Instead of simple, we've just gone snow-stupid

February 11, 2010|By Jean Marbella

Wednesday's deluge might have dumped fresh piles of snow atop the sodden slush and permafrost ice layer remaining from the last storm, but to no avail. We can get many more inches, even feet, of snow, and everyone will still be out of new material.

Have you heard every possible snow story yet? People start telling me about the adventure of their commute, or what cute thing their dog did, or some uproarious scene at the grocery store or parking lot, and I can't help it: My eyes glaze over, my ears go deaf and I drift.

I think, "Hmmm, what should I have for dinner tonight? Who is this again, talking to me, and does he know his sweater has a little moth hole, right where the green horizontal stripe crosses the brown vertical one? Wait, I know: Is there some more of that chili in the freezer?"

But mainly what I'm thinking is: "Hurry up and finish so I can tell you my story."

How is this possible, that my snow ordeals are so eminently interesting, and yet no one else's are?

I don't know how much more of this I can take. It's not just the endless shoveling, although I'm beginning to worry about the snow-to-Advil ratio. It's not just that the newsroom food supply is down to Doritos and crusted-over hummus, or the fact that I'm sick to death of my snow boots or that I have permanent hat hair.

It's the snow bored.

I know we're all in this together, but I'm starting to feel like we're all at one of those parties where somehow, you end up pressed against a bookshelf with no escape from the guy who is telling you every last detail about the drywall he just put up in his basement.

I'm a trained professional listener. I can widen my eyes and feign interest in just about anything anyone has to say. I've got quite the range of facial expressions available for response, from rueful sympathy to shared outrage to dumbfounded shock.

But I'm running dry here after days of snow talk.

There's not that much to say, and yet so much time in which to say it. Everything's shut down, and we're stuck inside with nothing to do but talk about what's going on outside.

I don't know about you, but if I see that TV footage of BGE's Rob Gould one more time, the one where he darkly warns that just because you have power now doesn't mean it won't go out five minutes from now, I might just cut down my own power line.

And soon, I sense, even the well-presented updates from the city emergency center are going to get old. I've liked seeing the new mayor, Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, getting to handle a crisis that lives up to the grave demeanor that she's always had. I like seeing Fire Chief James Clack in charge over there; just knowing he's from Minnesota makes me feel like the city is in good hands.

The rest of us, though, are kind of like that team going to the championship for the first time - we can't quite act like we've been there before because we never have been.

At least this is my excuse for my own lapse in snow sanity Wednesday, when I got stuck on a hilly street, unable to go forward or turn back around.

I wasn't even driving, I was on foot, but the wind kept pushing me backward as I tried to climb up the street. Halfway up, I turned around, but the gusts and gravity threatened to roll me down the hill like one of those cartoon characters who ends up as a human snowball.

So it's official, I thought as I grabbed hold of a hard, shoulder-high mound of plowed snow. I am one of those snow idiots.

There was no reason for me to be out yesterday, much less walking up a hill I generally avoid even in good weather, a side street that rises from the newspaper's offices on Calvert up to St. Paul.

But I had to go out to see why I wasn't supposed to go out.

Admit it, when a waiter warns you - "Careful, this plate is really hot" - don't you just have to touch it yourself?

Wednesday's installment of snow was officially a public safety emergency - at one point, city officials were even telling doctors and nurses to stay home rather than risk the roads en route to the hospital, and threatening to imprison anyone driving on the streets.

But maybe our leaders should have declared a public stupidity crisis.

I keep seeing people gone utterly snow-stupid: They're out driving in sporty little cars in the kind of accumulation that has stopped Humvees and city buses in their tracks. I was tailgated a couple of snowstorms ago, on I-95 before the snowplows came through, by, of all things, a Toyota - the status of its brakes or accelerator or recall notice unknown.

And then the other day, I watched a guy on foot, navigating the moguls created by tire treads and plowed snow on the street and gingerly stepping onto a sidewalk that was caked in thick ice - while giving his little kid a ride on his shoulders. I like a train wreck as much as the next person, but even I couldn't watch - the image of this guy going down, the kid on his shoulders either being hurtled into traffic or landing underneath him, was enough for me.

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