Snow Day

Aquarian Weekly 2/21/07 REALITY CHECK


Frozen precipitation has a way of bending the mind. Terror rules the day. Otherwise functioning humans with nary a care in the world become jabbering loons, dangerous to themselves and others almost immediately. Motor skills are abandoned and concern for their fellow man forgotten. And those are the lucky ones, the ones that get out. Look Out!The rest batten down the hatches and disconnect the phone lines, light candles, and hold solemn vigils, praying to Jehovah to spare them. Occasionally they draw back the curtains, slightly, to peer into the engulfing white, sigh despondently, and then scramble about to make certain the children are still breathing. It is strangely Pavlovian, a conditioned response to bad weather that devolves the best of us.

I should know. I’ve spent many a grueling hour driving in deep, blinding snow – day and night. I used to deliver medical records at all hours traversing all types of terrain – mountain roads, winding cliffs, city streets (all five boroughs) in and out of the weird and crippled psyches and speed-addled truckers. Adverse conditions have caused me to participate in several multi-car pile-ups and once even forced me to flip a brand new company truck. Upside down. Lying on the cab’s inner roof with my precious contents sprawled about me, serenaded by a radio blasting something by Stevie Nicks.

Still, it is hard for a former professional like myself to fathom the pure fear that grips the hearts of travelers up here. It is as if they had forgotten the concept of pedal/brake. There is no logic to their methods. And when they do manage to operate their vehicles it’s like being led through soup on an anchor. Sideways. Wheels spinning. Cars sliding. The panic visible in the frantic faces of overwhelmed motorists struggling to reroute the random whirl of the steering wheel, locked in a futile wrestle with inertia.

Ice makes fools of us all. No tread equals no control and no control equals either rapid speed decline or feral abandon. There is no in between. A handful of drivers ignore the conditions altogether. These are your four-wheeling types, splashing and crunching over all kinds of ice and snow with little regard for the space outside their capsule. This causes the already nervous set to recoil in horror, prompting a strange ballet of spastic prudence and reckless assault. But I prefer bravado to caution. At least I know where the bold are headed. The paroxysmal driver is hard to read. Anything could happen, and often does.

We live somewhere in the middle of these extremes: Total, crippling conditions and a minor ice squall paralyzing the entire state. We should, theoretically, be able to handle six inches to a foot occasionally, without widespread mania akin to a Wellsian radio serial.

But it still makes no sense. It snows more than a little around here. You would assume familiarity with vacillating weather patters might have a positive effect on the overall performance of the locals. I know it’s been a light year, accumulation-wise, but it’s not like it hasn’t stormed in half a decade. Down where my parents reside in North Carolina there is a declared state emergency once anything frozen appears in the sky. Dark clouds send weathermen to their knees with convulsion. Clamoring hordes pile into supermarkets pushing and shoving for milk and bread, as if faced with pending doomsday. Schools are closed for a month, the mail stops, and the National Guard is on alert. Once in a great while mistakes are made and people disappear, but the governor is on record as stating, “It is a small price to pay for safety”.

However, we northerners should never be shocked into terminal frenzy over a little snow. We live in the mountains. Yes, the mountains. There are mountains in New Jersey, as I have repeatedly explained to my friend Ani Difranco, who lives in Buffalo, where it snows for keeps. She doesn’t believe me, as I do not buy her horror stories of snowdrifts burying dogs and sheaths of solid ice that crack trees in half. Sometimes, she claims, people don’t come out for weeks on end and even then are armed to the teeth and driven around in heated bubble cars, flashing their ID’s to the authorities whenever they need to transfer through the old Underground Railroad tunnels.

Buffalo is the read deal. Or Syracuse, where my wife’s family lives, pummeled by four, five, six, seven feet of snow in mere days. My poor mother-in-law is practically a shut-in, reduced to recording the fallout in digital photographs to escape madness – 12-foot drifts covering every man-made structure as if the Loch Ness monster was feeding in her backyard. For months no one within a 100-mile radius believes the sun will shine again, much less the vague promise of a beckoning thaw.

We live somewhere in the middle of these extremes: Total, crippling conditions and a minor ice squall paralyzing the entire state. We should, theoretically, be able to handle six inches to a foot occasionally, without widespread mania akin to a Wellsian radio serial. This is not Minnesota we’re talking about here. Out there, the very idea of venturing outside is considered suicide. I have seen video of a man tossing a pot of boiling water and it freezing in mid air.

Ah, but at some point there is joy in the brave snowmobile souls who begin trudging through the tundra outside my house for fun and sport, whizzing down back roads as if chased. I could hear their clarion call. Burrrrrrrr. Look at us, free of fear and angst and embracing nature! “Join us!” they shout with unbridled glee. I am envious, sipping coffee from the relative warmth of my office lair. Then, without warning, “Look out, Junior!” BAM! Jesus, now the cops are here and an ambulance siren wails closer. I’m trying to finish a column on snow and now this. How ironic. How inconvenient. I live here for quiet, not the incessant pounding at my door and these insipid cries for aid; “Help us! Help us! There’s been a terrible accident!” The voices cry out. “Go away you crazy bastards,” I scream. “Can’t you see the storm has rendered me incapable of even the most random act of kindness!”

Their shouting is followed by the intermittent pelt of snowballs, which spurs an angry wave of my fist through ice-streaked windows. I would call the cops but one of them has joined in. There is no law now. The weather has rendered these bumpkins to anarchists. Right in my front yard! They would sooner let their friend bleed to death than let me be.

My wife has gone berserk, ordering the cats to defend our honor and raging incoherently when they do not.

Soon, I remind myself, it will be spring.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Social tagging:

Leave a Reply