It was about 2:30 p.m. when into our heads popped the three little words nobody wants to think: "Blizzard of '77."
Looking out the windows at The Buffalo News was like looking through a milk bottle. Just to make it more exotic, the storm was punctuated by bright flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder.
Colleagues began gathering at the windows. Some quietly slipped away, muttering about late afternoon interviews. Others simply said: "Forget this. I'm outta here."
Naively, we stayed, even when editors said we could leave early.
There was work to be done. A Gusto piece had to be written about "Nuncrackers," a musical scheduled for Williamsville. There was a feature due about women visiting their men in prison. And the weekly Buzz column waits for no one.
We vowed to keep our eyes from the windows. We tried to work. Our good intentions, however, were foiled by co-workers pointing out the window. They were gawking at a semi that had hung itself up trying to turn a corner.
If that sucker couldn't move, what about our Escort with the bald tires?
Being Buffalonians, we decided to eat. Earlier that afternoon, we'd gone to a benefit luncheon that produced scraps of lettuce and the de rigeur three ounces of chicken. As if this could sustain us in these Arctic conditions.
We sprinted to the fifth-floor cafeteria, anticipating -- correctly -- a run on tuna sandwiches.
In the cafeteria, huge windows treated us to a panoramic view of the desolation. Cars, stuck in gridlock, revved their motors and spun their wheels. Snow swirled and lightning flashed. It looked like "Everest," the movie playing at the Imax Theater.
Thinking of the Himalayas brought out the survivalist in us. We began taking inventory, bragging about our supplies. Desk drawers yielded a small bottle of Sauza Tequila and seven Cold-Eeze throat lozenges.
And, if we really get desperate, there's a half of a butternut squash in the aforementioned Escort.
Hours passed. More people attempted to leave. They met varying fates. One had to abandon a car in Williamsville and walk home. Another walked to her bus stop and returned, red-faced and chastened.
A third, who left at 3:50 p.m., called in on her cell phone at 5:38 p.m., having made it as far as HSBC Arena, a block and a half away. At 7:10, she gratefully walked back into the building.
People who came back used the words "grim" and "wicked."
Forget it, we thought. We'll happily stay here and play Pac Man on our computers. Or do our Christmas shopping on Yahoo! Or e-mail our friends in sunny Florida. Or send our resumes to the Miami Herald.
We have staked out sleeping spots. Paula has her eye on a soft couch in the lady's coat room. Some of the benches in the cafeteria are also looking good.
The newsroom is down to a handful of people, calling home, calling restaurants and hotels.
Not everyone, to be honest, is complaining. "I think this is exciting," said Mark Sommer, arts editor. "For those who are not from Buffalo, or are relatively recent arrivals, it's an opportunity to earn your Buffalo stripes, to say you've survived a Buffalo blizzard."
Now, if we could only get to a six-pack.