It can be said that snowstorms are beneficial. During a snowstorm there are fewer muggings because there are fewer potential muggees on the streets. And during a snowfall there are fewer skateboard injuries.
This pretty well exhausts the list of snow's benefits. If there are others, they escape me at the moment.
We can now turn our attention to a somewhat longer list -- that on the other side of the snow ledger. People do some strange things when bad weather descends upon them.
Afoot, they act as if the very worst thing that can befall a human is to be snowed on or rained on. They want to reach shelter as quickly as possible, even at the risk of life and limb.
So, dressed in the dark clothing that appears to be mandatory for those who jaywalk at night, they dart out into a stream of traffic to get to the other side a bit sooner. This creates the risk of being hit by drivers who can't see well because they have not slowed down to a speed appropriate to poor visibility.
In many cases, the vehicles themselves offer wordless testimony about what manner of driver is behind the wheel. He embarked on his journey into the snow with only one peephole cleared in his windshield. His back and side windows look like those on a car parked for a month at Lake Placid. The rear wheels are devoid of snow tires. The rear signal lights are obliterated by snow. Even the car's license tags are snowbound. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this is not a driver whose dominant characteristic is prudence.
Once this chap gets rolling, a heady feeling comes over him. He has had no difficulty, so he can't understand why other drivers have slowed down so much -- sometimes actually down to the posted speed limit, or even a little below it.
Mr. Imprudent approaches so close to the car ahead of him that he sometimes appears to be trying to drive straight up its tailpipe. As quickly as he can, he whizzes past in disdain. It does not occur to him that on a snowy downgrade, even a slight downgrade, his car will not stop as quickly or safely as it would on dry pavement.
So there he goes, flying past you, until a car pulling out of a driveway or a traffic light turning from green to red sends his foot to the brake pedal, and his car begins to slide rear-axle-over-teacup. Surprise! Who would have guessed the streets were so slippery?
This same fellow is equally surprised when he guns his motor on level ground or on an upgrade and his rear end begins to slide to one side or the other. Driving instructors have for years urged, "Feed gas as if there's an egg between your shoe and the accelerator," but somehow Mr. Imprudent was always out to lunch when the message arrived.
His will very likely be the car that's left for dead in the middle of the street without lights. He forgot to buy gas, or put in antifreeze, or add distilled water to his battery, or check the various hoses and belts in his engine.
His will also be one of the cars blocking an intersection after the traffic lights have changed from green to red. Common sense makes it clear that there is nothing to be gained by crowding into an intersection that is already jammed and that obviously will not be cleared by the time the traffic lights change. But the practice of driving into an already clogged intersection is as prevalent today as it was when the first laws were passed against it --by the Phoenicians, I believe.
Having spent a lifetime observing how others behave in bad weather, I practice what I preach, drive as carefully as I can, and usually avoid trouble. Occasionally, however, I encounter situations that really turn a routine trip into an adventure.
The other night, for example, I found myself approaching a red light on an upgrade. There was nobody behind me, so I slowed my pace to try to avoid a stop on an upgrade. Sure enough, the light soon changed, and I thought I would be able to proceed up the hill at 10 miles an hour, without stopping.
But I hadn't reckoned on a car traveling in the opposite direction that had been waiting at the intersection for the light to change. When our green light appeared, the driver of the car headed downhill did these things in this order.
He paused for a few seconds. He turned left, right into my path. Then he turned on his left-turn signal.
Somehow, I managed to avoid striking the other car. Afterward I mused: "Newspapermen meet such interesting people -- sometimes broadside."