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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gone away is the bluebird

All of Kentucky and Southern Indiana has been under a major winter storm warning for the past 15 hours or so. Last night around 4 pm flurries began to flake down slowly; by six o'clock, this had turned into a pretty serious snowfall. We probably picked up four inches overnight.

Now, I grew up in New York State. My childhood was spent moving around from one tiny little town to another in Western New York, and then I went to Syracuse NY to go to college and stayed there nearly 20 years (arriving there in September of 79 and moving away again in August of 1997). From Syracuse I went to Florida to begin a period of involuntary exile from all that is right and good in this world that lasted until 2005, when SuperWife (then SuperGirlfriend) came down and rescued me.

So I've seen the extremes. In New York State, especially Western New York or Syracuse, nobody would even notice 4 inches of snow in February, especially since it would most likely just be another four inches sitting on top of the two or three feet that have been out there since late November. The roads would already be being regularly plowed and salted. People would grumble their way out of bed, snarl a few sleepy obscenities when they saw they had to brush off their car, do so, and roll off to work. No biggie.

In Florida -- well, in my time in Florida, I was never lucky enough to see snow, although I badly, badly wanted to. But, nonetheless, I became experienced enough with the Florida emotional gestalt to know that if four inches of snow ever blanketed Florida, there would be catastrophic panic. People would be out looting with torches in their hands, tittering maniacally, convinced that it was the end of the world. One inch of snow down there would be a cataclysm of Old Testament proportions; the braver people would all die in flaming highway pile ups, while the majority of the population remained huddled in their homes and waited for the Evil White Shit to go away. (None of this applies to kids, who would be outside running around in the shit whooping their heads off because they have only ever seen snow before on TV and when they go visit relatives who live in New England. And then they'd be down for a week with colds and/or pneumonia, because nobody in Florida owns mittens, hats, scarves, or cold weather boots.)

River City hits somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. They get maybe one significant snowfall a year, if that, so nobody here buys (or sells) snow tires or tire chains, and there isn't much business done in winter recreation items that require snow, like sleds or snowmobiles. As such, River City denizens never really learn how to drive in snow. (And, like everybody else in places where they never really learn to drive in snow at all, the vast majority of these people can't drive for shit in the rain, either. It always amazed me how much traffic slowed down in Florida when it rained, and the same thing happens here, and I finally figured out why -- if you never learn to drive in snow, you will never learn to be complacent about driving in rain. One is apparently a necessary precursor of the other.)

According to SuperWife (who drives in both snow and rain quite adeptly, but (a) SuperWife is super-competent at nearly everything, she's like a Real Life Heinlein Woman, and how she got stuck with Your Humble Narrator The Clueless Floundering Geek Boy I still cannot figure out, and (b) Super-Wife is also a Yankee by birth, so, y'know, she's got that going for her, which is nice), River City used to be nearly as hapless in the face of any kind of accumulation of snow as Florida. However, a few years ago, a major snowfall utterly paralyzed the city, and UPS, which is like the local mob around here, threatened to relocate their Midwest hub if River City didn't get its goddam act together as regards keeping the streets clear in crappy weather. So River City clicked its heels together, screamed "JAWOHL, MEIN FUHRER!" and bought up a fleet of heavy duty snowplows and salt spreaders. So, now, when an inch or two of snow falls overnight, the local populace has found it in themselves to man the fuck up and deal with it. Kind of. As best they can, y'know, without snowtires or chains.

However, when the weather report predicts four to six inches of snow overnight, you can hear panic in every newscaster's voice and see a tiny, flickering, semi-hysterical light dancing in the back of every native or longtime local's eyes -- the "Is it time to go crazy and tear down civilization in a frenzy of plunder, pillage, rapine, and arson?" lamp has been lit for all these mooks, and while it starts out blinking at yellow, all it will take is one horrified shriek of "OHMYGOD THERE ARE NO -- MORE -- HO-HOS!!!!" at a local market for the bloodbath to begin.

So if you're wise, you monitor weather reports closely in winter and tornado season, nip out to the market early when there's a storm predicted(hopefully, while most people are still at work) to lay in staples (I slogged over at 4 yesterday afternoon as we needed milk, bread, and a few other sundries; there was an undercurrent of mob hysteria in the gathering crowd, but it was still well under control and I got in and out pretty quickly, all things considered), and then you lie back at home, one eye on the TV, the other cocked for the sound of angry mobs or insane, gibbering shrieks out your window.

And you, for the love of God, Montresor, keep your powder dry.

So, as I said, we got four inches of snow last night, which has pretty much paralyzed the city... local schools are closed, along with a great many local businesses, and the businesses that are open are all running on a two hour delay. But plows and salt trucks are running and the streets seem passable -- SuperWife went off to work today and apparently had little trouble getting in (but most people will be off the streets, and the new minivan has front wheel drive, which is a big help). I guess that's a big change from the way it would have been here, say, six years ago, after four inches of snow overnight.

However, it's now raining gently outside, and then supposed to crash back down to around 18 degrees, so, you know, things are likely to get really really messy again...

The kids are over at their Bio-Dad's this week, which is never a happy occasion for us here anyway, and it's especially not when they have a snow day, as there's always an enjoyable feeling of shared disaster and snug indoor warmth when we're all together on a day like this.

Ah, well.

I've shoveled the back and front steps, the front walk, and spent about ten minutes clearing off the minivan for SuperWife this morning. I'm thinking my work here is done.

Now for a hot shower and some breakfast.

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