Longing for snow as mild winter plows on

THIS JUST IN ...

February 15, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

Here it is the middle of February and we haven't seen any snow. Have you seen any snow? I haven't seen any snow. I think we got some snow at Christmas. I was at a friend's house the other day and noticed a brand-new L.L. Bean toboggan - that's a recreational sledding device - leaning against a shed, dry and pretty, and unusable. The fellow who bought it grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in a house with a perfect-for-sledding hill in Baltimore County. I told him that, as long as he lives here, he should use the toboggan for a coffeetable. Just take it outside when he needs it.

Are you allowed to say this stuff around here?

Can you actually express snow longing without getting everybody from Catonsville to Dundalk screaming that you've lost it? Isn't that like saying you miss the Cold War, or the good ole days of rotary phones and eight-track players?

But, come on now, admit it. We haven't had a good weather panic since around Christmas, and even that wasn't one of those appalling, knockdown-drag-outs in which elderly women fight over milk at the Giant. It's been way too quiet around here this winter. (Good thing we've had the president's impeachment trial to perk things up, huh?)

Let's face it, because of the relative mildness of this winter, we just haven't been much in the mood for wintertime things.

For making a fire in the fireplace.

Or for baking bread.

Or for going to the supermarket and loading up on canned goods and toilet paper.

It just hasn't been winter without snow.

Without urgent weather forecasts on the radio.

Without TV reporters being dispatched to the 41st Street Bridge or the Beltway at Charles Street to report on road conditions. (After a blast of cold air one weekend in January, a reporter from one of our weather-nutty stations was forced to stand in a street somewhere and report on the puddle of water caused by the melting ice. There's one for the resume reel, pal!)

Without neighbors greeting neighbors on those infamous snowbound side streets.

Without George Balog giving reports on road conditions in the city.

No snow to shovel. No snow for snowballs.

No parking spots to clear of snow. I miss seeing the usual array of lawn chairs, plastic barrels, laundry baskets and small children posted to hold parking spaces for the people who shoveled them open.

I miss references to ``the Hereford Zone.''

I miss having to find some way to keep the children occupied on the third day of canceled school. (''OK, who wants to help me make a papier-mache likeness of Peter Angelos?'')

I miss hearing all the closing announcements: baby-birthing clinics, chair-caning classes, recitals and oyster roasts and exams and casino nights.

I miss that cozy sense of - what? - a community slowing down, being forced to take it easy, men and women and children returning to their nests. And in Baltimore we insulate our nests with dozens of rolls of toilet paper.

But this marks our third mild winter in a row, right?

It's getting - how should I say this? - a little boring around here each winter.

Of course, more than once in these parts, we got a little too cocky about the mild winters, a little too optimistic that spring was about to go boing. We got to Valentine's Day or Washington's Birthday - almost St. Patrick's Day one year - and the snow came. And came. And came. (This week marks 20 years since the big storm of Feb. 18-20, 1979, when Central Maryland got 20 inches of snow on top of 10 inches from an earlier storm.)

But I distinctly remember:

In each instance, the big snow didn't fall until after someone somewhere - a meteorologist on radio or TV, a newspaper columnist or editorialist - expressed breathless optimism for an early spring and/or nostalgic regret that December, January and half of February had not brought the Patapsco Drainage Basin more snow.

Alrighty then.

Consider it done.

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