Cabin fever

Today the whole extended family is at home due to a snow storm that has canceled school and work. As members of the family drift around the house looking for something interesting but not too productive to do, I decided to jot down some of my observations on snow days in this part of the world.

This particular snow day started overnight, but the local television stations started their “extended coverage” yesterday. Two TV weather teams stand out, in my opinion. One, the one I watch routinely for most of my weather information, is almost understated by TV standards. Somehow they subscribe to the most accurate weather simulation and forecasting services, so the predictions are usually as good as it gets. Yesterday, they played things relatively cool, pointing out the impending storm and showing expected accumulations that, typical for them, turned out to be very close.

The other started running extreme weather warnings even before noon on Sunday for a storm expected early Monday morning. “The sky is falling” seems too tame for these guys. (A few years ago when we moved to town, they were the ones who forecast a drastic hurricane would circle Charlotte for days and wreak havoc on us all that would make Hugo seem tame. The actual event? A slight drizzle with winds below 20 mph.) Every program on the station, including the NFL playoff games, had a near-constant warning crawl that told us to stay inside our houses until the storm had passed. This while the sky was bright blue with no change expected for 16 hours or more! They also predicted a range of accumulation at least 2 inches more than the other station, with “or more” added for good measure.

But yesterday also showed why they do it: everyone I talked with quoted (you guessed it) the Chicken Little predictions. When you need an excuse to make a milk and bread panic buy at the grocery store, a tame forecast just isn’t dramatic enough.

I did go to the grocery store last night during the time station 2 warned me to stay indoors, though not for bread or milk. The weather was cold but beautiful, and the shelves were stripped of every loaf of white bread. For some reason, the whole grain bread section remained fairly well stocked. Apparently health nuts don’t panic as easily as the white bread crowd — or maybe we spend our panicking energy on food instead of weather.

When we awoke early this morning, it was, as predicted, snowing. Accumulation was as station 1 had predicted, but still enough to cancel schools, particularly because road conditions are expected to worsen all day. We all got some breakfast and switched on the television to watch the cancellation parade and scenes of local snow chaos.

My daughter commented that most businesses seemed to be closed, but the Waffle Houses they showed on camera all had dozens of cars parked outside.

“Obviously there were a lot of people who didn’t plan ahead,” she noted.

I smiled. I have tried to educate her to the ways of the Southern male, but she is after all a girl.

“No, they probably have a pantry full of bread and a refrigerator full of milk,” I replied. “But that’s what you do. You prepare for the snow emergency, and when it arrives, you get in your car and test the roads.”

It makes no sense to her, or any female, I know, but that’s how we think.

What’s the use to have a secure castle to hide in if all you do is hide in it? It seems worthless unless you go out and see what it is securing you from?

Besides, we have an inborn need to test our snow driving skills. Here, where significant snowfall happens no more than a time or two a year, we have to make sure we can make our vehicle behave, especially if it’s a new, untested one. And, once we’re on the road and moving forward, we almost invariably yank the wheel or slam on brakes, just to reassure ourselves that snow makes a road slippery. And that we can get back under control after the slipping starts.

If we can’t, we get to dig ourselves out or wait for the tow truck. Later, describing how bad the roads were or how stuck we got makes for a great story. If we can get ourselves moving through sheer driving skill, we’ll have a “it’s real slippery out there” anecdote. That being the case, of course, we get to feel superior to the guy who managed to get stuck in a snow bank.

Either way, we need a place to share our findings and to demonstrate our winter prowess. What better place than the local eatery? If you show up there, everyone will see just by your presence that you can handle “this stuff.” If you don’t go, they might wonder about you or your vehicle. “Wonder how old so-and-so is doing in this stuff?” they’ll say. No, it’s far less risky to drive down to the Waffle House, or whatever the local breakfast hangout is, than to let guys wonder if you can drive in snow.

I explained all this to the skeptical females in my household. They smiled indulgently and went back to Dr. Oz or whatever they were watching. They know I’m subject to fits of explaining things, but they generally tolerate me anyhow.

I asked Joyce about my brother-in-law, knowing she had been on the phone with her sister, Carolyn, earlier. Joe has been sick the last few days, and we were concerned because he wasn’t getting over his severe cough.

“Oh, he’s still sick,” she said. “But Carolyn said he went out to Hardee’s [the local hangout] for breakfast this morning, anyway.”

Some things are just too important to let a little pneumonia interfere with.

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