When it snows, Marylanders rush out to buy cat litter but why?

NEIGHBORS

January 10, 1994|By CINDY PARR

What is it about that four-letter word that makes everyone go plumb crazy?

You know the one -- SNOW. We hear it and the eyes bulge, the hair stands on end and we rush to the car to make a frantic trip to the grocery store.

I have always heard the jokes about people in our state who panic over any forecast that includes snow. It wasn't until last Monday that I became more aware of these perceptions.

It all started after numerous local news shows Sunday night predicted the appearance of those dreaded white flakes. News anchormen and anchorwomen and weather people were quick to make their comments.

I watched and listened as many TV news personalities joked about the most sought-after items for snowstorm shoppers. Included on their lists were snow shovels, rock salt, gasoline (for full tanks) and such staples as milk, bread, toilet paper and . . . CAT LITTER?

Why cat litter? Do those fluffy felines visit their boxes more on snow days than on regular days?

It took a conversation with a friend to set me straight. The dialogue went something like this:

Me: "You know, Kate, I was out on Monday and I couldn't believe how packed every grocery store parking lot was. I mean, I went down Route 140 from Finksburg to Englar Road, passing by Weis, Martin's, Giant, the Co-op and Super Fresh, and each one was packed. I finally went into one of the stores myself to do my grocery shopping, and I was amazed. And by the way, what do cat litter and snow warnings have in common?"

My friend could not believe my utter idiocy.

Kate: "Well, people buy cat litter, and they put it in their trunk to weight it down."

Me: "Oh, I see."

Well, the truth of the matter is I didn't see. I didn't understand why folks just couldn't go out in their yards and find a few large rocks to heave into their trunks for extra weight. Why pay good money for cat litter when a variety of useless household items could fit the bill?

I respected my friend's position; she is a highly educated and well-read librarian type. Surely, she knows her cat litter.

I was able to gain further insight on the cat litter matter during a conversation with my brother in Westminster. That dialogue went something like this:

Me: "Bobby, you wouldn't believe the number of people who were buying cat litter at the grocery store Monday. I understand it serves a real purpose other than the obvious one. It provides weight in the rear end of lightweight vehicles, which is helpful when it snows."

Bobby: "I think cat litter does more than that. A lot of people use it to throw on the ice in place of rock salt. It makes walking over the ice a great deal easier."

Me: "What a great idea. I bet you get more for your money?"

By now, this snow craze had my curiosity heightened and I wanted to know what worried people most when snowflakes lingered on the horizon. So I decided to ask a few friends their thoughts.

My friend Kate Kelly couldn't have cared less about cat litter. When there's the threat of snow, her concerns center on education.

"I just pray they won't close schools," said the Westminster mother of three school-age children. "We just had Christmas vacation, and my kids need someplace to go."

Kim Uhler of Finksburg had similar concerns. Kim, a nursing student, said, "When they predict snow, I always wonder what I am going to do with my kids, because their school will probably be closed, and my school will be open."

Back to cat litter, Cyndie Bare of Westminster said, "I only buy cat litter for Fluffy [her cat]. But when I hear it's going to snow, I go out to get gas to make sure my tank is full. And, just in case the kids are going to be home, I'll -- out to the video store. Of course, I think about who's going to watch my kids if the schools are closed."

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