“Do you wanna go to Hardees?”
My college roommate and I often enjoyed late-night trips to the nearby chain burger-joint. But this time, I saw a problem.
“Are you crazy?” It’s snowing.
“It is?” And she went to the window to check, and turned around, and LAUGHED AT ME.
“Charlene, this is called a flurry. It’s not even sticking. Let’s go to Hardees.”
“You’re going to drive in THIS?!”
And so began the dawning of my understanding that my people, the southern people, are snow wimps.
Where I grew up, in central Virginia, it DOES snow. And once in a while, it sticks. On the other hand, we can go entire winters without so much as seeing a flake. We’ll even argue over WHETHER we saw a flake.
“Nope, that was just ashes from Cooter’s chimney, y’all.”
And when it DID snow, we had the good sense to cancel EVERYTHING and stay indoors. Nothing got plowed. Maybe, once in a blue moon, if there was a big snow (like maybe SEVERAL inches), the government would declare a state of emergency and plow the routes to the hospitals. All other activities – school, church, grocery shopping, non-emergency medical procedures like child-birth, for instance – were wisely put on hold.
We simply stayed home and waited for the stuff to melt.
By the way, no one worried that we were missing too much school, either. They’d just tack the days on the end and our parents would pull us out anyway because “Goddammit, those reservations were made in January, for Pete’s sake!”
We’d sled. We’d build forts. We’d fortify the forts and have epic neighborhood snowball fights. My Dad would pull the neighborhood kids on our sleds with his tractor, dangerously swinging us around corners like water skiers at Cypress Gardens.
But now I live in an area that DOES get a good bit of snow and ice in the winter. I saw my first blizzard a few years back. I’d never before had to dig a car out of the snow. (I’d always assumed the “rock and roll” method I’d learned in the south would suffice for any amount of snow. Not so, apparently, if the snow is taller than your children.) I’d never before seen neighborhood sidewalks that looked like little labyrinths for the pedestrians to busily swarm through. I’d never before seen SNOW fall so fast you could barely even SEE it!
It was fun. One of our neighbors called all the others, and we had a potluck party. One of the wine and beer shops in walking distance was open and was having a “1% off per inch of snow” special, and it turned out we’d all walked down there at some point during the day. So we had a more than ample supply of booze. I’m pretty sure one of my neighbors had to be hauled home on a sled by his wife and kids.
This winter, our area hasn’t had a big storm like that one. (Sorry Boston, it’s all about you this year.) We’ve had a series of hyper-annoying storms with little snow, but with the dreaded ice that makes even the most seasoned snow drivers nervous. And school has been out, school has been in, school has been late, school has dismissed early. It’s driving all us parents and teachers mad! It’s not the missed school; it’s the inconsistency that is completely problematic.
So, I propose the following. We’re not THAT far north. In fact, we were many times a Confederate city during the War Between the States. So why don’t we adopt a more SOUTHERN attitude toward the snow?
I can hear all my Northern friends now. “You can’t let the snow keep you in or you’d never go anywhere!” “You southerners don’t know a thing about driving in snow!” “You can’t close school every time there’s a flake!”
I know – we’re not hardy about it. Not at all. I know you chuckle when we post our photos of a couple of inches of snow here, a tiny little snowman in a bare yard there. But I have to tell all my Yankee friends, with love, mind you, that we feel the same when you complain about humidity. “Hahahah! Ohhh, it’s a little sticky out so you had to go inside and turn on your air conditioning! That’s cute. Come sit on the porch with me and have a julep. Bring a towel.”
But I think there’s something to it, this resignation that life is out of our control. This beautiful, peaceful bliss when the stuff starts gently falling and we realize, without question, that all our obligations for at least the next 24 hours are null and void. So next time, cancel everything. Sit inside. Watch it fall. Go play with your kids or your grandkids or your neighbor’s kids or your dogs. And school administrators, I implore you, forget about the delayed start or early dismissal. Just cancel. But only for ice or substantial snow. A couple of flakes up here won’t cut it.
I did learn to drive in the snow that night. My roommate taught me. We went to the Hardees, and she was very sweet about it. “See? I just have to give myself a little extra time to stop, like when it’s raining. And I’m keeping extra distance between us and the other cars. Aren’t you glad you came?”
Yes. And no.