Monday, January 9, 2017

Snow Business

Since Team WestEnders moved to central North Carolina a few years ago, we’ve noticed that our Winter weather experience typically includes a couple of “events” per season…but usually a combination of snow and ice, rather than just the fluffy white stuff by itself. This obviously makes things hazardous—for navigating both in a car and on foot—as the roads and sidewalks can resemble a treacherous skating rink after the precipitation ends.

Also of note: the most significant storm stuff seems to generally happen in February…so when the forecast last week started calling for a SNOWFALL…in JANUARY…everyone sat up and paid attention. Then the numbers started being tossed around…3-7 inches possible on Friday…with an additional 2-4 on Saturday? Whaaaaat? (And this was from the NOAA website, which I tend to trust, since they’re all official…federal…meteorologist-types…) This only served to intensify the buzz of speculation in the area, as folks braced for the impending…whatever.

Here in Casa WestEnders, however, we take these things with a verrrry large grain of salt. In fact, Husband and I adopted our customary “I’ll believe it when I see it” philosophy, while Derek took a practical approach: “I’d prefer to be off of school on Monday…just on principleand Tuesday, so I can stay up and watch the [NCAA Football] National Championship game…with no repercussions….but I don’t think that’ll happen.” And Riley? I’d say he was pretty equally divided between enthusiasm and skepticism—trying hard to temper his excitement, so he wouldn’t be let down too badly if nothing happened.

But as the alleged S-Day approached, things started getting a little wacky in the ‘hood. First, I passed a salt truck spraying our street as I pulled out of the driveway to leave for work on Thursday morning. Hmmm…emergency preparedness…looks a little more serious. But the true sign of the looming apocalypse came when I stopped off at Whole Foods at lunchtime...and I’m telling you, folks, it was a C-I-R-C-U-S. There I was, purchasing my fresh fruit and gluten-free baking mix—but I saw a whole lotta WINE in the carts of the good citizens around me. Yep, planning for the worst, indeed.

Perhaps I shouldn’t make light of the situation, though, because the next thing that happened constituted somewhat of a…oh, let’s call it “mini-crisis”…in our family. You see, it suddenly dawned on me that Riley…didn’t own a coat. Of any kind. At all. When I went into his room to inform him of this—in a state of mild panic—he nonchalantly said, “Isn’t there one in my closet from last year?” (Um….nooooo, honey…remember how you grew several inches and put on about 20 pounds since then? Yeah, that’ll rule the old jacket right out…) So we had a quick discussion about what he might want in terms of his outerwear options—and I steeled myself for an (admittedly ill-advised) pre-storm Target run.

And you know what? In contrast to my grocery store debacle the day before, Target was…almost eerily calm. The only thing I could figure is that everyone had already accomplished stocking their pantries, and had hunkered down to await the arrival of the…Winter….ness? Whatever the cause, I was grateful...and I also sent up a “thank you” to the apparel powers-that-be--who despite choosing to prominently display swimsuits at a time of year when the last thing most of us want to do is be “mostly naked”,--at least also left a handful of coats out on the racks. Yes, the selection was pitiful, but I found something in Riley’s size, snatched it up, and called it D-O-N-E.

Lucky for me, Riley liked the (Champion brand) jacket I’d brought him. But it became an instant joke in our house-- the fact that the tag on the zipper proclaimed it to be their “warmest”. Now, anyone who knows this kid is aware that he has an internal heating element that works overtime for him—so he’s almost never chilly. He therefore always made sure to mention it when donning his gear and heading outside in the subsequent days: “I’ll be fine! You know, since I have the ‘warmest’!” (Yeah, yeah, take your polar-bear-self outside and run around, ya big goofball…)

At that point, there was really nothing left to do but sit back…and obsessively watch the updated predictions…and of course place informal bets as to exactly how long the kids would be out of school when the s…now hit the fan…er “pavement”. Because if the NOAA scenario held true, they’d miss the entire week, no doubt. NC doesn’t have the budget or equipment to clean up that kind of accumulation, and it therefore needs to rely on our friend Mr. Sun to help with  melting—which would be unlikely, with temps projected to remain below freezing until at least the middle of the following week. But the truth is, even if we got only ONE inch, schools would probably close for...a day or so, maybe?…especially if it was mixed with any sleet at all. There are quite a few big hills, some unpaved side streets, and many kids who walk to school, so I get that the idea of buses and children on ice-encrusted paths is neither safe nor appealing to the people who have to make these kinds of decisions.

