Old Man Winter can huff, puff, but he won't dampen our spirit

Saturday's Hero

February 17, 1996|By ROB KASPER

YES, THIS HAS been a hard winter. But it has brought us out of snow-wimpery. We got some snow yesterday. It was not pleasant, but we didn't fold. Snow doesn't scare us in Baltimore like it used to.

We cleared the walks, brushed off the cars. We got to work. There didn't seem to be the sense of panic that normally descends on the city with a snowfall. Anger and resignation, but not terror.

Yesterday as I shoveled snow off the back walk for the third time this week and for what may be the 20th time since Thanksgiving, I thought of how this rough weather has changed our attitude toward the white stuff. So far this season we have had more than 50 inches of snow, about twice our average for an entire winter. It has also been several degrees colder than a normal winter. In the 20 or so winters that I have lived here, we might have had a snow about once a month. This year it has snowed almost once a week.

It used to be that a serious snowfall was anything over 2 inches. Now, unless the snow reaches the hubcaps, nobody seems to pay attention. This in a town where a few winters ago, people would flee the office when snow was merely predicted.

On the homefront, the anxiety is gone. What could winter do to us that it hasn't already tried? We have had 2 feet of snow weighing down our roofs. We have had glaciers clogging our gutters. We have had meltdown. We have had high winds tearing off shingles. Some folks have had flooded basements.

The other night I was awakened at 3 a.m. by the sound of jackhammers. Winter had struck another blow. A water pipe had burst down the alley, about a block away. A work crew was pulling up pavement so it could replace the broken pipe. The crew fixed the leak. But what once was a paved alley became a muddy pit. Yesterday I consoled myself with the thought that the snow would cover up the mud and temporarily cloak the water pipe hole in a blanket of white.

You know you have had a rough winter when you cheer yourself by telling yourself that snow makes the alley look scenic.

Another change is that this winter we have purchased all sorts of cold-weather gear. In previous years the question was, "How often am I gonna use this snow shovel?"

This year the question is, "Should I buy a bigger shovel?" The answer has been, "Yes, and don't forget to buy a sack of ice-melting pellets as well."

Now many of us ride around with sturdy windshield scrapers in our car's glove compartments. We have poured oceans of blue windshield cleaner into the car's plastic reservoir. We have spray bottles of door lock de-icer at the ready. Our gas tanks are full. We have a shovel in the trunk.

Just because we are now accustomed to snow doesn't mean we all behave sensibly when it hits. Some clowns are learning the hard way that no matter how much horsepower they have, if they drive too fast on slick roads, their fancy four-wheel-drive vehicle will go into four-wheel slide.

Some drivers have figured out that if visibility is so poor that they need to turn on their windshield wipers, then they should also turn on their headlights. But others are still in the dark about the headlight question, and dimly charge on.

The weather has wreaked havoc on the schedule of Saturday sporting activities for kids. As the coach of a kids' basketball team I have learned that when it snows on Friday, Saturday games are often at risk.

Will a school that was closed on a Friday be able to open its gym on a Saturday? If the Saturday games are canceled, can they be rescheduled for a weeknight? Will the gym be available? Will enough kids be able to attend a make-up game? How will this affect the-end-of-the-season tournament?

In prior winters such weather-related questions would have coaches in telephone turmoil. Not this year.

This year the weather has been so rotten, we have grown accustomed to waiting. Early Saturday morning, the phone will ring with news of whether the game is on, off, or rescheduled. By now, we know the drill.

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