The Afternoon I Survived Ida

Another lesson in self-care presented itself last week via the flooding we received in Frederick County, MD, from Hurricane Ida.

#hurricaneida #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

We got hit hard with Ida’s approximate 6-8 inches of rain, between 1-3 inches an hour! We were the ones you saw on the news with one of our school buses almost getting washed away. Scary stuff! A rescue boat was able to save the driver and all the children, thank God.

Me? I have a different tale.

I am a bus driver who works a split shift, meaning, I go in for a couple of hours in the morning, come home mid-day, then return mid-afternoon to take our elderly participants home.

The rain began Wednesday morning. It wasn’t too bad, yet. A drizzle. But everyone knew that we were supposed to get hammered in the afternoon.

It poured while I was home having lunch, attending an online doctor’s appointment and getting chores done. A sense of dread filled me. I told my husband that I was almost willing to pay my co-workers to take my participants home. I really did not want to return that afternoon, but I did not seriously consider calling my boss and telling her “Hey, I’m too scared to drive in this. Sorry.” I wanted to, but I didn’t.

Why are we afraid to stand up for what we believe?

Before I left, I hugged my husband extra hard.

My boss asked if we could come back approximately 15-30 minutes early between the latest storm cells or something.  

Around 2:00 p.m., I returned to work. There is a small, shaded, beautiful backroad that I sometimes take for a couple of miles on my commute, but I didn’t risk it. Who knew what this alternate route would bring today?  More shockingly, even the main street near the center was flooded badly at an intersection. There was a pond that spread across the entire street!

Fortunately, the center sits on a small hill so once I arrived, there was no standing water.

After arriving, I told my boss that I was scared.

The main street is flooding, I told her.

The country road?

No, the main street, I repeated.

I hung my wet rain jacket on the door knob and propped my dripping umbrella in the corner. I was upset. Why were we open? I thought to myself.

I said little, unlike my usual camarderie I have with my fellow drivers. They are a really nice and personable group, but I had lost my lightheartedness.

Our eyes were glued to our phones to see what our weather apps predicted. It was all bleak: forecasted flooding looked imminent.

Our boss returned. Everyone’s phones went off with the annoying, impossible-to-miss buzzer sound. The flash flood warning was in full effect. The NWS (National Weather Service) stated that no one should drive on the roads.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  

Our boss checked the local police scanner. I’m not sure for what, to be honest— bad accidents? An issue by the sheriff to clear the roads? — the latter did come later, around 4:00 p.m.

Our phones stopped beeping.

It looked like there was a break in the rain between 2:00-3:00 p.m. that might help get us off to a safe start.

Our phones all went off for another round of beeps. I felt those beeps. They rattled me. What was I doing here? I thought. I need to take care of myself.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

My nerves were shot, but the participants in the other room, with the help of the aides seemed very calm.

The other drivers and I went out to our buses. The torrential rain made me feel terrible. I don’t like rainy days normally, but this was so beyond that.

How high would the water have to be to flood my bus engine anyways? I wondered. I hoped pretty high.

I loaded my five participants up, and made my first mistake: taking a direct route albeit country lane that also had a new development being constructed on the hillside. You guessed it! Muddy water ran across it in different sections, creating dirty, wide streams I could barely see the stripes in the middle of the road through. Three or four streams, just on this lane! One or two of the participants exclaimed at them with me.

“Hold on!” I spoke. And so on. We laughed. I was scared, but couldn’t show it.

After that, I went up to the mountain ridge my first participant lives on. At least I didn’t have to worry about flooding there until of course when I came back down and was on country roads again. Soon, sure enough, we drove by a local farm or two, with more wide, muddy floods crossing our path.

One of the most awful things that flashed through my mind Wednesday afternoon was that I didn’t hug and kiss my children good bye that morning. I ALWAYS hug and kiss them every morning and night… and my mind grabbed hold of that fear, fast!

What if I don’t make it through this, what if I never see them again, what if…

Of all days that I had not hugged them before I left!

Muddy stream after muddy stream, this kept coming back to my mind… I hadn’t hugged and kissed them, I hadn’t hugged and kissed them…

When there was no opposing traffic, I rode the middle of every road that I could and fortunately most the roads in Frederick County have irrigation along the shoulders. Still, going through the 5th, 6th, then the 10th newly created stream of the day was scary. Finally, the torrential rain slowed.

I kept riding the middle and hoping for the best.

I was never so glad to town and drop off my 5th and final person at her apartment complex just outside city limits.

Wouldn’t you know it?!  Wind kicked in and the hard rain returned! I transferred my participant to their caregiver, and left as quickly as I could.

I was never so happy to see the center and bus lot!

It was 5:00 and I wasted no time in getting to my car and getting home.

I ran into a bit of traffic with some road closures, but I would not know the worst of it— such as that school bus incident— until that evening.

Long story short, I told my boss that I am not willing to work weather warnings anymore (just advisories and watches) and she apologized again and admitted that she made a bad decision. I told her that she already apologized and she was sincere.

I agonized over telling her off and on for the last several days because she is a great boss— kind, intelligent, and employee-centered. She made one mistake. Also, I would be sad to leave this job because I like it. 

I think ahead of the ramifications, particularly what my fellow bus drivers and immediate supervisor will think of me.

But I am about self-care.

I am not for putting my life in jeopardy for any job.

More than anything, I was mad at myself for several days for not following my intuition and honoring my truth which was calling my boss and telling her “Hey, I’m too scared to drive in this. Sorry.” I wanted to, but I didn’t.

Why are we afraid to stand up for what we believe?

We are worth it. Our families, too!

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