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Making Peace With Peace: Snow Days And Seasons


So here we are, many of us in the D.C. area, doing what many in the Northeast — particularly New England — have been doing lately: looking out the window.

Let us put aside for the moment the question of whether offices are closed too much or too little. It's a trickier calculus than people think — it's not really about inches of snow, but about timing and preparation and temperature fluctuations. If you've ever tried to budge a thick, almost impenetrable layer of rippled ice off of a car on a morning that didn't look all that bad when you were in the house, you know that actual inconvenience and actual danger don't always come across on a map that says 3-6" across a broad blue ribbon of big and little roads. Some big snowfalls aren't actually that big of a deal; some little ones snarl traffic for hours.

(I once watched a friend spend a whole evening pushing cars through three-point turns near his house again and again after they eyeballed the road, refused to believe they couldn't make it, and stranded themselves partway up the hill, forcing other people to push their cars onto a side street so they could sheepishly make their way back down and take the alternate route everyone told them to take in the first place. Only some said thank you.)

Wimps or not, overly cautious or not, here we are. Maybe a sidewalk or a driveway needs shoveling, but if you're like me, there's actually not all that much to do except stay inside. Maybe you can work from home (heeeeey, I'm doin' it right now!), but some of your day, even if it's just your commute time, can feel like it opens up and stretches out in front of you like a cat in a pool of sunshine.

Part of it is the connection to school, right? For a kid, there aren't other arrangements to make when school closes, and there isn't the same level of worry about work that needs doing. School is closed; that's a free day. That's a gift. And as an adult, as much of a pain in the patoot as unexpected closings can be, there is also a hint of decadence, of work-as-school, of work-as-the-need-to-show-up.

There's always somebody in California doing the Flip-Flop Gloat — "here's me in flip-flops, ha ha ha" — which is kind of a combination of weirdly and randomly nasty, like responding to somebody's comment about having a hole in their roof by sending a picture of your intact roof just because, and woefully misguided in its assumption that seasons are something people grudgingly accept. Seasons, for me, are part of how time is divided. I wouldn't want it to be 75 degrees all the time any more than I would want it to be two o'clock all the time. Some people love that weather, but I would not. I need to see my breath in January and put on two sweaters to save energy. Not all the time, but sometimes.

For people whose snow avalanches drag on — as in New England right now, for example — the joy goes out of it, for sure. My Boston friend and Monkey See contributor Marc Hirsh, asked this morning how he and his girlfriend were doing, said, "We've gone defeatist. Shovel shovel shovel freeze to death freeze to death freeze to death. All hope is an illusion. That said, we have heat, power, water and a roof, so we can at least ride out the end days in relative comfort." It's safe to say they have lost that feeling of decadence.

But for a day or two, it's an interesting exercise in what to do with what may for a moment actually seem like free time. I crowdsourced my breakfast on Twitter this morning, for example. There's a lot of Cutthroat Kitchen on demand. I actually still have a couple of movies I should watch before the Oscars. For the moment, though, it's silent in my apartment. It's unexpected quiet, forced upon me on a day when I was supposed to be preparing for a podcast live show. (Sorry, all: we'll have a make-up date.) It's not that I don't have two weekend days every week, and I'm lucky to have them. It's just that ... snow days are different.

Gotta go make a cup of tea.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.

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