Category Archives: winter woes

The Coldest Day of the Year.





The service elevators were easy for her to find.

She’d spent an entire week of her life at that hospital, nights and days in the summer of ’95, and not as a patient.

Somewhere between Father’s Day June 14th and the last week of July, hair bobbed shorter than it had been since right after she’d given it up in ’82, each sundress from the now ex-honeymoon taking its paper doll turn down those glued carpet halls with their bands of border color marking every corner, her feet, incongruous in hospital issue tube socks, rendered right of passage. She’d worn those rubberized socks, every day that sweltering summer, claiming her route from just past the ramp to the room to the cafeteria and back, just like the help. In the third bed of the second quad of the ninth floor, her mother was dying. She could do whatever the hell she wanted.

Admittedly, entering the grand lobby and approaching the receptionist was, over twenty years hence, an odd thing, but this time she wasn’t entirely sure of her destination. In fact, taking care to wear her oversized, wool-lined denim jacket, one of the knit scarves from the plastic storage bag, the fading pair of black boots, ratty brown leather gloves inherited from her oldest aunt, the most shapeless, unmatched winter hat and even a pair of oval tortoise shells from ninth grade she felt it fitting that, not really knowing where she was going she should appear entirely unrecognizable.

Quietly, uncharacteristically, she bowed her head. Where was the dialysis department, and what was the quickest way to get there? Stylus poised, she mapped the receptionist’s recommended path without comment. Marveling at life’s minor consistencies, she wondered if the thickened skinned, transparently vacant woman had quit her second job at Macy’s or if the retail chain had already let her go.

The row of lobby elevators stood like the gates of Hades, too large, too chrome, too imposing. There were just too many, at least four, the product of Total Quality Management’s marketing ploy to make this medical complex look like the diocesan center for all who came to worship.

The receptionist, powerless in every other aspect of her life, had been eager to disclose the insider’s view, sending her well past the Lake of Fire and into the alleys of the old wing where the walls were still painted mint green and every step could be heard. Decades earlier this had been one lone brick building, where every appendix burst, every broken bone arrived to be set, and every child who wasn’t Catholic came to be born. Equally fitting that these were the walls and halls wherein those whose kidneys were failing would spend three days of every week of the final five to seven years of their lives.

She could see them now, just beyond the vending machines. She knew that, stepping in or out of a service elevator, her denim sleeves might brush against any number of incoming patients or aides. Her wager was that the costume she had affected would blend her into the scenery, render her subconsciously dismissed by even those in closest proximity.  She had come to seek a panoramic picture of the whole operation from the point of view of invisibility.

This was, allegedly, a work day. Word was the census was low; with good Irish luck, all patients would be finished before the next round of lake effect. She knew that there would be no snow on this shift, however; sub zero windchills into the double digits would prevent even the most determined flake from crystallizing. This would break all records for the coldest day of the year.

Reaching the first of the two double doors, she extended a gloved finger toward the Down button. Just as she pressed it, “ding!” – the plastic arrow above the second one lit up cherry red and its doors opened, releasing all occupants.

There were no patients in this elevator. From the distorting corner of the right lens of her ninth grade tortoise shell glasses she could just make out the form of his broad shoulder. Looking out from under the frames, however, her newly far-sighted eyes could clearly see the short, wide fingers of his right hand, fingers which had grasped her own flesh and traced every inch of the surface of her skin even as they reached to graze the small of the back of the uniformed woman who stepped out after him.





© 1/6/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Do the right thing; write your own. Thanks.








The Spies.

So, now those who just read headlines are all up in a bunch, pantiwise, over the latest Wikileaks release.

Seems it’s merely official, finally; everything we say and/or do, on either our phones or computers, and even via our TVs if they are Smart /and, phhh, even if they are dumb as stone can be intercepted; viewed; seized; and, Lord knows, transported into any number of Files Are Us.

That said, allow me.

“Hey, there, iRobot. You like my style? You watch me chat with my people, and toss me a photo essay about the vegetables I search and their corresponding polyphenols? You like my test results? You need to feed me the latest fake horoscope?

Your attempts to flatter are folly, you of the artificial intelligence. If thou art so smart, why dost thou even need me and all my trolling patterns?”

You really think I’m not immune, by now, to all the ploys?

That bit about getting into our cars, via satellite radio, and programming us to crash? That’s old. Richard A. Clarke already told us all about that, in his novel, PINNACLE EVENT.

The Will is strong in me. I get my kicks out of skewing data. Anomalies Are Moi, I say!

So, there.

Factor that one up your faux ass.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    3/7/17         All rights those of the living, breathing female human person from whom these blog posts come, whose name appears above this line. I’d thank you for your respect, but you don’t process the meaning of the concept.