Of course, all of this was pure conjecture—and also very entertaining, don’t get me wrong—until Friday arrived, and we were informed sometime around mid-morning that schools would be closing 2 hours early. Siiighhhh. I'm sorry...over-react, much? The kids naturally thought it was absolutely hilarious, and the mood of amusement continued as we watched the skies into the afternoon…and evening…while nothing happened. That’s right—we even went out for pizza to a popular local restaurant, wanting to get a trip in before the UNC students return next week for the “Spring Semester” (Ha!) and flood the place….and all was…frigid…but dry.

Stuff finally did begin drifting down from the heavens later that night, but we could tell from the plink-plink-plinking sound that it was that dreaded “wintry mix”. And sure enough, when we awoke the next morning, the landscape appeared to be covered by a thin coating of shiny snow—certainly not anywhere NEAR even the minimum anticipated amount. So,, were the children disappointed? On the contrary, they were blasé about the botched forecast…all they really wanted was to get outdoors and romp around in it…which they did…from approximately 10 a.m. until dinnertime. According to the sporadic reports I got when I actually saw or heard from one of them, there was much sledding—as expected—and…football. (Don’t ask me—they’re BOYS…)

As we’ve already established over the years, I don’t deal well with the malady known as “cabin fever”, and for me it has a remarkably short incubation period…so by Saturday afternoon I was already itching to get out of the house. Our standard mantra for addressing slippery road conditions—within reason, of course—is “Eh, we have a Subaru; it should be okay.” So I crept down our driveway (a steep slope) without incident, and set out to take the lay of the land, as it were. And I discovered that it was…reasonably picturesque…and slick. Although I, personally, had no problems on my short jaunt, I could easily see how it would not be ideal for small, light, non-4WD or AWD vehicles.

And given the well-below-freezing thermometer readings? Anything that did get packed down, or turned to slush by the small bit of solar energy we received for a few hours, refroze even more rock-solid and perilous after dark. Case in point: even our driveway lost all of its minuscule snow cover, so traction became suddenly nonexistent…which I found out as I (fortunately slowly, and with no other cars coming toward me) slid down the hill into the street when attempting to vacate the premises again on Sunday. So it was no surprise at all later that day when we got the message that schools would be closed on Monday.

Okay, that takes care of ¾ of our merry little band of…snowmen? But it hadn’t occurred to me to borrow a company laptop before going home on Thursday, so I wouldn’t be able to work…or, you know, get paid…unless I ventured into the office.  Alrighty, then—let’s put on our big girl…boots…and go get this done! Meanwhile, mind you, the rest of my suite-mates had all checked in with the news that they would be staying in their cozy homes and tackling job-related tasks from there (probably in their pjs—a choice I whole-heartedly support, by the way).

So I braved the driveway again (which I felt went much better than the previous day, although Husband was apparently watching out the window when I left and texted me that he’d found it nerve-wracking) and the roads (which were, happily, mostly clear, dry, and not scary at all…unless you consider how unusually empty they were) and my building’s parking lot…which was a nightmare skating rink that the car's tires managed with relative ease, but the tread on my footwear had some trouble negotiating.

As I mentioned, I saw very few other automobiles on my commute, leading me to conclude that even the adults in our town took a Snow Day, or else opted to work by linking up with their servers from the comfort of their living rooms. And in my office? I was an Army of One, baby. That’s right, just me…and the Keurig…hanging out in the extremely quiet environment…talking to myself out loud once in a while to keep it from getting TOO dead-silent and creeping me out.

Now we just have to hang on until we hear whether normal activities will resume tomorrow…or Mid-Winter Break will be prolonged. (I’d place money…or chocolate…on the latter. Yep, that’s how sure I am!) As for me, I plan to celebrate my successful slide home with some hot cocoa, a toasty blanket, and a good book. Oh, and I’ll just bide my time until Wednesday, when we’re supposed to be back into the  mid-50s...and this will all go away

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