time I threw them, but no one was targeting me (probably because I looked so, er, special with my giant pink ski jacket, big purple gloves, and weak throwing arm…and it didn’t help that I was laughing like Goofy the entire time).

A cop drove by and I got nervous, but then I noticed he was smiling at us and taking pictures with his phone. Another cop turned down 14th St and got stuck, and some guys halted the snowball fight and pushed his car out of the snow drift. A local news van was taping the whole thing, and I felt so happy that such good, clean fun would be broadcast to show what an upstanding, happy community we young DC professionals are.

When the fight commenced I moved to the outskirts because I’m a huge wimp, and also I wanted to be on TV. Right as I reached the edge, someone yelled, “Hummer!” Sure enough, a maroon Hummer was pulling toward the intersection. Then the chant started. “Hum-MER! Hum-MER!” And then snowballs started hurtling toward my head. My side of the street had turned to face the Hummer, and suddenly I was on the front lines! Thankfully -- and to my utter horror-- it didn’t take many hits until the man in the Hummer got out. He looked CRAZY mad. And he was walking right toward me. He yelled, “Throw another one, see what happens!” And some idiot threw another one – right in his face!!! (Geez, guys have skillz! If I had tried to taunt Hummer Guy I guarantee the snowball would have disintegrated in the air and I would have slipped and fallen and then cried in hopes he wouldn’t be too mad at me.)

The next part is a little fuzzy. All I remember is Margaret (where did she come from?) speaking in a very low voice into my ear, “He has a gun.”

My eyes darted to his left hand. At first I didn’t believe my eyes, but there it was. The world around me froze. He. Has. A. Gun. (Much less many guns that would necessitate an entire gun rack! Okay never mind.) And there was nothing but pretty little snowflakes between me and the gun. A GUN. A gun. A gun! My mouth dropped open and my feet would not move. You’re going to get shot, MOVE! I told myself. But I couldn’t move. And he was walking closer. And more people were throwing snowballs at him. And I was going to die on snOMG Day.

As I stared at death down the barrel of a gun, I somehow willed my legs to work, and I turned and ran for the hills. Unfortunately DC has no hills, so I hid behind a lamppost instead, which shielded about half of my arm. I shut my eyes and waited for the gunshots to ring out. I swear I felt my chest bleeding, but I checked it every few seconds and I was miraculously okay. Well, it felt miraculous in the moment. I guess it’s no real miracle that I didn’t get shot when he never shot the gun.

A few minutes later the cops showed up, and when they saw Hummer Guy they all looked exasperated. And I’m sure you all know the kicker here -- Hummer Guy was an off-duty cop, Detective Baylor, and told us, “You bet I pulled out my gun, they were throwing snowballs at me!” Um, ooooookay.

After four attempted arrests, Detective Baylor finally retreated to his Hummer and the cops told us we could get back to the snowball fight. Most people were leaving, though, but many migrated to Dupont Circle to start another fight. Margaret and I decided we’d had enough run-ins with the law for one year and walked back to the cafe where the snow had piled up nicely on the sidewalk. There we made Glenda the Snowwoman, because, as one male passer-by said, “There are too many men in DC.” (News to me!) With prune eyes, a carrot nose, and a pretty purple cashmere scarf, Glenda was a perfect mascot for our street. We predicted the scarf would be stolen within the hour. The next day everything was still there…except the eyes. You can draw your own conclusions.

When we decided we’d had enough, we fell back onto the sidewalk and made snow angels then ran inside to get warm. Two men in the lobby were filling in the concierge on the day’s events. When we walked in, one looked at me and started laughing.

“You were there! Oh man, you should have seen your face when that guy pulled out the gun! I’ve never seen someone look so scared and run so fast!”

Really? That's not how I remember it, I thought as I visualized the gun inching closer and closer to my face and my feet cemented to the ground.

That night we watched the news coverage on TV and online. Aaaaaaand I guess I wasn’t as close as I thought, because I didn’t get in any of the videos. Oh well, it was worth a shot. (HA!)

Unhealthy Metro Fantasies

Dec 11, 2009

In light of all the recent Metro crashes, I am ashamed to say I have become fascinated – not terrified – with the idea of being involved in one.

