Thu, Feb 20, 2014 09:50 PM
As I write this column, the East is being hammered by a storm of
epic proportions. Vermonters know well the effects of a classic
Nor'easter. But those who live in the Southeast are simply not
equipped to handle snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain.
When winter weather rears its ugly head below the Mason-Dixon
Line, life basically comes to a standstill. Schools, banks and
businesses shut their doors and batten down the hatches. DOT
departments do the best they can to keep roads clear, but their
inventory of snow removal equipment is skeletal at best. As they
say in South Carolina, "The interstates are clear, y'all just can't
get to them."
In the Northeast and experienced my share of snow storms. There
was a standard precipitation protocol that everyone followed. But
times have changed and gearing up for a snow event simply isn't
what it used to be.
Here we go again - another "good old days" comparison column for
all you Boomers out there.
Today, we track a storm by looking at Doppler radars, listening to
weather alerts on our battery-powered weather radio and watching
The Weather Channel non-stop.
Back then we knew bad weather was coming because grandpa's
arthritis was acting up or grandma recognized a snow storm sky when
she saw one.
Back then we stocked up on candles, bought fresh batteries for the
flashlight (there was only one per household, it took D batteries
and dad was the only person allowed to handle it), filled rinsed
out milk cartons with water and filled the bathtub so we could use
it to flush the toilets if the power went out because the well pump
would be out too.
Today, we purchase expensive generators and backup battery packs
so we can keep our phones, iPads and laptops running. No problem on
the lights, we can use the flashlight app on our smart phones. Two
cases of bottled water from Walmart and we consider ourselves
Back then, mom planned menus for a three-day stint, wrote out a
precise shopping list, clipped her coupons, visited the grocery
store, paid cash and collected her green stamps. She went on a
cooking frenzy and after each meal, she packed up the leftovers in
her prized Tupperware containers and placed them in the freezer so
she was prepared for the next storm.
Today, we run to the supermarket buying bread, milk and eggs along
with other items we don't particularly eat even when the weather is
good. When we get hungry, we throw caution to the wind (and ice),
throw our oversized SUV into four-wheel drive and maneuver our way
to the nearest Waffle House or Dunkin Donuts because they never
close. A week later, we throw away the bread, milk and eggs that
never even got touched.
Back then we pulled out the board games, card decks and giant
jigsaw puzzles to keep ourselves amused. The entire family sat
around the kitchen table to play Monopoly for hours or to put
together the puzzle starting with all the edge pieces first.
Today, every family member retreats to their own corner of the
house playing video games or browsing the internet on their
personal electronic device.
Back then we "created" outfits for playing in the snow using long
johns, corduroys, flannel shirts, waterproof jackets, two pair of
socks, galoshes, idiot mittens and woolen hats. We looked like
overstuffed rag muffins. But so long as we could stay warm, we
played outside for hours.
Today, we don clothing bought at sporting goods stores emblazoned
with logos and it all must be color coordinated. We don't care if
we get cold, so long as we look good.
Back then, mom and dad put a shovel in our hands and sent us
outside to clear the walkway and driveway. We were also expected to
shovel the driveways of any elderly neighbors who lived on our
street - and we didn't expect to be paid for it. They also gave us
a broom so we could brush every speck of snow off the car to allow
for safe driving with totally unobstructed sight lines.
Today, we start the car 15 minutes before we are ready to leave
the house so it will be warm. Once inside, we turn on the
windshield wipers to clear enough snow from the windshield to see
what's in front of us. We drive off, headed for the nearest
Starbucks, allowing the rest of the snow to blow off into the path
of other drivers. If it doesn't come off quickly enough, we hit the
gas pedal to help it along.
Back then, if schools were closed during a storm, kids rejoiced
like it was Christmas. We got up early so we could go outside,
build a snow fort or snow man, have a snowball fight or do anything
snow related so we could enjoy it while it lasted. When school
reopened, mom rejoiced like it was Christmas.
Today, if schools close for a storm, kids sleep in to make up for
staying up too late playing the afore-mentioned video games. By
noon they get cajoled into going outside to enjoy the snow while it
lasts. With half a snowman built, they traipse back in the house
complaining it's too cold outside. When school reopens, mom
rejoices like it's Christmas.
I guess some things do remain the same.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times. She can be
reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.