Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Growing up in Los Angeles, snow was the cotton stuffing on elementary school projects or the marshmallows that you used to create a snowman from.

Icicles were either plastic things put on corners or the silver strands you hung on Christmas trees. Winter was when you wore a sweatshirt in the evenings and we normally got our 1.25 inches of rain for the year.

When I was in high school, snow became the dirty packed stuff that you could drive up in the Sierra Madres to see heaped on the side of the road and in shady patches between the trees. One time we found enough on one hillside which faced away from the sun to actually slide down a metal trash can lid.

In college in central California, it was a little closer, and there was enough in the mountains to actually walk in. However, it was still packed, dirty and frozen on top.

When I moved to Michigan, I was sitting in a t-shirt and shorts in my dad's living room on the south side of Kalamazoo when it began to snow. I learned two things very quickly that I had never know before - one, that snow is quiet. I expected to hear it much as rain hits the windows. And two, it isn't a good idea to run outside in your bare feet when it's snowing.

And suddenly I was dealing with:

- Unploughed roads at 4:30 a.m. (I had to be at work at 5)

- Sliding up and then back down the one major hill in Kalamazoo

- Shoveling the way to get out of the parking lot at the end of your shift when the snowplows have piled in up all their accumulated snow behind your car.

- Learning how to open the door when the lock is frozen shut.

- How to use an ice scraper repeatedly during your commute.

- Why wearing three pairs of socks become standard, and your winter boots need to be at least one size too large, and the cute woven mittens that you get at Christmas time are completely worthless in below zero weather.

It was an educational winter.

Since then I have lived in Utah, Kansas, Germany, and Maryland.

- Utah is a dry snow, which is a completely different and much more rational sort of thing.

- Kansas is where the wind never stops and black ice under the snow is a constant menace.
- In Germany, no one notices the snow or let it affect any part of any one's life. It wouldn't be German.

- Maryland at first completely collapsed at the prediction of any possible accumulation. Schools and government offices shut down, the grocery stores were ransacked, and pitiful stores of rock salt and snow shovels were sold out within minutes - with simply the prediction of snow.

Then in 1984 or 85, it snowed. Seriously. For a couple of weeks. Out of sheer necessity, Marylanders learned that milk was not necessary for survival, cars could be driven in snow, and we could actually keep the national government operating in a fashion (i.e. as well as it normally operates, which is not very well).

And in the next couple of days, according to the National Weather Service, we may actually get some serious snow down here, and NOT just on the surrounding mountains. So, since we are accustomed to a sprinkling of snow, twice a year, that melts before 9 a.m., this might get interesting.

I will keep you posted.


Erin said...

I had my first driving while snowing experience on Tuesday - not fun when you are breaking so hard you think your foot is going to fall out the bottom of the car and you'll be driving Fred Flintstone style, and yet you are still sliding on the ice inches from the car in front of you. Welcome to Minnesota :) I'd thought I'd never say it, but I kinda sorta in a really small way miss Phoenix, but only in the winter!