The Thinker

Snow day

We have a foot of snow so far, and the snow is still coming down frantically. It is hard to see out my northern facing window. No plow has bothered to come down our street. Only a few cars are even bothering to try to drive through the snow, and they are only the ones with four-wheel drive. If I got a newspaper this morning, it is buried under the snow somewhere. I dug out one lane to the street and there was no newspaper to find. I guess I will have to read it online.

Blizzards do have certain advantages. They tend to focus the minds of us Northern Virginians, which means we make frantic dashes to stores to stock up on snow shovels, milk, bread and toilet paper. What’s with the toilet paper? Isn’t that why we invented Costcos, so we could stock up in bulk? I have enough in my basement to see me through February, at least. This focus on essentials of course meant gridlock in general yesterday, and this was before a flake of snow fell on the ground.

So the actual blizzard now underway is somewhat anticlimactic. Life becomes pretty simple. You stay indoors, hope the power stays on, and start digging out once the storm passes. All those busy plans I had for today are blown away. I was supposed to give a final exam today. The exam was all prepared, but I was unprepared for the campus closing. What do you do in this case? I wrote the dean, who said in her thirty-six years in academia she has never seen this happen. What you do is (with the dean’s permission) make up a policy on the spot. So I am giving my students the options of getting their grade based on their work so far (since grades are due by Tuesday) or taking the exam later and maybe getting an incomplete. If I know my students, they will all opt for skipping the exam altogether. This is fine with me. The end of the semester is always the hardest. Students want to begin recess. Professors like me are sick of our students and all their little quirks and hassles. These include disputes over grades and homework, belated requests to take quizzes later and dubious excuses like they had to go out of town because grandma or Uncle Fred passed away. It is all suddenly moot, thanks to the blizzard. Post some grades online and the semester is over. Let the holidays begin.

Except, of course, I am behind on holiday shopping and this blizzard puts me even further behind. The Christmas cards were frantically assembled yesterday. Now stamped, they have no place to go. Meanwhile, I try to think about what to give my wife and daughter, who have pretty much everything they could possibly want. How much better am I supposed to make life for them? But for a day or two, no worries. We will be landlocked and even the 7 Elevens will be closed. For the moment, worrying is moot. Instead, you sleep in late, eat leisurely breakfasts and have as sex with your middle aged spouse as frequently your middle aged bodies will allow.

Still, this blizzard is exciting because of its timing just six days before Christmas. It virtually guarantees a rarity here in Northern Virginia: a white Christmas. Bing Crosby was right: “Just like the ones I used to know”, but it was oh so long ago when I was living in upstate New York. Around here, a white Christmas is something you enjoy once a decade if you are fortunate. “White” counts if there is any snow on the ground, so some dirty and gunky snow in a parking lot counts, even if it is mostly melted. I have counted as “white” Christmases where there was just a dusting of snow on the grass. This one however will be truly white. There is no way that all this snow can melt before Christmas, not even with global warming. The ground will be solidly covered on Christmas Day. Considering what a crappy decade this was, thanks to Mother Nature we will be leaving it behind on a high note.

So instead of frantically grading exams and posting grades, I will help put up the artificial Christmas tree and assorted holiday decorations. Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire will go on the stereo to regale us while we hang the ornaments and string lights. One difference this year: we are having a more ecologically friendly Christmas. The incandescent light strings are out: the new very efficient LED light strings are in. They festoon our front porch and soon will adorn our Christmas tree as well.

Also later today will come the smell of frantic baking as my wife and daughter roll and bake gingerbread cookies. For me this is good news, as I don’t like gingerbread cookies, so I likely won’t eat any. This in turn is good for my waistline during this perilous gastronomic time of year. I may have time to wrap the few presents I have bought and place them under the Christmas tree as well. In addition, there is always belated vacuuming and bathroom cleaning to be done. For a day, I can be a domestic god.

We have tickets to see Young Frankenstein tomorrow at The Kennedy Center. It is unclear whether the roads will be passable enough to get there for our matinee show, or if it will be put on at all due to the weather. In any event, there is nothing that I can do about it. Mother Nature will decide. It has rendered all else moot.

Since our power lines are buried underground, I expect the power and the heat to stay on. This, the chance to blog and surf the web indiscriminately, and putting up some Christmas decorations will keep me happy. In fact, I will be much happier than if the blizzard had not arrived at all.

Let it snow.


One Response to “Snow day”

  1. 1:35 pm on December 19 2009, Mike Licht said:

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