SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Well, that was fun. There’s nothing like getting the first snowstorm of winter ... a month before winter.
The first major event of the season is what they call a teachable moment. I call it a few other things, but “event” can go in the paper. Mostly what it teaches you is that people have short memories.
One of those people must be me, or I wouldn’t still be here.
This storm was particularly fun – I know sarcasm doesn’t translate well to the written word – because we had unusually warm temperatures and a couple of inches of rain before the snow hit. That meant we weren’t mentally, physically or emotionally prepared for the dip in temperature, leading to a grouchier than usual population.
The exception would be those few sanity-challenged people who like snow. Don’t get too close to them. They bite.
Of course, all that rain leads to standing water, which produced a layer of slush and ice under the snow and made things even greasier than usual. Fun fact: After going for more than a month without snow, the average driver completely loses all memory of how they should drive on it. This makes things especially dangerous when storms strike early, during that same time when suicidal deer who can’t take the idea of going through another Midwest winter deliberately walk in front of drivers who are already going too fast for the conditions.
Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
After the rain came not just snow, but the heavy, wet variety that falls when the air is right on the edge of freezing, much as I am all winter long. It seems strange to refer to snow as “wet” – after all, isn’t snow made of water? Well, although it usually happens in New York, there are times when snow comes from Donald Trump’s dandruff. But water content (of snow, not The Donald) varies, and by the end of January the air is so cold that the snow and my sense of humor become equally dry.
In this case the snow was very wet, more like Indiana air in July. Except different. Okay, the whole comparison is breaking down, just as I do when the days get shorter than my grandkids’ attention span. The point is, it’s so wet and heavy that it starts weighing stuff down. Everything starts drooping, like a voter by October. They’re called similes, people, stay with me. (Metaphors are like similes, only without the like.)
So in addition to drivers and pedestrians slipping and sliding, the snow started weighing down stuff like trees, utility poles, power lines, and Donald Trump’s hair, which caused an avalanche of dandruff that buried the entire cast of two reality shows. At least that one good thing happened.
I knew we were in trouble when I glanced outside at the evergreen bush at the corner of my house. I’ve been meaning to trim that bush for awhile. That is to say, I’ve been meaning to trim it for two decades. That’s no longer a problem, because the bush had split right down the middle, like a peeled banana, laying down in (ironically) a snowflake pattern. My lilac bush was lying. We thought the Christmas lights in the bushes out front fell down, but when we checked it turned out the entire bush had fallen down.
I confess to being a little surprise that my roof, which leaked all day during the rain and is scheduled to be replaced in a month, didn’t end up becoming my floor under the weight of all that snow. This might have led to winter finally killing me, just as I’ve always suspected it would.
But I got lucky: Everywhere else, snow so heavy that it formed its own gravitation field caused blocked roads and power outages. You think lighting your home with candles is romantic? See how much you like it when the water in the toilet starts freezing over.
I had to work that night. It took me half an hour to push the snow off my car … not brush it, but push it. Then I had to ram the drift that always forms in my driveway, back up, and ram it again before I could get out. Then I slid sideways halfway down South Street – and isn’t that name ironic – to get to work, where I skated across the parking lot.
On a related note, how does snow that heavy drift? There’s some kind of wind tunnel thing going on in my driveway: Every snow, there’s always a drift between my car and the street, which is fine as long as you’re not planning to go anywhere. But if you’re not planning to go anywhere, why own a car?
Anyway, at work we took over seven million 911 calls in eight hours. 70% of them were accidents and slide-offs; 25% were people wanting to know if there was a snow emergency; 32% asked about road conditions; 14% wanted to know when the power would come back on, and were stunned at the idea that they might need to contact their power company.
I know that adds up to more than 100%, but keep in mind that a full 40% of the callers were drivers who slid off because no snow emergency meant they had to go to work, where there was no power.
92% of the stuck drivers have driven too fast for the road conditions every winter for at least the last ten years, and still don’t understand why their insurance premiums keep rising. What this means for me is that I can write this exact same column every fall until I either retire or get carted away to a rubber room, which I can only hope will be painted in tropical patterns.
Just think … just four more months until spring.