Tuesday, January 27, 2004

It snowed, and somehow we survived

Click here to e-mail Peter Bronson
It's amazing what a few inches of snow can do to bring our high-tech, speeding world to a dead stop.

Yesterday morning, I-275 was a parking lot. The semi-trailers were lined up like boxcars in a Chicago rail yard.

I knew that if I got sucked into that freeway tar pit, I'd probably still be there when I started collecting Social Security.

So I pulled a U-turn and slowly crept back up the entrance ramp to escape the traffic terror below. And sure enough, just then a sheriff's car turned onto the ramp and flipped on his flashing lights.

I rolled down my window, scrambling to come up with a few dozen reasonable excuses and apologies. But he beat me to it.

"I don't blame you,'' he laughed. "I ain't writing tickets today, brother.''

I love a snow day.

We complain as if the snow on the ground were volcanic ash. Weather bulletins, interrupted by storm warnings that are underlined by constant alarms marching across the screen like ants at a picnic, sound like the final broadcasts from Pompeii.

Dire predictions of calamitous disaster keep building up like snow in the driveway: freezing rain, sleet, snow, schools are closed and even churches are closed - if God's convenience stores are closed, the end must be near. Maybe 10,000 years from now, they will dig us out of the rubble of our lost civilization, still frozen like incredibly lifelike statues, gathered around our last source of warmth - the TV - with one hand holding a spicy chicken wing and the other extended in desperate supplication, clutching the remote.

But somehow, we survived. And that feeling of raw courage we get from walking to the mailbox and back without falling on our asphalts, is nearly as thrilling as snagging the last smashed loaf of Wonder bread at Kroger.

It's man vs. nature - and we win again. Just take my advice: It's bad luck to do a victory dance in the driveway until you have spread a little rock salt. You can wind up bruising your pride and a few other spots. But it's almost worth it.

A good winter storm makes our daily humdrum routines slip and sprawl on the ice. And if we haven't dented our sense of humor in a fender-bender, we can sit back and laugh at our self-important schedule, flat on its backside.

A snow day is great for reminding us of that simple, eloquent feeling of safety and comfort that warms us inside like hot chocolate as we watch the graceful snowflakes patiently spread a down comforter of pure white silence.

There's nothing quite like the joyful quiet that sneaks in on the heels of a big snow.

Because I grew up in Michigan, I have to point out that technically speaking, what we had in Cincinnati was not a "big'' snow. Technically speaking, the proper scientific name for it in the Great White North is: "flurries.'' In northern Michigan, it's not even winter yet until cars grow those ugly brown stalactites of ice behind all four wheels.

But Cincinnati does a very good job of making a little snow feel like the blizzard of the century. Nearly everyone pitches in to drive as if the safest place in a snowstorm is the nearest ditch.

I watched a guy in a four-wheel-drive SUV go creeping along at 15 mph, blocking traffic, then glide right through a red light, probably afraid of his own brakes. Amazing.

I wondered, "Where's a cop...'' Then I remembered: Oh, yeah, they ain't writing tickets today, brother.

Thank you, snow.


E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.

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