You heard it here first: Folks really do love snow and ice

January 04, 1998|By Jacques Kelly

BALTIMOREANS, FOR all our protestations to the contrary, actually glory in the days of ice and snow.

For starters, it gives us a chance to complain. And Baltimore is a city that loves a good wail. We still weep over the Colts, lost department stores, vanished movie theaters and forgotten old neighborhoods. Caught in a storm for 45 minutes? The horror of it all is worthy of being set to violin music.

Snow often gives you a day off work, or at least a few more hours to make it there. It scarcely matters if the storm is actually bad, or if it's just a hint of white. Any trace of freezing moisture is a general excuse for avoiding whatever you don't want to do.

Running late for work? Blame it on the weather -- it's an excuse no boss can refute. Just remember, your boss has probably used the same excuse.

How about a weekend party that you don't really want to attend? Just get on the phone and tell your would-be host, "I don't dare go out in this mess!"

I love to listen to the long lists of canceled meetings broadcast by the local media during inclement weather. Who wants to attend a church finance committee meeting on a cold Wednesday night? I don't.

I like a winter when we get two or three storms. I call it the winter semester break. Little meaningful work gets done. Appointments are broken with impunity. I stay at home, reading books, cleaning out cupboards and catching up on whatever needs doing.

Snow holidays are the greatest holidays of all. The social calendar gets wiped clean. There are no obligatory family gatherings with boring food.

I gave up dragging my Flexible Flyer (now an antique) to the hill in Wyman Park long ago. I became dubious of winter sports after my brother broke his arm on a tree while sledding. But I still harbor a child's delight in thinking about sledding. Before I hit 50 I want to try the great daredevil course in Leakin Park, a sledding trail, it is said, that provides a full seven minutes of downhill thrills.

But I'm not so unadventurous that I won't try another kind of winter sport -- urban hitchhiking in the snow, when public transportation can't be found.

I stand at the corner of 26th and St. Paul streets and extend a thumb. Car after car will pass by, but it doesn't take too long before someone will stop to offer assistance.

Who offers this wintertime aid? Medical staff on their way to Mercy and Johns Hopkins hospitals. My last snow rescue came from the obstetrics unit at Hopkins. Many a mom knows that babies love to come into the world during snowstorms.

I enjoy my free rides to work with the doctors, nurses and medical technicians. They know they can't make any excuses to stay at home, so they drive along cheerfully, and I don't have to listen to any exaggerated stories of how they risked life and limb to push the snow off the windshield.

Baltimore's penchant for complaining about the snow is really something of a cover-up. People may gripe, but it gives them ample fodder for conversation.

Several snows ago the city seemed to be out of commission for days. Those of us who worked downtown faced the prospect of returning home under what some would call adverse conditions. I offered free food and lodging to any who could make it the 21 city blocks to my living quarters.

A friend and I looked down one of the downtown streets for any sign of a bus. None was in sight, but a cab breezed along.

He picked us up. Instead of giving my home address, I directed the driver to the neighborhood liquor store. A nice Manhattan, made with Maryland rye, tastes good on a freezing January night.

And, as everyone knows, imbibing at home is a fine way to deal with Baltimore's winter weather.

But then Baltimore's weather played a cruel trick.

HTC When the cab got to the liquor store, the liquor store was closed. The owner had used a snow excuse to take a day off.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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