Suffering from a case of cabin fever

Homebound: Marylanders are sick and tired of the bad weather - and it's starting to show.

The Snowstorm Of 2003

February 19, 2003|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

At first, there's a giddiness, a sense of wonder at 2 feet of snow falling from the sky and transforming the neighborhood into a winter landscape.

But now, the kids have a terminal case of cabin fever. Supplies are running low. Buses aren't running at all. The street still hasn't been plowed. And the neighbors haven't even started to clear their sidewalks.

Maryland, the mittens are starting to come off.

After years of mild Decembers, balmy Januarys and spring-like Februarys, we have hit the winter that won't end. And people are getting sick of it.

"It's hard to walk around, even in boots. Something that normally takes 10 minutes took almost 25," said Carroll County Republican Del. Carmen Amedori, who was holed up over the weekend in the Annapolis house she rents for the session. "I hate this. I want warm weather. I want to play golf now."

The gloomy skies have produced more than the simple winter blues, which is good news of a sort for Neal Owens, founder and president of Sunbox, a Gaithersburg company that manufactures light boxes to treat those with Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a form of winter depression caused by insufficient sunlight, and Owens said he's seeing an increase in physician referrals.

"People are having a tough time. This winter has just had a grip on everyone and just doesn't want to let up," he said. "We've had a couple of mild winters, and people had a false sense of hope. Where once they may have been teeter-tottering, this year has pushed them into the real McCoy."

At the Vantage Point condominium community in Columbia, Frank DiPietro was feeling grouchy. Gesturing at a huge lump of snow with a car underneath - just the hint of a side mirror poking through - he grimaced in disgust.

"Somebody pulled into that space who doesn't belong here. He's got Florida license plates," DiPietro said, sweeping snow from his red Buick LeSabre. "If he's there a couple more days, I'll call the police."

DiPietro, 85, said he lived happily in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for 13 years. But his wife didn't like it, his heart began acting up and two years ago his grown children finally intervened, bringing their parents to Maryland.

"Every day, I wish I was back [in Florida]," DiPietro said dourly.

But nearby, Al Honey was happily chopping snow away from a blue Chevy pickup.

"I love it," said the retired government employee. "If I had muscle power in my legs, I'd be out skiing. ... I love the four seasons!"

His wife, Patricia, winced on the sidewalk. "He's crazy. Don't pay any attention to what he says," she said.

In Hampden, Denise Raymond, 45, a part-time dog walker laid up with bronchitis and "a touch of pneumonia," hadn't been any farther than the front porch of her rowhouse since the storm broke Friday.

"I really, really wanted it to snow, but now it is starting to really get to me because, geez, I can't go anywhere," she said.

Fortunately, most of her clients are also trapped at home.

Erica Jablonsky finally emerged from her Mount Washington home yesterday for a trip to the market. During her unscheduled retreat, she watched movies, surfed the Web, slept, talked on the phone and met some neighbors she didn't know. That was enough.

"I can't take anymore," she said during her resupply run at a Metro food market. "I've been stuck inside for three days, and this is the first time I have gotten out."

Meanwhile, Robert Udoff and his wife, Leslie, were holding the slumber party from hell. Their teen-age daughter's Saturday night sleepover - with six friends - didn't end until noon yesterday, when they were finally able to dig out of their Owings Mills cul-de-sac.

"They watched movies and ate and ate and ate," said Robert Udoff, estimating that the girls (abetted by a group of boys who stopped by) went through dozens of chicken wings, hundreds of chicken nuggets, a case of SpaghettiOs with meatballs, and 20 boxes of macaroni and cheese.

"By the end, the girls were kind of getting on each others' nerves," he said. "It kept all the kids from being bored at home. But after the second day it was time to go home."

For others, boredom isn't the problem. They're the so-called "essential" employees who are expected to report for work.

Matt Diehl, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, was set for a relaxing three-day weekend when snowflakes started to fall Friday. Instead, he spent four days fielding requestions about plowing, salting and sanding. He is "absolutely" ready for the snow to be gone.

At least there's the overtime, right?

"Negative," said Diehl, whose essential status disqualifies him from extra pay.

The snow was a feast for some merchants and famine for others. In Federal Hill, the bars were busy, but at the nearby Cross Street Market, only Nick's Seafood was open, and only because it's fenced off from the rest of the market.

John Nicholas and Elizabeth Hartlove of Steve's Lunch made it in, too, but the market's security workers couldn't, so they couldn't open. The owners watched in frustration as would-be customers knocked on the locked market door, hoping to grab a steakfish sandwich or a cheese steak sub.

"It's kind of romantic," Hartlove said of the snow. "But after a day of romance, you need to get back to work."

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Larry Carson, Michael Dresser, Lisa Goldberg, Rona Kobell, Linda Linley and Jason Song contributed to this article.

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