According to my favorite online weather page, there will be snow or rain mixed with snow until Trump is ready to shut the government down again. So let’s talk about weather!
I’m deliberately not going to talk about global warming (which is real, make no mistake), because I know nobody wants to hear about that in the middle of a cold spell. So what if the global average has gone up a degree since hula hoops were a big deal? My face is frozen.
When people come to Seattle looking for snow and winter sports, they have in mind getting to it in cars equipped with chains driven up a Cascade pass. They don’t expect the snow and winter sports to drop in within the city limits and show up at their front door.
I remember the first snow I ever saw in Seattle. I was in fourth grade and we had a half-inch of snow out of season in late fall. We turned on the radio to hear the school snow closures and mine was closed. Having lived in Massachusetts for the four years prior to that — and made to go to school each day as soon as the streets were plowed — I thought Seattle had gone nuts.
Then I got old enough to drive and we had another of those light dustings when I had to drive to the University of Washington from Beacon Hill, and I almost killed myself trying to use the 23rd Avenue approach to the Montlake Bridge. Oh. Hills.
About five years after that epiphany, I found out what it was like to be homeless during a serious snowstorm.
I was freshly homeless living out of the Green ’69 Rambler. For a couple of weeks I just parked it on side streets and slept in it, kept warm by a blanket. The Rambler was old and beat up. I’d got it for $200. It didn’t have a functioning heater. It didn’t have a fully functioning steering wheel (too much “play” — “too much” as in probably illegal) or a fully functioning set of brakes. It did have one aligned headlight. The other pointed to 2 o’clock and slightly up. So when I drove it I’d avoid arterials where I might encounter law enforcement.
I digress. As said, I had no car heater though I had a kerosene catalytic heater that I could use in a pinch.
But I couldn’t afford to buy enough kerosene to use it more than two hours a night.
Seattle had a rare Snowmaggedon right then. Two weeks after I started living in the car, the sky dropped a foot of snow on us. After which the temperature dropped to pain levels 5-7, and everything including me and my blanket started to freeze. Two hours heat per night became unacceptable from a survival standpoint.
I developed frostbite in my feet. I read the Book of Job, looking for loopholes. Finding none, I resigned myself to the death of all my servants and to boils all over my body.
However, motivated by the frostbite, I got the idea to park in the University of Washington underground parking lot under Red Square. It was a really fabulous idea. There was no charge to park at night. All I had to do was drive out by 7:30 AM to avoid a parking fee. By parking all the way in, near the base of Kane Hall, I got the benefit of Kane Hall’s heat. Boils did not come to pass. I had no servants, anyway. The frostbite sort of healed on its own.
I want to point out that living out of a car in the UW parking garage was legal back then. When campus security tried to tell me I couldn’t sleep in the garage I was able to inform them that it was indeed legal and invite them call their superiors to check their facts.
The idea was that state land belonged to the people and as a member of said people I could use any of it as long as I left it in the condition I found it. And as long I didn’t suck up all the air in it or steal the water from it, like a corporation might be prone to do.
Don’t try sleeping in the underground parking lot today. The state legislature has since made it illegal and the relevant RCW passage is posted at the entrances.
You can’t come in out of the cold anymore and be warmed by Kane Hall. You might be an undesirable. We can’t take any chances. Stay outside and freeze.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Read the full Feb. 13 - 19 issue.
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