Post-snow, area residents try to reinstate the routine

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 14, 2010; C01

For a week, back-to-back snowstorms reduced Celeste Houser-Jackson's routine to the basics: shovel, take aspirin, agonize via e-mail about the storm, sleep, wake up, repeat. On Saturday, she returned to things that really matter, starting at the Blu Water day spa with a collagen lip mask and a calendula cream face massage.

"After you've eaten peanut butter sandwiches for a week, you really deserve it," said Houser-Jackson, 55, a contractor who had been trying since last weekend to get to the Rockville spa but was stymied by closures and power failures.

After a week of being reduced to emergency missions made only for such basics as work and toilet paper, a liberated Washington on Saturday moved to reclaim the niceties of life, routines that can't be called "necessities" -- until they're taken away.

For some, that meant salons that had to extend their hours because of demand. For others, gyms that were so packed they had to turn away the endorphin-starved. Still others sought out the low lights of the strip club, or the library, or the mall.

Some Metro riders were delayed Saturday evening after a small fire at the Bethesda station forced trains to share a track, a Metro spokesman said.

The region's roads and parking were not ready for the stampede to both luxuries and routine errands to pick up dry cleaning and get the oil changed. Drivers found roads blocked by snow trucks and long lines of unmoving traffic. Prime parking spots were filled with now-filthy piles of snow. Even some major thoroughfares -- including the Whitehurst Freeway and New York Avenue in the District -- were temporarily closed so trucks could haul away snow as officials tried to prepare for the Monday morning commute.

"You can only push it around so much," said D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle. "At some point, you have to start to actually remove it."

After days of being closed, My Fitness First in Bethesda had to turn away exercisers from the body pump weight class at noon, while Buzz bakery and coffee shop in Alexandria had "a record-setting morning," said Nancy Hickman. "Everybody is out catching up with friends, neighbors."

The Howard County Central Library, which was closed five days in the past week, was busier than normal at midday, with adults returning DVDs taken out before the last storm and students facing homework assignments they put off all week with school cancellations.

Malls from White Flint in Rockville to Tysons Corner had the feel of the pre-Christmas frenzy, with lines snaking out of restaurant doors. Faced with a long wait at the Tysons Hallmark store, one woman told her child: "Forget it, we'll just make a card for Daddy."

At lunchtime, some regulars returned to Archibald's Gentlemen's Club, which was closed for much of the past week and had to postpone its 41st anniversary party. Dancers on a platform slipped off their clothes as Rose Frisoli, a bartender with blond braids and a red negligee, chatted with a few customers who had come into the downtown Washington club to celebrate her 32nd birthday.

"They had to park way down K Street to find a spot, with all this snow," she said.

In some places, the rhythm seemed to simply be a return to normal life. An indoor youth soccer tournament at Dulles SportsPlex. Volunteering at the Washington Animal Rescue League's cat room. Normal, that is, until you got on the roads or tried to find a spot in parking lots choked in some places by workers clearing snow from roofs. Or from the entrance. Or from the middle of the lot.

At Blu Water, hours were extended Saturday and a rare Sunday workday was planned to make up for hundreds of appointments that were canceled in the past week, said senior aesthetician Teresa Hinton.

Clients with chipped nails, gray roots and furry eyebrows had come from as far away as New York, and 16 technicians ran a constant loop ferrying customers to their cocoa powder scrubs and peppermint creams.

"When it comes to personal maintenance, there's nothing that's going to stop us," said Despena Notara, a legal secretary from Silver Spring who was having her eyebrows done. "We'll walk if we have to."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company