Snowpocolypse Now

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Barely visible, but still there

The catchphrases have begun. #SnOMG, Snowpocolypse, Snowmaggeddon, Snowzilla. It’s not quite a blizzard yet. I can still see the sheep lawn ornament in the backyard. My husband says he is a lamb. I disagree. He may be small, but he has an old soul. His eyes hold the secrets of the ages.

I call him Shaun (Wallace and Gromit fans, unite). He was a Christmas gift from my father-in-law. He asked us all what we thought was in the enormous box, and my husband and son guessed electronics of some sort, while I yelled “A PONY!” He told me I wasn’t too far off. My father-in-law rocks.

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This is what virtuous cookies look like

Last night, since we still had power, I made oatmeal cookies. I ate them for breakfast, because who knows when I’ll be able to eat again. I momentarily ignored the fact that we have plenty of food and still have power, because, well, cookies. I made them with whole wheat flour and toasted wheat germ, so they are virtuous.

The hubs ventured out early to plow the driveway. I grabbed his hand and said “Don’t go out to the barn Pa! Let me at least tie a rope around your waist.” Apparently boys that grow up in Upper East Side NYC do not read Little House on the Prairie.  I did not get up to help.

I know I should, but my husband can clear the entire drive in the time it takes me to shovel the walkway. I used to, but remembered that I don’t like the cold, and that it as never as fun as I imagine it to be, and when I throw snowballs at John he doesn’t find it charming. He responds in kind and has much better aim than I do.

When I begin to feel guilty I remember the grocery store trips before the storm and the cooking I did in advance to make sure we had food after the power goes out because the power always goes out. During the last big storm John built a predictive data model of outage patterns and restoration times because that’s how we roll around here. It doesn’t change the outcome, but we feel superior when our estimates are correct.

I never sleep well when we lose power. Not because it’s cold, but because the hum of a neighborhood full of generators is surprisingly loud. One neighbor turns on his backyard floodlight to let us all know he’s got it covered. It’s bright enough, however, to let me see how fast Shaun is getting buried with snow.

As much as I hate the cold, I have a soft spot for snowstorms. Growing up, I’d tightrope-walk along the huge piles of snow that ringed the road in front of our house, and build snowmen in the backyard. When I lived in Chicago, John and I used to walk in Lincoln Park while the entire city hushed to listen to the snow fall, and in Evanston we’d chuckle when the police would drive through the streets at 2 a.m. with bullhorns telling people to move their parked cars so the plows could get through. In Boston, the Dude saw snow for the first time, and tunneled through drifts like a commando, and we built forts in the backyard where we drank cocoa at night.

When the power fails, I snuggle up to my man, pull up another comforter, and conjure these memories to stay warm.

And read by the light of my neighbor’s floodlight.

Stay warm, people.

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Snowstorm Survival Tips From a Northern Girl


D.C. is facing the end of the world as we know it, and I’m not talking about the possible presidency of Donald Trump. I’m talking about the really scary stuff. I’m talking about snow.

Last night we got less than an inch and the city went into a panic before the panic. You think gridlock in Washington is bad? Visit D.C. during winter. My husband cleared the driveway with a broom. School was canceled.

Starting tomorrow, we’re supposed to get amounts that measure in feet rather than inches. I grew up in Michigan, and as the old joke goes, we call that Tuesday, but folks around here are talking locusts and plagues. I’ve given up shaking my head over the capitol’s inability to deal with snow.  The amount of chaos caused by winter weather is inversely proportional to the population’s experience with it, so basically, I’m staying home until it melts.

As a public service, however, I will share my wealth of experience and give you some hints for getting through snowmaggedon.

Buy toilet paper. Today, the grocery store checkout had the feel of a cold-war era Russian food line, only the bread was gluten free and the milk was from organic grass-fed cows.  The bottled water section was stripped clean, save for one case of Poland Spring, which two women fought over like a Dooney & Bourke handbag at  a Macy’s one star sale.

What puzzled me however, was the lack of activity in the paper aisle. While carts were filled to the brim with smoked salmon and brie (bless the whole-house generator), not a single person was buying toilet paper.

Paper goods, people. Don’t be a newb.

Buy Wine. I know they say wine induces hypothermia, but huddling under a comforter with a box of Cheerios is much better with a bold Pinot Noir.

If it’s rechargeable, charge it now, and use charged items wisely. My son used his phone as a flashlight the last time we lost power, despite having a battery operated one at his feet. I reminded him that if he ran down his phone, he wouldn’t be able to text “Do you have power yet?” to his friends every five minutes. I could hear his eyes roll in the dark.

Have the power company number on your cellphone. When the power goes out, your landline will no longer work. It will also be dark (because the power always goes out when it’s dark) and the account number on your bill is barely readable in daylight. I know that you’re supposed to be able to call in with your phone number, but when was the last time that worked for you?

