Know Any Snow Wimps?

Dec. 8, 2013

The snow begins–December 8, 2013

I hear it every year during advent.

No, that isn’t a typo.  Not Advent with a capital A—advent with a lower-case a.  The one that heralds the coming of Snow with a capital S.

I heard it this year for the first time at church last Sunday:  “I’m from [insert your favorite frozen tundra region here], and WE know how to drive in snow.”

Each time the National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Warning, the heralds go on to trumpet the dangerous conditions in which they’ve driven, standing firmly in their winter boots and gesturing toward the sky, waving a snow scraper like a banner announcing a gift from heaven.

“The forecast is only calling for six inches!  Why I’ve driven roads worse than that in only a golf cart!”

Well, perhaps not.  But go ahead and insert your favorite rear-wheel behemoth or your favorite sports car in place of that golf cart.  I’m sure it’s a comment you’ve heard if you live in the Washington D.C. area, where people who live in glass houses in other parts of the country are forever casting stones at those of us who live near our nation’s capital.

I haven’t always lived here, though.  For 30 years I lived in the mountains of southern West Virginia, where I taught school for nine years before moving to Maryland.  In my first year teaching, we had so much snow that schools closed for a whopping fifteen days.

On one occasion, when a blizzard was predicted and school was cancelled for the coming week, I got into my rear-wheel drive Ford Pinto and drove from Beckley to Alexandria, Virginia.  I was less than half-way there when the white-out conditions forced the few drivers stupid enough to be out on Interstate 81 into a single lane behind a snow plow.  I can only plead the irrationality of someone in love who saw an opportunity to spend a week with my boyfriend, who taught in Fairfax County.

Even then, I would never have made the advent announcement that I knew how to drive in snow.  I’ve driven in hazardous conditions many times in sudden, unpredictable storms.  And I’m not hesitant to admit that it terrifies me every single time.

And so, on Sunday, I waved a hasty goodbye to the hale and hearty ones who arrived for the later service as my husband and I were leaving the earlier service.  The snow had just begun to fall, much sooner than predicted, and by the time we were five minutes into the drive, conditions had deteriorated rapidly.  We found ourselves on the interstate behind a sports car and a luxury sedan with license plates from one of those frozen tundra states that had spun out in front of us.  My husband drove our all-wheel drive SUV skillfully and steadily through the maze of traffic, going neither as slowly as the cars that spun out nor as fast as the confident drivers in the left lane, where a trucker in the bed of a cab with no load skidded and came perilously close to Matt’s side of the car.

We made it home safely, thankful to park that SUV in the garage, where the ice that had come hours early dripped from the car for hours.  We opened the door to our happy, yappy sheltie Beckley, who danced around us, ready for his own foray out into the snow.

The storm had arrived in all its bluster and glory.  And when Beckley’s little paws took those first few steps into the winter whiteness, he quickly cocked his leg at the accumulating snow in a gesture of defiance and dashed back into the warmth of hearth and home.

Today, when schools have closed for the second day, and even my office and the federal government are closed, I’ll gladly endure the abuse of those Alpha dogs who bark loudly at the storm.  I suspect that many of them will sit safely inside today and scoff.

Tomorrow when we all return to work, I’m certain I’ll hear more stories of their bravado in the midst of the storm.  I usually clench my teeth and do a mental roll of the eyes.

But perhaps tomorrow I’ll respond with a story of my own fainthearted fearfulness.

How about you?  Are you brave enough to tell your story of being a snow wimp?