It was snowing. I stared out the window. It was coming down mightily, with accompanying wind gusts. I checked the temperature.
This was complicated by the fact that the thermometer outside the kitchen window, the weather app on my cell phone, and the car all disagreed vehemently with each other. To settle the dispute I turned on the radio, which produced a fourth disparity. The temperature should be a fact, not a subject of speculation, anyone who has ever been involved in a case alleging a buttocks-first free fall, belly flop or sideways catapult à la Benny Hill resulting from snow and ice knows well, but here were four separate versions of the facts, all presumed accurate. I decided that I would determine how cold it was by going outside and guessing.
My estimation was not numeric. My criteria were: no need for a hat; cold enough for a hat; hair freezes on the way between the parking garage and the office; uncontrollable shivering, even with the Carhartt; immediate onset of numbness of the proboscis; and fingers fall off. On this occasion, my hair froze within four minutes, making it 23 degrees.
The advent of inclement winter weather always provokes melancholy contemplation. Weather is a factor in my work. I get to go to Florida in July, and to Montana in January. If I happen to travel to a location which should bring me to better weather, my destination will inevitably experience a climatological anomaly. For instance, there will be snow in Atlanta; a heat wave in Maine, etc. I was once grounded by lightning in San Antonio. The jet sat on the runway, and we were not allowed to leave the plane, unfasten our seat belts or raid the plane’s refrigerator for four hours.
The most memorable incident of work-related travel involving weather occurred some years ago. It was February. The event was a fact-witness deposition. The witness had moved to a remote part of Washington State, about as far in as one could manage to get from the scene of the alleged negligence as possible. Two of the other attorneys had tickets on the same flights. The witness had formerly been employed by my client, so I had to be there; the co-defendant’s attorney, however, must have been wishing that he would require a convenient, emergency appendectomy.
Even leaving the weather out of it, the trip was complicated. It went like this: Hartford – Chicago – San Francisco – Seattle – puddle jumper – taxi – hotel – deposition. On the morning of the flight, it was snowing in Illinois. We circled Chicago for an hour, waiting to land. I looked helplessly at my watch, calculating the amount of time between landing and take-off and the anticipated distance between the arrival gate and the departing gate. When we were finally on the ground, I ran flailing through O’Hare, briefcase careening on one wheel behind me. We missed the connecting flight.
Time for Plan B!
This proved surprisingly difficult. We took turns cajoling ticket agents, finally reaching Seattle at 1 a.m. on the day of the deposition. We faced driving 150 miles through an ice storm in a rental car or postponing the deposition for a day, which would throw all of our return flight plans out the window. More cajoling followed, as did a few fitful naps on hard chairs.
We made it to the little town. The witness testified.
In the Seattle airport, counsel for the co- defendant ran into a dear friend who was traveling on business. On the way home, we came through Philadelphia, where my best friend, who lives in California, was in the airport, going home after visiting her mother. Two best friends, two unpredictable meetings — what are the odds?
Recently, I ran into the plaintiff’s attorney. It was snowing when I saw him. I asked if he remembered the fateful trip. "I didn’t go," he said. "It was February. Don’t you remember? I attended via videoconference."
C’est la vie. •