Lake Effected.

The first lake effect snowstorm of the season descended upon Erie-town this morning.

For those who live in oblivion, Erie, PA is notable for a handful of curious matters, both of criminal and historical significance, not the least of which is Most Snowfall in Inches for the Winter of 2013. Nationwide. Number One. (Watertown, NY actually beat us by about an inch and a half but, due to its size, never made the cut.)

To us lifelong “Erietes”, the whole First Place thing was no mild titillation on social media; but, truth be told, we are a hardy, thick-skinned (or, Eddie Bauer insulated) folk to whom fourteen inches of the fluffy white stuff is a jaded yawn.

Not so to my new friend and mother to three of my newest private string students. She and her family having just relocated to our town from the west coast – Washington state, to be exact – following her husband’s medical fellowship appointment, I was bemused when, upon entering my foyer today to pick up two of her brood, she exclaimed:  “ Wow!  I can’t believe they haven’t plowed your street yet!?”

The question was the punchline. I live on the southwest corner of a quiet street in an area I call Slumtown (what used to be Little Italy), just a block east of the main north-south, west side artery. As she makes the right turn off of Liberty Boulevard, little does my new friend know how many times she will be swimming across that final intersection, her destination in full view, straining to get across the chasm to the curb before her tire rubber catches fire.

Yes; city design takes on many forms across this wide land of yours and mine. Most have a variety of hills and curves, valleys, cubbies, and cul de sacs. corner of Pennsylvania. “Philadelphia grid” is the term used by city engineers and other planners for the endless, square, “tic-tac-toe” blocks that populate our satellite view. Of slightly less significance are the number of pizza shops per capita. But, be that as it may, when winter arrives, the city snowplow regiment mobilizes for their long slog east to west, north to south. Usually with marked absence of enthusiasm, seeing as they’d just morphed from the streetcleaning contingent one likely week prior.

But, because of the lay of the land, and the limits of the city budget, this fleet of heavy yellow metal must play selective about its fuel consumption and general wear and tear across the tundra of that interminable, ever-expanding season we call winter around here. This means that those of us who live in the latitude line sandwiched between the aforementioned main drag and the massive Erie Cemetery ( 14 un-interrupted blocks of permanently-occupied space ), might be lucky to get mail delivery. Most of our dwellings do not have driveways; yet, multiple household residents have their own cars, and they park them, bumper-to-nose-to-bumper, from corner to corner, all winter.

Around here, we count the sight of a plow by the sound of its approaching rumble and clank. And, with Even-Odd parking, if we’re lucky enough to remember on which side of the street to park the night before, we are graced with a clean cut to the curb from the cemetery to the boulevard – on one side of the street.

But, I live on the corner. And,  even a street cleaner rig is no match for an  Erie snowplow. Nothing clumsier to navigate than one of these Abrams tanks. Yes; the plow cuts a straight swath, east to west, alright….and, like the garbage route in the dead of night, won’t be coming north to south anytime soon until the east west veins are vanquished. But, most important to fully grasp: never in all my years on this planet, let alone in the town made notorious by a hapless bank robbing pizza deliveryman with a bomb strapped to his torso, have I ever witnessed the King of All Motorized Machines turning.a.residential.corner. Even a Zamboni has these babies beat.

Nope. Never had it happen. These monsters bore across, or they rumble on down the grid, like prehistoric dinosaur serpents, pushing the prohibitive precipitate aside the whole way – and, that, past as many as ten bisecting streets. Consequently, there are mountains of plowed snow deposited on either side of each intersection, in both directions, and then.left.there to await the next even or odd day.

Woe to the lowride used car that ventures south on an even day, lucky to cover one short cube of the grid before encountering a Rocky Mountain Ridge roadblock of the flakey stuff at the corner; or, to the SUV heading east on an odd day, hoping to get beyond a single block without sliding into the imposing mound awaiting, only to fishtail its weightless derriere into a 360.

In most cases, the snow has met the underbelly of the driver’s vehicle before it reaches the intersection. Tires are useless in such a scenario. If cars could swim, there might be a sliver of hope of reaching one’s destination; but, alas – even GM, and its eternal warehouse of recalled parts, hasn’t a gill or a fin to offer here.

Die-hards though we be, whenever we see network news broadcasts of marooned caravans on regional highways, we are far less transfixed than the rest of America. We know that the same thing will probably happen to us the next morning,  just for trying to get across the street.

So, if you happen to live on the edge of the Great Lakes, remember to look out for the drivers with foreign license plates; these people may only be here on limited visa, but if we can help it we’d better be ready with shovels, sandbags, and chains to lift a bumper or two in the name of good old Northern hospitality.


© Ruth Ann Scanzillo


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