White blusters its way across the city. The kids rush out between class periods to chase, slide, slip, and chuck. Ice finds its way down one’s sweater. She squeals as her flailing causes her to lose her footing, and insult gets added to injury. Her wet skirt and tights will remain with her for the rest of the day. But so will her smile.
It is snowing in Istanbul. Suddenly, fingers are crossed inside pant pockets, and eyes dart away from marker boards and out the window as the city is painted anew in broad brushstrokes of white. There is a palpable hope, but the same question lingers on the mind of adult and child alike: Will there be school tomorrow?
We read the promising signs like mystics with their tealeaves. It’s sticking. It’s not stopping. It’s only going to get colder tonight. It’s the icy kind that’s anathema to school buses. After school activities are cancelled.
And even more importantly, we learn that the service buses that take the teachers and students home will be leaving school late today because traffic is at a standstill due to snow and ice. While that is disheartening for students who want nothing more than to leave the premises, it’s yet another good sign of things to come.
“I think I’m going to have to sleep here tonight, Mr. Khan,” one student jokingly tells me as he sits patiently with smartphone in hand to pass the time. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but he lives on the Anatolian side. It will be hours before he is home.
“We’re all going to die,” says another, more hyperbolic student.
When the service buses finally arrive, we’re all told to pack in together. Instead of separate trips for students and teachers, each service bus will make its loop only once. Therefore, every bus is standing room only.
This just wouldn’t be allowed in the US.
More importantly, it sounds like a particularly bad idea on these hills in these conditions. But, who’s going to look this gift horse in the mouth? It’s either this or an hour and a half walk in these conditions. At least on the bus, I’m not guaranteed to fall down.
It’s not until the bus finally pulls away that I realize that I actually don’t know how I would find out if school gets cancelled in the morning. What’s the WTNH News Channel 8 equivalent here? Is there a website? Do we get a call? Does anyone important know my cell number?
I start to imagine possible scenarios. What if I don’t see the service bus and assume we don’t have school when we do? Even worse, what if I don’t see the service bus, take a taxi, and realize I travelled all that way for nothing? Worse still, what if the weather turns nice and we just have a normal day of school? I push that one out of mind as soon as it enters.
In a panic, I send texts to a few people with hopes that they might text me in the morning should word get out. They all kindly agree, and so I settle in for the ride home (or more accurately – the stand home). The traffic is awful. I live only ten minutes away, or at least I usually do. Today, I live more than an hour away.
My neck begins to ache first as I crook over under the low ceiling. My back starts to turn on me next, and no amount of shifting seems to satisfy it.
Okay, the ground is covered in dirt-slush, but this is just agony. Should I sit down? No, that’s just ridiculous. I’ll look like an idiot, and I’ll be covered in wet filth. But this is just awful. Maybe I’ll just crouch. Eh, I’ll still look foolish, and there are students on the bus. Ohhh, my back. Fuck it. I’m sitting.
And then it happens. The ping-ping of my iPhone.
“Yes, just found out its definitely a snow holiday tomorrow! Enjoy J”
And my spirit soars.
What back pain?