The Storm Before the Storm

I don’t take natural disasters lightly and appreciate the importance of preparation and safety, but … C’mon people! It’s winter in New England! Admittedly, the storm last week swept in and dumped a lot of snow, but we collectively indulge in some unnecessary hysteria around extreme weather.

It starts with the meteorologists. They hover around their cauldrons and keen “Double, double toil and trouble” as surely as if they were auditioning for Act IV, scene I of Macbeth. They predict impending doom and hook us like the witches did the Thane of Cawdor, and like he, we do some strange things as a result. They make us go out and buy milk that will go bad by the time the storm actually arrives. We fret and worry like Lady Macbeth over likely outcomes. We consider cancelling or rearranging every plan within +/- three days of the event.

I imagine the witches – I mean meteorologists – hunkering down over blipping radar screens in a basements bomb shelter lined with cots and scratchy wool blankets. Neither snow nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay these harbingers of big bad weather. They show us charts and graphs and photographs of what the approaching precipitation might look like when it gets here. On screen, I wait for their heads to explode with excitement, like a piñata showering snowflakes instead of sugary candy. As the storm nears, they eclipse all other news as their segments stretch like taffy to cover our screens with flashy graphics and ominous voices: “SnowStorm2017: the latest at Four. Five. Six. And then we will break into other programming frequently in case you cannot stay up to Eleven for our next report.”

We run out in a frenzy to the supermarkets, fighting for parking spaces and elbowing fellow panickers as we race our shopping carts to the milk/bread/eggs. In the 20 years that I’ve lived here, including for Super Storm Sandy, no weather has kept me housebound for more than three days. I, for one, have enough canned soup and cereal to last for a few days without starving. I understand that families with infants have special needs, but really, what are you doing with only a few diapers left anyway? Back in the day, Costco kept me knee deep in supersized cartons of mostly everything the kids needed. What do we all need so desperately that we can’t wait until the morning after?

Once the deluge arrives, intrepid reporters venture out into the messy mix to stand in blowing, blinding horizontal snow. The harder it is to hear them, the more layers of station-logo-emblazoned clothing, the tighter they have to hang on to something to avoid blowing away, the better. Because looking out our windows is just not enough.

They also station themselves at salt storage facilities, Home Depots, and gas stations so they can assault municipal employees, store clerks, and snow plow drivers who would rather actually do their jobs than answer inane, probing questions like: “How will you spread this salt on the icy roads?” “Did you anticipate that there would be such a run on snow shovels and ice melt with a storm approaching in February?” and “How are the roads out there under the 13” of snow?” Pulitzer Prize-quality reporting, for sure.

I went to college in Vermont. When it snowed, they shoveled and plowed, and life went on. It seems like a much saner response.

I, for one, was pretty happy to have a snow day. I slept late, walked on the treadmill for an hour, edited my manuscript (I only voluntarily do this under duress normally, but I was shut in), and watched the snow and frost make pretty designs on my eaves and windows.
And in the morning, the sun shone, and even though it was cold, life on the Post Road resumed. I wonder what everyone will do with all that milk they bought and look forward to insightful reports of people shoveling their driveways on the evening news.


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