A blizzard is visiting.
Thanks to dependable weather predictions, we knew within a couple of hours when snow would begin falling. Washington, DC’s mayor put out bulletins encouraging the populace. So many snowplows would be working. Shelters would be operating. Senior citizens could call a certain number to get help with sidewalk shoveling. Volunteers were welcome to contact city government. Pepco crews were standing ready to deal with power outages. Best preparation we’ve ever had, sounds like.
“Are y’all going to Target?” asked Lillian, whom we’ve known for years, as she hugged us on the street outside. “Be prepared to be in there for a long time. The line reaches all the way past the pharmacy. Took me over an hour just to get a piece of meat.” We decided to skip Target.
Lines in our neighborhood Giant were no shorter. Every register was open, each with a line of 40, 50, 60 people. We got in the one that went fastest, the self-check-out line that has ten registers instead of one. Most folks who use it only have a few articles. Lucky for us, we had a meager small basket with almost nothing to stockpile.
Snow—serious snow—creates bonds. We are all in the same fix, all vulnerable to what might happen that we can’t exactly predict. Some look forward to snow. I used to when I lived in New England. But no one I know looks forward to the lines of nervous people readying themselves for what might be days of hibernation, possibly without power. And unlike hurricanes and summer storms, which can tear things up worse, snowstorms mean that somebody somewhere is going to be cold and in serious danger. It probably will be the poor, the homeless, the destitute, who are always the most vulnerable. But power outages and slippery roads are no respecters of persons. Even the well-off can fall and break a bone. Snow reminds us that we are all one, like it or not.
Snow slows us down. Trains stop. Planes don’t fly. Traffic crawls. We stay inside. Meetings get canceled. Work stops. Schools close. And, if we’re young enough and spry enough, snow, no matter how bad it gets, offers some recreation that rain and wind almost never do. Sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights, building snowmen are all things that make a fair number of people actually like snow. Floods, tornados, wildfires, cyclones, and hurricanes lack fans.
Big snows cover up ugliness for a little while. Sometimes a very little while. Blankets of snow give us a reprieve from trash in the gutters, unsightly piles of clutter, the signs of decay all too apparent in the light of ordinary day.
And everywhere, after a huge and perhaps beautiful snowfall, people will suspend worrying about damages and insurance long enough to get out and photograph it all, perhaps glad for the scene that will make next year’s holiday greeting rival Currier and Ives.
I wouldn’t mind being in Palm Springs or Key West right now. But there is something to be said for snow. Though I would have voted against it, I have to admit: sometimes it brings with it a little redemption.
That’s more than I can say for some weather.
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016