Bundled into two layers of leggings, her work shirt, grey hoodie, red puffy coat, a hat with “Astroworld” embroidered across its fold, big fuzzy socks and white Nike sneakers, Veronica Swick was ready for her Wednesday commute.
Classes were canceled Wednesday at IU because of dangerously cold weather and wind chill as low as 35 degrees below zero, but campus remained open. While many IU students hunkered down in their residence halls, houses and apartments, IU employees clocked in for another day of work.
“It felt like I was trekking into the Arctic,” Swick said.
In her driveway, the engine of her green-gray Toyota Corolla kept turning over. When she woke up at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Weather Underground was reporting Monroe County hit minus 8 degrees. Swick eventually got her car going and went back inside while it warmed up.
It hasn’t been this cold since January 2014, said Marc Dahmer, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. IU hasn’t canceled classes due to the weather since 2009.
The cold is a result of bottled-up arctic air shooting down further south than usual, Dahmer said. But the frigid weather shouldn’t last long. Dahmer said temperatures will be in the upper 30s Friday and the mid-50s by Sunday.
Swick, a junior who lives in the Green Acres neighborhood behind Eigenmann Hall, was lying in bed Tuesday when she saw IU's tweet that classes were canceled. IU sent the tweet at 5:07 p.m. Tuesday, and it had more than 1,300 retweets as of Wednesday evening.
Campus hummed with excitement when the notification went out. In the Indiana Memorial Union Starbucks, people chatted about the closure. In a lecture hall, a class burst into applause. Meanwhile, Swick still had work in the morning.
She texted her GroupMe group chat, where she said her coworkers at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at Goodbody Eatery were trying to figure out what to do. Swick said managers sent an email saying employees who needed to walk to work wouldn’t have to come in.
Swick said she was frustrated that she still had to go to work, but she knew students in residence halls would still need food.
“But it's cold,” Swick said. “It's like too cold. Everyone, just stay inside. You've got ramen, right? You can be fine for one day.”
She left for work around 11 a.m. Listening to Sia on her drive down Third Street, she only saw one woman waiting at a bus stop, a couple of cars and a bus.
She planned to park in the Goodbody parking lot to be closer to work but didn’t want to risk getting a ticket. Instead, she drove back to park in front of Read Center. Sitting in her car, she mentally prepared herself for the walk to Goodbody, telling herself it wouldn't be that bad. She could do it.
The walk only takes about eight minutes, but Swick said the cold made it feel like twice that. Wind blew in her face as she walked toward Goodbody, forcing her to turn around and walk backward at one point to stay warm. Her breath fogged her glasses. When she got to Goodbody, the heat of the building fogged them up even more. She warmed up and got to work.
On campus, very few others braved the weather. Those who walked around were wrapped up like tightly layered burritos, staring through the slits in their fleece tortillas.
Icy snow clung to the inside of the Herman B Wells statue’s eye sockets and covered the inside of his suit jacket. More snow packed into his toothy grin. The chill didn’t seem to faze him as he offered a now frosty handshake out to the frozen campus.
At Wells Library, around 130 students sat behind laptops and gathered in study rooms. In the lobby, freshman Drew Rosenbloom worked at his computer. He said he was using the day to sleep in and get caught up on work.
He said he signed the petition to cancel class, which amassed 28,142 signatures in just one day. He said he thought the petition had an effect on the school’s decision to cancel classes.
At the Coffee Bean around 2:45 p.m., Swick sat on a stool behind the counter and talked to her coworkers. She said they're not supposed to sit on the stool, but it was a really slow day. The Coffee Bean didn’t close until 8 p.m., but Swick’s shift ended at 3 p.m. She counted the register before clocking out. The cash totaled $3.08.
She got out of her work clothes and bundled back up, calling out goodbye to her co-workers before leaving. Gloveless hands stuffed in her pockets, she walked back to her car. The temperature had heated up to 2 degrees.
Swick got in her car and drove up Jordan Avenue before turning right on Seventh Street toward home.
There, she did what she would have done if she hadn’t gone to work Wednesday: cleaned the house, took a nap and got Chick-Fil-A.
Back to work tomorrow.
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