I don’t believe I’m courting controversy when I say we’ve had more snow than I’d care to enjoy this winter. It was probably sometime during hour two of the nearly three I spent driving home on the Hutch during last week’s 10 inches that I remembered the only time I’ve ever enjoyed a snow storm in my adult life.
Although, even that day, it took me a while to realize I’d had a good blizzard.
The year was 1994. If you were in Westchester at that time, you probably remember we had a snowstorm that year of such magnitude I can say, hey, remember the blizzard of ’94 and you will say yes, yes I do.
The date, if my quick bit of ‘net research is correct, was likely Feb. 11, 1994. We got 12.8 inches of snow that day from a storm that began in the early morning hours and continued well into the night. Even if I didn’t do that bit of ‘net research, I would have remembered the snow started quite early that day because it was also the day Tower Records/Video in Yonkers took inventory.
Tower inventory. I still twitch when I think of it.
From 1992 to 1996, right out of high school and continuing four years after I bombed out of college, I was a supervisor at Tower Video in Yonkers. Sure, I was a clerk for the first three months or so, but clearly they knew what they had.
An 18-year-old dope that’d never had a job and would put up with pretty much anything.
Tower prided itself on three things: Having the best music and movie selection around, remaining open from 9 a.m. to midnight 366—their number—days a year and paying its employees jack.
On the flip side, the company let us get away with basically anything, which was probably just intoxicating–sometimes literally–enough to keep us there dealing with whatever lunacy the company and the customers had in store for us next.
If you’ve done any tours in retail—I’ve done two, both for companies that no longer exist—you will have probably heard of a company called RGIS. We pronounced it “Regis” despite the presence of only one vowel. Anyway, RGIS is a company other companies hire to collect data. In retail terms, that means you can hire RGIS, which sends a minimally skilled army into your store armed with little scanners that zap and count every piece of merchandise in the facility. When RGIS is done, voila, you’ve taken store inventory.
Tower never hired RGIS. It had its own minimally skilled army and you can rent zappers.
And so, I think it was twice a year, every employee at Tower Yonkers worked one of three 12-hour shifts and we zapped and counted every CD, cassette tape, VHS tape, blank tape, laser disc, accessory, cleaning kit and copy of High Times in the place.
It was excruciating.
On Feb. 11, 1994, as I’ve decided it was, I was one of the first wave of cannon fodder on the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift. As I recall, the snow was either already falling when I arrived, or else began soon after I zapped my first rack of Easy Listening.
And so it went. For hours. And for inch after inch of snow.
I had a girlfriend at this time and, for the most part, she was quite unreasonable. In the course of our two-year relationship, she broke up with me 12 times. We always got back together though, because she knew what she had.
An 18-year-old dope who’d never had a girlfriend before and who would put up with just about anything.
I was supposed to see her when I was done with inventory that day. Somewhere along the line, after sunset, I remember being in the classical room on the phone with her when she broke up with me. I’m sure it had something to do with me not leaving, or not being able to leave, when I said I would, but I don’t quite remember.
It was unreasonable though; I can pretty much guarantee you that.
I’m pretty sure I left work at around 8 p.m. with 14 hours of inventory under my freshly-single belt. In somewhere around hour 13, I remember grousing to the general manager of the store, a guy called Kevin, about why I had to stay as long as I did.
“I don’t get to leave, either,” he said. Comforting.
By the time I left work there was probably a good eight inches of snow on the ground with some degree of that in the road. I remember nothing about the drive home—I would have been in a 1988 Chevy Nova then—but I do remember arriving on my street to discover I had to dig my way into one of the few parking spaces that remained unoccupied.
And so I took the shovel from my trunk and did just that. For about 40 minutes. I’d probably have a heart attack in half that time today.
I spent just about zero time in my own home in those days. If I wasn’t at my girlfriend’s apartment on McLean Avenue in Yonkers, I was at my best friend’s, whose building was next door to mine on Bronx River Road. Though he was still at work himself, I went to my best friend’s house that night and hung out with his younger brother, who I’ve known since he was born.
I told my friend’s brother and their stepfather about my ordeal shoveling into a parking spot after working 14 hours—I probably left out the bit about being dumped for the seventh or eighth time—and they gave me some hot chocolate to bring me around.
It was then, sipping hot chocolate on my best friend’s couch, I realized what I’d accomplished that day. I worked 14 hours, gotten another Tower inventory behind me, I’d weathered another absurd breakup without running to McLean Avenue to beg for reconciliation, I’d driven home death-free and I’d carved out a temporary home for my car in the tundra Bronx River Road had become with my own two hands, dammit.
I’d had a pretty good blizzard after all. A man’s blizzard.
A man. At least for that moment.
My girlfriend and I got back together, of course. She still had a few new and interesting breakups in store for me. When we finally parted company later in 1994, I’d say it was mutual if I’m being charitable, but the reality was she broke up with me one time too many and I made her stick to it.
Maybe the seeds for that decision were planted one snow-covered, zappy-scanny night earlier that year.
By the way, fun postscript to this story. Today, my ex is a life coach. That’s 100 percent true.
I wouldn’t snow you.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him Twitter @jasonchirevas