Thursday, February 07, 2008

Walking up a deserted Monroe Street to pick up some necessities at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's, a Beacon of Sustenance on a Winter Night

Peter Patau Photo

We needed to get some frozen pizzas and other necessities of life, and I was reluctant to start experimenting with the car on our unplowed side street. So I volunteered to walk to Trader Joe's, about a 15-minute walk. On a night when Madison was locked up tight as a drum (even the Laurel Tavern was closed, and they never close), Trader Joe's was open till 9:00, their usual closing time.

I walked up Monroe Street. Literally. Normally traffic on this major artery is so heavy that you need a red flag to cross the street, and even then, you're taking your life in your hands. But with virtually no cars on the road, the freshly plowed street was like a well-tended sidewalk (in much better shape than many of the residential sidewalks on the way). It was a surreal walk. Usually Monroe Street is only this deserted very late at night, and there's not a person to be seen. But now there were plenty of people walking on the snowy street, almost as if they out on an evening stroll on the nearby Southwest Bike Path.

The lights of Trader Joe's shone like a beacon of sustenance in the night. Actually, I had been surprised they were even open when I called. After all, the store relies on a "just in time" inventory system whereby they restock daily from a huge 18-wheeler that somehow squeezes into the loading dock behind the store on a residential street. But I found out when I was in the store that the truck had arrived at 4:30 in the afternoon after driving up through the blizzard from Chicago, via Milwaukee, where they have another store. The truck somehow made the trip without incident, through weather that put lots of cars and trucks in ditches or left them stuck on the roadway itself -- until the driver got to the Madison Trader Joe's loading dock. That's when they got stuck, trying to pull up to the loading dock. Staffers worked with snow blowers and shovels for two hours to help get the truck unstuck, pausing now and then to help cars that got stuck behind the truck, which was blocking the street. And that's why everyone in the store was flying around restocking when I came in about a half hour before closing time. They were running a bit behind schedule. I was just glad they were open.

As I walked home back down the magically deserted Monroe Street, I marveled at the Trader Joe's driver who made it about 170 miles through a raging blizzard, while I had been reluctant to drive my car one unplowed block after the snow stopped. I felt absurdly grateful.

1 comment:

Dr Diablo said...

MadGuy, what I have come to dread most about a Madison snowstorm is your heart-rending references to the rigors of alternate-side parking. I tear up at the image of two stooped, gasping old boomers leaning on their shovels for support every 30 seconds as they struggle to extricate their vehicle, all the while hoping that they are finally clear on what side of the street is the odd-numbered side. You make me feel guilty about having a two-car garage.

Maybe this story will cheer you. The family across the street from me has a fleet of five vehicles; some are for business, some for pleasure, some for the use of their teenage children. Their driveway holds only one car, so there is generally one in the drive, two in front of their house, and two in front of ours. Every snowstorm, they race the clock to move two of their junkers to the correct side before the plow buries them. If they fail to act expedititiously, they have to dig out a pair to relocate them. If they miss their dealine, as does happen, they awaken to find citations fluttering from a couple of windshields.

So be glad you don't a half-dozen cars, MadGuy, or you would often be calling in sick to keep up with the demands of alternate-side parking.