Find your candles and flashlights now.  If you can’t remember where they are, think about the least convenient place you can think of, since that’s probably where you put them thinking “I’ll never forget that I put them here.”

While you still have power make the kids shower. This is not the time to humor one’s hygienically challenged teen. They can do it while the water is warm, or take their chances later. Even without power I have my limits. I don’t care if the kid barely brushes his teeth most days, after two days of peanut butter and tuna, these niceties are no longer optional. Even the women of Lost managed to shave their armpits.

 

Use the generator wisely. Who knows how long you have to make the fuel last. First priority? The septic and sump pumps. Number two? The refrigerator.  Next? Lights? Heat? Nope. The internet.

Alleviate some of that pre-storm anxiety by making catching up binge watching musts. My recommendation? Mozart in the Jungle. Two seasons worth of episodes will burn quite a few hours, and Gael Garcia Bernal makes me feel very, very warm.

Unless your family is full of good sports, hide the board games. You’re stuck together in the dark and cold for god knows how long.  Especially if the bad sport in your family is the one who controls the food and knows where the toilet paper is. Don’t test me–I hold grudges. Pass the Pinot.

Most important, remember this isn’t that bad. If you’re reading this, you have a home, with a computer and a heater and probably a full refrigerator, even if you might be low on toilet paper. A snowstorm can actually be kind of fun, and snuggling up is the best way to stay warm. If your fireplace is like mine, and is more ornamental than functional, stream the Darth Vader Yule Log on your IPad, pour another glass of Pinot, and make peace with the weather. It’s a great excuse not to do laundry.

These things are never as bad as the media says they’ll be, except for when they’re worse. In either case, be safe, be wise, and if you’re bored, you can binge-read back essays on my blog.

Carpe Diem Nix. Seize the Snow Day.

 

Abominable Behavior

Boston-YetiAbout ten years ago, when I was living in Boston, a major snowstorm hit the city while I was traveling on business.

As fate would have it, parking at Logan was limited, so I had to park on the roof. That’s right. The roof. The part of the building without more building above it.

I was totally screwed. Not only would my car be covered with eight inches of snow, I would be boxed in by whatever the plow left behind my car while clearing the roof for everyone else. In the time I was gone, surely it would have half-melted and re-solidified into a natural barricade which would require a jack hammer to get through.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t entirely sure exactly which row I’d parked in. It’s not like the roof has a lot of identifying characteristics, and I sort of counted on having the identifying characteristics of my car to rely on, unless, of course, it was the only one still covered with snow. Then it would be easy to spot.

I had a snow brush in the car, but what I really needed was a shovel, or a pick axe. Maybe I’d be better off taking a cab home, and then going back the next day with a jack hammer.

And that’s when my husband called.

“So you and the dude are going to drive over and dig me out before I get home, right?”

The dude was six. At seventeen, he still is useless during a snowstorm. If only he shoveled snow as effectively as he manages to shovel everything else.

“Hahahaha. Right.” My husband is such a romantic soul.

When I finally arrived in Boston it was late–well past midnight–and I made my way to the roof of the parking ramp. As expected, the rooftop was a sea of white under bright lights, each car an indistinguishable white blob next to another white blob.

All except for one. Mine. Completely cleared and shoveled out of the mess. All I had to do was back up and I could head home.

I called my husband. “I was joking, but really, thank you. That was amazing. You really didn’t have to dig out my car.”

I basked in the feeling of overwhelming love. It was so good to be home.

“Good, because I didn’t.”

I’ve always wondered who shoveled out my car. My husband’s theory is that someone spent an hour digging out a car only to figure out it wasn’t theirs. Their silver Sienna was one more row over. Their worst night ever had become my coup.

But as of today, I know the truth. It was the Boston Yeti.

Boston has been hammered with snow the last few weeks, and the Yeti has roamed empty streets late at night, played in the snow, and even hailed a cab. Folks all across town have tweeted their sightings using #BostonYeti2015. Last week, he began digging out cars, and he didn’t even put a lawn chair with a box of cat litter on top of it to call dibs on the space for later. I told my family that my mystery was solved.

A lot of really shitty stuff is happening in the world right now, like we’re engaged in a sick one-upsmanship to establish who can be the most horrific of all.  Ironic, isn’t it? Someone in a an abominable snowman suit is representing the best of human spirit, while others engage in abominable behavior while pretending to be human.

The Yeti says he’s just lending a claw, but I’d like to think he’s starting a movement. What would the world be like if we were all Yeti, just doing what needed to be done, without fanfare or attribution, just to make the world a little better for one person on one day by doing one simple (or not so simple) thing.

Is today’s Yeti also my Yeti? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. It’s been over ten years since my personal Yeti rescued my car from burial by snowdrift at Logan, and just thinking about it renews my belief in magic. We could use a little magic, don’t you think? Maybe we could all be someone’s Yeti.

Go do it. Be abominable. Be a Yeti.

Photograph from Mashable