The forecast in these parts is for a blizzard commencing some time tonight. The number of inches varies, but suffice it to say that if this weather pattern (which makes it sound much prettier than it actually is) continues, we will be buried by this time tomorrow under about a foot of snow.
The nearest grocery store is out of bread, events are being pre-cancelled, and I have only this morning received an e-mail from Sears reminding me that this might be a wise time to invest in a snow blower. I do not need a snow blower because I live on an urban lot and have the services of a 14-year-old boy who owes me big time. I am not even remotely panicked, although I worry about people who live in homeless camps, have been unable to pay their heating bills, or require medical intervention like dialysis. I feel terrible for stranded travelers, and families in which the children get most of their calories from free breakfast and lunch programs at school. I worry a lot about what they eat when school is cancelled because of snow.
Mainly, I am baffled by this hype. I live in Michigan, a state whose slogan is “Water, Winter Wonderland.” This is the “Winter” part. Life here from October to some time in March is basically a form of the Winter X Games in which we are not sponsored, and my hair is never as pretty as Shaun White’s. We have down coats, warm boots with serious tread, Carmex and tissue in every pocket, and both “dress” and “work” gloves. We own shovels, bags of Ice Melt, and carry bags of kitty litter and spare blankets in the back of our cars. We know from tire chains, and bet our lives on knowing how to steer into a skid at an icy intersection. Collectively, we shake our heads at the out-of-state students who race past us on un-salted roads, throwing up an obfuscating wake of white stuff onto our windshields, or drive around in un-scraped cars peeking through a tiny, eye-level hole in the opaque ice blanketing their SUVs. We are skiing, sledding, ice-fishing, curling, skating people, a race of red-faced carb loaders who complain bitterly about winter from the moment it begins, but who secretly love the challenges and the supernatural sight of fresh snow glittering under the street lights during the last dog walk of the night.
This is life here, in the winter, and has been for all of my considerable life. It always seems odd to me that storms that have occurred annually since “Detroit” was pronounced correctly become big news stories for days. There is, for example, real news coming out of Egypt at the moment, but no one would know that if they watched our local stations. We are told every ten minutes about the impending blizzard as if we lived in Maui and our Wednesday morning surfing might be cancelled. Last week we were barraged with news of a “cold snap” which meant that instead of a high of 30, we might only see 10. If we lived on the Beltway, or in Tennessee, dropping temperatures and snow would be news. We do not, it is not, and no grave-faced suit with a weather map is going to inspire me to make a frenzied run to buy bread and milk. The roads will be cleared in a matter of hours, they always are, and if not we will eat everything in the house and then experiment with various condiments mixed with bowls of snow. It will be an adventure.
If I may climb onto my icy soapbox, let me pose this question: what if the energy we throw into Snowpocalypse Hysteria was diverted into making winter storms easier for those who are truly at risk? What if we could buy some nourishing, ready-to-eat food for families with hungry children, donate blankets and warm clothes to a shelter, or make an on-the-spot-while-we’re-thinking-about-blizzards donation to a shelter serving the homeless population, or a charity helping folks to pay their oil and gas bills? Very close to our well-prepared households there are families of refugees from tropical climates who need warm clothes, boots, coats, hats, and probably a starter supply of Carmex and tissue. They are now part of this community, and we all have to be prepared.
It’s going to be winter here every year, and we will always have snow days, cancellations, and hazardously low temperatures. It’s time to pull on our down coats and hats with ear flaps, slather on a layer of Bag Balm and use our hearty Michigan constitutions to make sure that what is really a minor and expected inconvenience is not a real “snowpocalypse” for someone else. That would be news.