Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thoughts From Inside Hell's Snowglobe

When I was a kid and it snowed, my parents would hand my brother a snow shovel with instructions to go two houses up the street and shovel out an old woman who lived alone, Mrs. Albertson. Back then, we were expected to treat our elders with respect; to be kind and courteous and to always lend a helping hand if needed.
Every street/neighborhood has a 'character' and for us, Mrs. Albertson was it. I recall  she had a tacky pink flamingo stuck in the ground near her front flowerbed that everyone knew she’d brought back from Florida one year after going south to visit her widowed sister. It was an ugly thing which after years exposed to the elements looked like it had seen better days.
On Halloween the neighborhood kids would dutifully knock on her door to Trick or Treat and play along when she tried to guess who was behind each mask. She smelled like rosewater and Noxzema and always, ALWAYS wore sensible ‘old lady’ shoes that made her thick ankles look like sausages stuffed into a too small space.
It was sometimes a race to see which neighborhood boy would be the first to get her shoveled out and if you were the one who beat everyone else you wore the aching back and tired arms like a medal. If you were lucky, she’d have fresh baked cookies as a reward. I remember my brother coming back from a snow-rescue one time with a brown bag stuffed with some of the best damn chocolate chip cookies we’d ever eaten.
For the entrepreneurial (a term that didn’t even exist back then) a snow storm meant an opportunity to pick up a few bucks through hard work and pure grit. Armies of snow suited boys carrying snow shovels would make their way through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors offering to clear sidewalks and walkways for a few measly dollars.
There wasn’t a set price for the hard work; they’d happily take whatever they were given – and talk about it afterwards in the same way we critiqued who gave the best candy at Halloween. Nobody was passed over for being a cheapskate. That’s not how things were done in those days. I suppose it was more about community and being there for each other than about the wallet.
That’s just how it was in our little corner of suburbia. My, my how things have changed.
This winter season has been nothing short of a long-distance endurance test with one snow or ice event after another. Things really got fun when 700,000 people in our area lost power after a heavy wet snow was followed by an equally heavy ice storm. We were in the dark for two days. No electricity, no heat, no nothing. Leaving the house didn’t help as all the businesses and even most of the ATM’s were also in the dark. Oh yeah – and then there was the Polar Vortex.
Living along what is referred to as the I-95 corridor between D.C. and NYC is a little bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when weather shakes things up. A couple miles on either side of that line generally determines whether you get buried in just snow or DP’d with snow mixed with sleet, mixed with rain. We are tucked in an area that gets more snow than the other. Fun times.
Our current snowfall total has now exceeded 56” and that measurement is a city total – not the higher total we experience in the deep suburbs. Think about what that means. That’s four and a half feet. As I look from my window, white stuff is falling from the sky…AGAIN.  We’ve been told to expect another three to five inches. So that would bring us to five friggin’ feet of snow. According to the news, this has been the third snowiest season in history for our area.
Gone are the days of traveling snow shovel brigades of kids looking to help out and hopefully earn some cash. Now when assistance is needed you look to whoever provides your lawn service or end up trolling Craigslist - the new home of todays’ entrepreneur. And it’s not cheap.
We totally lucked out and hooked up with two brothers who contact us after each snow event to see if we want to get on to their list. After the first shovel out, I was chatting them up and found out that the older of the two was home from college. He fished a beat up business card out of his pocket that made me laugh. Along with his name and contact info he listed his major in college (Business). Smart kid.
Between the multiple times we’ve had to be shoveled out and the ridiculous amount of ice melt purchased; this has been one expensive winter.
I’ve started calling it Hell’s Snowglobe.

It’s hard to whine, although I do my fair share, because being here this winter was a calculated decision. We’ve been straddling both coasts for an entire year as we slowly shift permanently to the southwest. The slow-go approach is predicated on family issues. Something we all have to deal with.

In a sense we are running out the clock. By this time next year we will be in the clear and let me tell you – there is no friggin’ way I’m spending another winter here. This experience has been dreadful and not enjoyable at all.

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