No, I’m not sad and suicidal. In fact, things are going so well in my life I am quite the opposite. I have a new job I love, a new neighborhood that is one of the hottest spots in the city, an apartment that, apart from a raw sewage backup in our kitchen sink, is so much nicer than my old place, I actually have a debt pay-down plan and hopes to buy a place in the next year or two, Britney Spears came out with a new single, and on top of it all I’ve lost five pounds!

But – and I blame this on the fact that I’m a girl and can’t help it – I’m bored. Well, bored and a little lonesome. Sabrina moved a couple months back, Megan is moving next month to Louisiana for her new job and getting married a few months later, Ashmi and Raghav might as well be an old married couple, most of my other friends have paired off with someone, and even Margaret’s considering settling down.

So naturally I would fantasize about my Metro car crashing into another one. It’s gotta be a great way to meet people, right? The bar scene obviously doesn’t work, and neither does online dating (although I signed up for eharmony for the second time after making Joanna promise me she would cut off my hands if I ever considered online dating again). But if “Speed” taught us anything other than, yes, a bus can jump across a giant gap in a bridge if going more than 55 mph, it’s that people will live happily ever after if put in a very stressful public transportation situation together.

You may be thinking, “Mary El, your Metro car doesn’t need to explode to meet a guy – just go talk to him, or just slip him your card.” First of all, no. Second of all, um, no. “Okay then,” you may say, “smile a little and maybe one will come to you.” The problem with that is, if I make eye contact with a hot guy, I immediately get embarrassed and look away then attempt to make eye contact with him again for the rest of the train ride, but I usually wait too long and realize he got off two stops back and I have, once again, missed my chance with the man of my dreams (or Metro crash fantasy).

Anyway, the guys that usually talk to me on the Metro are either deformed, homeless, or have really bad breath. Recently, after grabbing a seat during rush hour (an almost impossible feat), the guy I sat next to began pointing out things in my newspaper, trying to make conversation, I imagine. I smiled politely, gave him a short answer, and stuffed my face deeper into the paper. He wasn’t altogether horrible looking, but he had, as Margaret would say, hot trash breath. So I could have gotten to know him, but I really didn’t want him to keep talking. Alas, he did, and then we got off at the same stop and I had to run ahead of him so as not to perpetuate the conversation all the way to my door. I saw him earlier this week and he gave me a mean look. I was too relieved that his mouth was closed to feel very bad.

This morning a particularly yummy, big, tall, Tom Brady lookalike boarded my car, and when we made eye contact I went all retarded, first shrugging into my coat then panicking that I was giving myself a double chin, so I craned my neck to make it look elongated and elegant, causing me to almost fall backwards when the train started moving. So…yeah, he didn’t try to talk to me. And when I finally got the nerve to look at him again four stops later, he’d gotten off. If only our train had crashed, I would have gracefully fallen into his arms, and he would have held me tight until the train stopped, and then I would have tearfully looked up into his eyes and frighteningly whispered, "Will you hold me a little while longer? I'm so shaken up." And then we would have gotten MARRIED!

But maybe I’m off base with this whole fantasy. Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed is kind of annoying, actually. She can't drive because she didn’t take care of her parking tickets (not that I’m that much better, but I’ve never had my license revoked thankyouverymuch), so I’m guessing she wasn’t terribly responsible in other areas of her life. Then there’s Keanu Reeves, who is (was) YUM (in the 90s) and is a superfine cop in LA (scary!) and looks awesome in a tee shirt and has a weird accent that’s kind of intriguing (Caaans! It was caaans!) and is quick thinking under pressure and manages to keep everyone calm while he’s defusing a bomb on a moving bus full of – let’s face it – bus people (which is why I don’t ride the bus). So, yeah, they shared that fun kiss at the end when they’re rolling out from under the bus right before it blows up, but would the relationship last? If they did keep dating, would they need stressful situations for the rest of their lives to make it work? Then they would die early from all the stress, or their car would possibly blow up.

Hmm, I’ve got some things to think about. I need a new fantasy anyway. Pizza, anyone?