There’s snow on the ground, which means there is the potential of being snowed in. The best solution: go somewhere and prove that you are not. Where? Just out. Somewhere. Anywhere.
When Massai warriors return from the lion hunt that ritualistically identifies them as brave and noble fighters, they will proudly display the lion’s tail as proof of their fighting prowess – chopped from the lion as he was cornered and eventually subdued. A more resourceful man than I, having braved the snow, would return with bread, milk, or some other staple. I fail on all counts and bring back a Coke. But I proved I’m not stuck. I think that part’s genetic.
The power is still out here. In a panic, those without any heating options other than electricity bundle up inside, pray their pipes don’t freeze, and break out cook stoves and lanterns they haven’t used in eons. Every few years around here, a redneck burns down his home when the charcoal grill he was using in the middle of the living room ignites the furniture.
This is heart attack weather, when people unaccustomed to any physical exertion appear outside to clear off driveways and cars before discovering their cardiac health is not as it should be and they keel over. Ambulances stay busy – if not with the heart attack people, then with accidents.
Everybody with an old pickup makes the incorrect assumption that trucks perform better in the snow, and proceed to careen around one turn after another, forgetting that there needs to be weight in the back of pickup in order for it to have any traction whatsoever. People end up in ditches a lot. I would guess that many of them, like me, were simply trying to get out of the house.
Half the population, rushing to arrive at places they needn’t even be, create massive pileups in town that the local police force will get into wrecks of their own trying to respond. Nobody’s hurt, but a number of angry soccer moms are late for nothing and sound panicky when they called 911.
Local schools, each and every one shutting down services as all-day adolescent babysitters, release scads of bored youth into the suburbs where they’ll play in the snow for an hour, track most of it in, and resort to watching the television if the power is on, and whining about not wanting to read a book if the power is out. Their parents aren’t usually there, anyway, since they’re driving around hunting for lion tails.
A flurry of telephone calls throughout the morning between concerned neighbors will confirm little more than, “yep, it snowed.” The rest of the conversation is devoted to road conditions. It doesn’t really matter, though, because they’re going to get out and try driving somewhere anyway. Normally vacuous chatter is now focused on the weather – which I also consider a vacuous subject. Weather happens, and eventually it will change. I think some small wars have consumed less phone time than this half-day calamity.
With the power out, everybody pretends not to notice it, but there’s nothing they want to do more than turn on every electric appliance in the house and just be satisfied that it works. Just as snow encourages driving, a power outage makes us want to vacuum the floors, watch TV and cook things. Or perhaps it makes us want to “pioneer it,” a silly notion that is usually abandoned by midday. But pioneers didn’t have the internet – which we now all dearly miss, even though it just means we wasted more time.
So we dig out books and discover we’ve mostly forgotten how to read, or at least lack the attention span to settle down and enjoy it, what with children tracking in snow, appliances to check for operation, layers of clothing to shed and don as the interior temperature changes, frequent phone calls about weather condition updates and so forth. The house feels small, terribly quiet, and confining. So you drive somewhere. Maybe that’s the only place you don’t feel stuck – in a warm car, cell phone charging, radio blasting, and driving down slippery roads – until you really ARE stuck and get cold and apoplectic. You’ll pick up your cell phone (thank GOD one appliance works!), call other friends, and they, too, will brave the roads to come pick you up. Perhaps they’ll get stuck, too, if they aren’t already. We liked the snow for 10 minutes, until we got cold, the power went out, and we started wishing it was melted and summer was here. But we’ll still call each other about the heat wave.
If it weren’t for the weather, what would we actually talk about? Something substantial? Probably not. We’d talk about celebrities and waste oxygen by opening our mouths.
"Oh my GOD! This is, like, the perfect day for a soy milk white mocha latte with ginger! Let's all go to Starbucks!" Suddenly, the aimless driving has been afforded purpose. They, the generation that speaks in emoticons and text message abbreviations, will show up to the counter with designer plaid rubber boots, elaborate knitted hats, and absurdly low cut tops exposing cold bosoms. It may be cold, but they’ll still look good. "Winter apparel provides SO many options because of the, like, layers and stuff." And the hats.
I, on the other hand, simply wear what works. And I will be here at the house, fidgeting about the same things as everybody else. I already did my pointless drive, already played with the appliances, already tracked in snow, fiddled with a book before giving it a miss, and am now just lounging around – unique only in that I am openly admitting that we, as a culture, as mid-Atlantic residents unaccustomed to snow and things, are terribly silly and undeniably lame.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved