Something we all hate is back again. No, I'm not talking about the snow, though that does fit the description. I'm talking about the stuff that comes with the snow: the stories and newscasts and snow-induced nostalgia/hysteria. The snow itself isn't so bad. You can shovel it and build snowmen out of it. The following snow-related stuff, though, serves only to annoy.
A newsman on every corner. What is it about snow that moves scores of local television news personalities to don funny overcoats, stand on street corners and announce, "I'm standing here on this street corner and it's snowing." The scene usually then switches to another street corner and another news personality who says "I'm standing on a different street corner and it's snowing here, too." Do they think we wouldn't believe it was really snowing unless we heard it from them?
These remotes are usually followed by the "skating cars": videotape of cars sliding down hills, cars struggling to make it up hills, cars shooting back and forth on frozen streets like hockey pucks. Except, how do we know this isn't just leftover videotape from some previous snow? A car sliding down a hill in 1983 looks a lot like a car sliding down a hill in 1988. I think in the future all local TV news shows should hold a copy of that day's newspaper in the foreground of the shot, just to assure us that it is indeed fresh footage.
This is nothing. Oh to be able to get through a winter without a corner TV news personality sticking a microphone in the window of a passing car and asking the driver's opinion of the weather. "This is nothing," the motorist invariably replies. "I'm from Massachusetts." (or New York, Maine, Colorado, Tibet, Ecuador, Northern China, the Urals, Tahiti, Atlantis, Scotland, Paris, Jupiter.) "This is nothing compared to what we used to get there."
Doesn't anybody around here know how to drive? This is the only thing worse than "This is nothing." Sage New Yorkers or Bostonians or Muscovites tell anyone they can get their claws on that the problem is not that there was a horrible, freak snowstorm, wreaking havoc, crippling traffic and bringing the city to a standstill. The problem is, nobody in Washington knows how to drive in the snow. When interviewed on TV, these people usually say, "When it snows, Washingtonians drive too fast, follow too closely, don't clean their cars off, play their cassette decks too loudly, steer with their feet, breed rabbits in their back seats and obstruct their forward vision with tiny, scented, paper fir trees." Never mind the fact that people in Washington -- to many, a Southern town (especially to those who say, "this is nothing") -- shouldn't be expected to know how to drive in the snow and that expecting them to be able to is like expecting Laplanders to be born with the natural ability to surf or pick out the melody to Michael Jackson's "Bad" on a clavinet.
We'll be back in a minute with all the school closings. I admit that when I was in grade school I used to love waiting for the school closings. A day off was great and even if you had to go in you at least got a day of pleasurable griping. But now that I'm grown up I know that no matter how long I listen they'll never announce something to the effect that my office is closed or will open two hours late. Every school closing notice reminds me of the fact that I'm not getting any younger.
Goofy looks and panic shoppers. Heavy snow brings out a wartime camaraderie in people that can be especially distasteful. People you pass on the street flash you a goofy smile that seems to say, "Hey, it's really snowing." Everyone in the bus line wants to talk about precisely how the snow has affected them. Stranded motorists expect you to good-naturedly give them a push. And shoppers flood the grocery stores, stocking up on bread, candles, road flares, seltzer water, fresh fruit, dried fruit and powdered milk, eggs and meat.
And once it's over, semi-humorous weathermen will try to console us with the fact that it's "only" six months until summer. You know the thing about summer, though: It's not the heat. It's not even the humidity. It's all the people who say, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."
Washington writer John Kelly spent Monday watching news personalities dodge skating cars.