December 13, 2010
Some places around the United States, and, I assume, other countries as well, have to deal with some pretty serious snow at times. Among other things it means closing schools. A few schools have decided to replace snow days with "e-days", making students pick up online assignments that’ll be due when the roads are cleared and school reopens. I assume the schools will also be responsible for providing every student with a computer and Internet access, otherwise the ones who can’t get computers will be outta luck. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had kids, or at least ones with fewer than four legs, but I’m not sure snow days should be scrapped. Some kids spend too much time in front of computers anyway, so, hopefully, a snow day will prompt them to get outside for a change. And for so many kids a snow day wouldn’t just mean a break from school but a break from soccer practice, football practice, piano lessons, pottery classes, ballet recitals, track and field, rack and pinion, haiku seminars, synchronized underwater basket weaving, Uzbek immersion, getting the old man a cold one, and all those other extra-curricular activities parents sign their kids up for to pad their applications to the third grade, but that’s another story.
Snow days should allow the unexpected free time we all occasionally need in our lives. And snow days can be educational. Kids can learn valuable engineering skills building forts, or they can practice CPR when someone gets knocked senseless by a snowball with a rock in it. If the parental units still have to go to work a snow day can teach self-reliance. I learned to make cream of wheat by myself on a snow day. Sure, my first attempt was in a pressure cooker, but once I’d scraped it from the ceiling it tasted fine, or at least as fine as cream of wheat is ever going to taste. One year it snowed really heavily in the town where I was going to college. Since most of us lived in dorms on the campus and since most of the faculty lived within walking distance I said, "What are they gonna do? Cancel classes?" The next thing I knew classes were canceled. That snow day taught me more about not leaping to conclusions than three semesters of philosophy classes. Then, a few years later, when I’d just started a job, it snowed enough to paralyze the city, which, where I live in the South, is about half an inch. Between my wife’s four-wheel drive vehicle and the fact that I hadn’t earned any vacation time yet I managed to be one of three people to make it to the office that day. As I was sitting at my desk the main office phone rang, so I picked it up. Whoever called hung up without saying a word. Then the phone in the cubicle next to me rang. Another pick up, another hang up. The phone in a cubicle across the office rang. Another pick up, another hang up. By about the eighteenth time the caller, a woman from another department, finally decided to stay on the line to ask me, "IS ANYBODY THERE?" I told her I was, even though I hadn’t worked there long enough to be Anybody yet. She caught me completely flat-footed with that one. If I’d been thinking I would have suggested she follow the lead of most of my co-workers and take a snow day.