Snow Way Out

January 11, 2008

It doesn’t snow any more like it did when I was a kid. In fact lately it hasn’t been snowing at all, mainly because, even though it’s January, it’s been about eighty degrees. We should be getting snow but instead we’ve been getting rain. There’s something distinctly wrong with this. The only place it should be eighty degrees in January is at the equator, or maybe some place like Australia where they don’t have the good sense to get their seasons in the right order. I don’t need a blizzard, or even enough snow to completely shut down the city for three weeks, although in the Southern United States where I live it that only takes about half an inch of snow, and even if it melts by noon the city is still shut down because everybody’s so busy walking around saying, “Wow, that was some snow. But you know, it doesn’t snow like it did when I was a kid.”

I’d like enough snow to at least turn the ground white, or at least enough snow that, once I get home and turn on the news, I’ll hear that schools are closed. Even though it’s been years since I had to go to school it still makes me happy to hear that schools are closed. I think this is because it was hardwired into my system when I was very young because it was the greatest thing to be able to wake up in the morning to eight feet of snow outside my window—which was amazing because my room was on the second storey—and know that there would be no school but my mother would still turn on the news to make absolutely certain that school buses weren’t equipped with plows, salt dispensers, and flame-throwers. The best thing was waking up to snow. If it started snowing during the day and I was at home my mother wouldn’t let me go out until it stopped snowing. I never could figure out why this was. Did she think I was going to be attacked by giant catfish that only came out when snow was falling?

But I digress. The second best thing, of course, was when it started snowing at school because then the teachers would just scrap whatever lesson plan they had because we were all going to be staring out the window anyway. Sometimes we’d have a cool teacher who would let us go in the snow we were waiting for the buses to warm up their flame-throwers so we could start going home. I’ll never forget one year when we waited several hours for the buses to show up and start taking us home. The snow started falling pretty early in the day, but the weather reporters, who were broadcasting from Australia , kept insisting that everything was warm and sunny. Our teacher, who wasn’t cool enough to let us go out in the snow, instead pulled out this newfangled thing called a “television” and we sat around and watched about seven and a half hours of educational programming. Every half hour or so one lucky kid would get to go out and measure the snow. I didn’t get to, but I remember when one of my friends went out with a rule and yelled back to us that it was up to half an inch. And then he was attacked by a giant catfish. Finally some dogsleds arrived to take us to the buses. Our regular bus route took us around Deadman’s Curve, over Kill Hill, and down Exploding Carburetor Alley, but a little snow made it just too dangerous, so our bus driver took us in the opposite direction, apparently deciding that the fastest way to get us home was to go as far away from our houses as possible. With the snow coming down it wasn’t long before she was able to put the pedal to the metal and push the bus up to about half an inch an hour. Einstein’s Law of Relativity says that the faster you’re traveling the slower time goes, and, also, that time goes really slow when your relatives are staying with you, especially if one of them is Uncle Harry who spends at least an hour and a half in the bathroom every morning.

But I digress. I’m convinced Einstein never had to spend six hours on a school bus with a bunch of fifth graders. If he had he would have realized that there are worse things than having Uncle Harry come and stay for a week, or a month, or maybe three years. Now of course all the kids would have cell phones and video games so they’d be able to call their parents and keep themselves entertained on the bus, but we had to sit around and actually talk to each other to amuse ourselves. And we were the lucky ones. Some kids had to spend the night at school. It was bad enough having to stay at school during the day and watch the snow coming down. I had to walk up the steep hill to my house, but the bus driver took down my phone number and the phone numbers of every kid on the bus and, when she finally got home, she called every parent to make sure we all got home safe. If there were a Nobel Prize for bus driving she would have won it. I guess it’s fortunate that we haven’t had a situation like that again, and I wouldn’t wish having to spend six hours on a school bus on anyone, but I still can’t figure out why we don’t get snow anymore. I blame the Australians.

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