Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bracing for "Snowmageddon" -- I Hate Snow

It's been ages since we had snow here -- real snow, that is.

That little surprise of icy white stuff a couple of weeks ago, that was nothing.

It's been two years since I've made any snow pictures. Pictures of a snowy walk with the big dogs. More pictures of romp in the woods with my three Jack Russell terriers, who were completely unfazed and had a blast. A few pictures of my then two granddaughters checking out the snow. It was, in fact, Feb. 20, 2012, according to the date on my pictures and we might have had three inches.

It was pretty. Everything was white and magical looking for about one day. Most of the world as we know it functioned just fine.

Ten years ago, while my husband was away taking a course of study at the University of Massachusetts, we had a lot of snow. I had to drive our beat up old Dodge pickup nearly every day. I still remember riding home with Ethan, who would have been 13, the night the universal joint came out of the front of it. My daughter was away at college and it was just us a big chunk of that winter. It was just us getting back and forth to work, and I don't know why in my memories he is with me on that late evening trip. Maybe he wasn't, or maybe he'd gone in with me just to get out of the house a few hours.

It doesn't matter. It was a miserable winter when the snow stayed around long enough to be dirty and red with Carolina mud, then got covered by a fresh coating. It's been that long since we had significant snow.

For the record, I hate snow days. I don't mind snow on Saturday that is gone by Monday. But only children can really love snow days. Well, maybe dogs. But children are the only people who can just enjoy the magic of a world transformed by snow. For the rest of us, even people who work at home or who are retired and don't have to get out, snow days are a world of worry. Even if we have the luxury of sitting home, we have people we care about who are traveling back and forth to work. If we're among those people making our way to work, we have to worry about making the trip without a pile up even if we can drive in it. Once the main roads are better, odds are we wind up worrying about what to do with kids who are out of school, or daycare.

For 25 years I was a journalist and I was one of those people who didn't get a snow day off. I remember forcing myself to learn to drive a 5-speed when I was snowed in and the only vehicle around was a 5-speed, four-wheel-drive Suburban -- talk about a tank. I knew the basics and I made it to work and back because I was tired of being chauffeured and waiting on a ride, or being stuck at home on a dirt road that wouldn't see a plow for ages. In fact, the worse the snow, the more I had to get out to record the disaster around me.

Even worse than having to leave in snow was trying to get home after a snow had arrived and there were lots of people on the roads who would probably have stayed home had the snow come before work. I can remember making it halfway and finding the mountain that was between me and home blocked by a wreck that forced me to turn around and go a different route. I can remember being caught out in "good clothes" and a car that wouldn't climb the hill to my babysitter's home, taking off my heels and walking in my stocking feet to get my kids. I remember doing a 180 on the last hill before reaching my house because I was trying to miss the car in the ditch and lost my momentum and tried to overcompensate, and hoping that the car coming down the hill would be able to stop before he hit me. I wound up parking my car at a nearby bar and hitching a ride with a guy in a four-wheel-drive Toyota, and no, I didn't ask how much he had drank. I remember when an actual blizzard hit in 1993, and buildings collapsed and people died of carbon monoxide trying to stay warm in houses without heat.

I hate snow.

So today, I got up with a sense of dread for the weather ahead. Forecasters have misjudged the last two storms -- we didn't get the one we were supposed to and we did get the one that was supposed to miss us -- but this one seems like a dead hit and they're bound to get one in three. The deer I saw grazing in the middle of a field on the side of the four-lane at 5 p.m. yesterday and the heavy traffic at the bird feeder out front this morning say the natural world expects something as well.

Before you say, oh, fun with grandbabies and work at home, think again.

First of all, my business depends on people traveling. So bang, a storm means cancellations because pups don't need a kennel when Mom and Dad are home. Sure, I'd like to be the woman stuck in Florida who has extended her dog's stay another week because she doesn't expect the roads between here and there to be good for a while, but she's the exception. Although, to be fair, he probably balances out the few bookings that will be cancelled.

Second, my daughter is a 9-1-1 dispatcher and she's been warned to pack a bag and be prepared to spend the night. That's a whole host of headaches that everyone has to figure out how to deal with. Do three little girls come here and spend a night? Does Ma go to their house so they can at least be at home? What about the baby, who is still breastfeeding and is used to having Mommy before bedtime? And what about the girls in the morning, if Daddy needs to leave for work super early like he usually does? Ma's SUV may come in handy for negotiating the route, but how early is reasonable to get going?

Right now the plan is for me to travel today and see when roads are passable tomorrow. I'll be leaving home before the snow is supposed to arrive, but who knows when I'll come home. Which means I still get to drive in the snow if it comes. Oh, joy, oh bliss.

So I face the prospect of snow with no small amount of dread, much as I have for most of my adult life, regardless of how things have changed for me.

And while everyone else was rushing to the store yesterday to buy milk and bread, I made a stop as well. I bought wine.

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