Sitting as a wall flower in a meeting with high level managers allows the mind to wander. Facing a wall of windows on a winter day in the mid-west provides a playground of ideas and observations.

Morning and the flags are hanging so sadly draped against the poles. Sad but still providing the only color on this grey day. The heavy freezing fog grows hoar frost on the branches of the black bark oak trees. Black and white background, browns by the sides of the roads, parking lots and drives. Even the cars have a ghost white coating of road salt and ice. Everyone is moving slowly, carefully. People walking in from their cars shuffle step like elderly residents of a nursing home, frightened of falling, yet hurrying to get in from the cold. The warmth of the room and the drone of the speakers makes it hard to stay awake. If only I had some part, something to add to the discussion to keep myself focused.

The wind picks up slightly, the flags crack off their icy coatings to ripple fitfully, still hugging the poles. No one is walking outside. Cars drive slowly by. The hoar frost flakes and falls almost like snow. The trees move, shaking and creaking in the breeze. Just enough wind to move the fog. Relief from the monotony, but a harbinger of bad things to come. A change of weather can only bring danger. Temperatures just at freezing with lots of humidity will result in precipitation; we can only hope it is snow. The schools have already closed from the dire predictions of the weather men. Now I have something to watch, something to keep my attention. So many people in one room, so warm, darkened for the projector, and still the droning speakers.

It has started to rain, the ice is visibly building up on the cars. It is getting bad quickly. An ambulance drives by, lights flashing, yet creeping slowly along the street. Safety over speed, this is not the time to have an emergency. Others are looking out the window, even the current speaker. Time for a break, bathroom and weather watch. Someone calls up the local weather radar on a laptop computer. This is only the beginning. We can’t even identify some of the colors on the screen. Someone announces that he just talked to his wife, it is sleeting ten miles to the west, almost could be called hail. The weatherman calls it ice pellets. Suddenly, the scene turns white. Large wet flakes of snow. This is good, it will be messy, but there will be traction; for walking and driving. It isn’t even noon yet.

Visitors from out of town start checking the airport. Why did they ever come north in January? They are desperate to get back to their homes and warmth. They groan aloud as the scene outside changes again to sleet and rain. The speaker waits for all for all to pay attention again. We can get through everything if we just focus. The out of town people can get out, surly it will get better. Someone check the radar again, yes it should get better.

By noon, there are no cars on the road. The trees have gone from white frosted to glazed with ice. They are eerily beautiful. An animated discussion grabs everyone’s attention for a while, but then back to the droning. We have all read the slides before the event. We have all given our criticisms. No arguments allowed in front of the customer. Authority overrules intelligence, not often, but still annoying. The skies seem to be getting lighter. The rain is slowing. Just a few more hours then head home. There will be scraping of ice and a careful drive. What? I’m sorry, can you repeat the question. Oh yes, I can deal with that still today. Yes, I can get that to California tonight. They will wait. If we finish here by five o’clock, I can get it done by seven our time. No staying late isn’t a problem.

They are finally done. It is dark. Scraping the car will have to wait. Call the wife and let her know I will be late. No, don’t save any dinner, I had plenty of bad food all day. The group goes by discussing where to eat, others are rushing for the airport. At least I don’t have to travel tonight. I will get to sleep in my own bed. The kids may be asleep by the time I get home, but I will be at home.

Finally done, the data is sent. The ice isn’t so bad on the car. The drive home is slow. The roads are ice covered. Most people are already home, so the roads are mostly empty. The weatherman on the radio suggests that there will be more nasty weather overnight. If it is bad enough, I can work from home, home with my children and my wife. An ice storm is not such a bad thing after all.

KEEP WRITING

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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