If you are anywhere in the east coast, chances are good that you are aware of a minor snow condition we’re having. Evidently all of those people dreaming of a white Christmas got mother nature fed up, so she waited until it was over and then buried us alive. Sort of a one-two punch. “There, now you’ll be cold and travel will be difficult and it won’t even be quaint!” Best of all, the blizzard came during the time when most kids are on winter break anyway, so they don’t even get any bonus days off! Take that! When I was a little kid, a blizzard was just about the best thing that could possibly happen. It meant school would be canceled, the whole city became a giant playground, and once you were done hucking snowballs at people, there was money to be made in the shovel-for-hire racket. Now that I’m an adult, a blizzard takes on a few different meanings.
First off, the whole concept of a snow day is entirely different. Gone is the youthful joy at seeing the roads become impassible for all traffic, and thus all school busses. Now we see the snow and think, “Crap… I have to drive in this, or no one will pay me.” The family got together for a holiday visit yesterday when the snow was just starting, and the vast majority of the conversations focused on how exactly my brother and my dad would be getting to work. Around here, the general attitude is, “Well, if the roads are too bad, I’ll just take the train.” Which works for everyone but the people who run the trains. Guess what those two do for a living? You’ll note my own travel plans were not in the mix there. That’s because I’ve got one of them fancy tech jobs. There’s no such thing as a snow day for me. Nope, I get “work from home.” Occasionally I wonder if spending all of that money on college was worth it. My brother, sans college, gets the same paycheck as me, after all. Then a day like this comes along, where two feet of snow on the ground means he’s got to spend an hour digging out his plowed-in car, while for me it means I get to do the morning reports in my underpants while eating Cheetos. Tuition well spent.
Severe weather conditions tend to underscore the clash between real life and the Internet, too. Ostensibly, the web means that businesses can become global. It creates digital empires upon which the sun never sets. In reality, most of the businesses end up doing most of the grunt work from a single location, and thus when that building gets slammed, everyone else feels it. This results in bizarre situations like a call center in the Philippines getting sent home early because it is snowing in Newark. The Internet also means that it is easier to keep frivolous wastes of time up and running while essential services struggle. This blizzard is going to keep the local grocery store from getting bread and milk for a while, and ambulances are going to be perhaps tragically delayed, but I bet I Can Has Cheezburger doesn’t experience a minute of downtime.
Aside from the major consequences of a snowstorm, there are the oft overlooked minor consequences, too. For instance, with a fresh blanket of white on the ground, we quickly learn where drunks, dogs, and the homeless like to pee, thanks to bright yellow markings from nature’s highlighter. Also, one of the more disturbing signs of the season will now be springing up all over the place: The Snowman. I never really built a snowman when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, there were far more constructive uses for the white stuff, like pelting my older brothers with it, or building a fort to avoid retribution. But am I the only one who is a little weirded out by seeing these effigies constructed and then slowly melt away? It is like some horrible metaphor for human existence. “Remember, kids! Life is fleeting, and your creator doesn’t care about you anymore, now that he’s discovered that his mom made hot chocolate!”
All in all, I’m still a fan of the snow. I even frolicked in it a little yesterday – which is to say that I went out and moved a massive box out of my Dad’s car during a blizzard, then quickly came back inside and changed my pants. Sure, it’ll make it kind of tricky to get to work for a while, but a blizzard is still the only way that a whole town will get covered in a construction material fit for children… At least until my fiendish playdoh weather machine is complete…