One of my first weather-related memories of growing up in Chicago was the Blizzard of ’79 (cue ominous music). I was five years old and we lived in an apartment house that had a huuuuuuge tree in the front yard. The top branch was roughly 10 feet above the ground. The storm brought 9 feet of snow to Chicago, shut down the city. We (and I say “we” loosely, I was too little to shovel) didn’t so much shovel the sidewalks as dig tunnels to get out of our homes. The next Chicago mayoral election was more of a referendum on how the administration handled the storm (poorly) than anything else. So, as a result, some 28 years later, Chicago kicks ass when it comes to snow removal. They start laying salt on the roads before the snow flies. Thus, no snow on the roads. Makes sense, right? They plow the side streets too. Thus, you can get out of your neighborhood to get to work. Makes sense, right? I may have grown up in the suburbs of the city, but our village pretty much followed Chicago’s lead, so I grew up a little spoiled when it came to snow removal. The most important lesson I learned at that tender age of 5? If you see a parking space on a side street that has been carefully shoveled out, and there are sawhorses and wood planks protecting it, don’t park there unless you have a large man named Louie riding shotgun. If you were to be so stupid as park in someone else’s cleared parking space, you’d better hope the worst thing that happens is that you get towed.
Today we’re supposed to get several inches of snow. In October. Yes, this is Colorado, but I live quite a distance from the ski resorts, so we don’t get as much snow as you might think. In fact, winters here are quite mild, with the majority of snow coming in March and April. Today we’re expecting 1-4 inches; I anticipate we’ll only get an inch or so, if that, here at the ole’ homestead. But the Front Range’s snow removal sucks. Here, we subscribe to the “Divine Intervention Method of Snow Removal”: wait for the sun to come out and melt it all. That works about 80% of the time. That other 20% brings out the Chicago cussing. If you know the storm is coming, why aren’t there more trucks out prepping the roads? And use salt! For God’s sake, you don’t use Mag Chloride to make homemade ice cream, you use rock salt to melt the damn ice, my five year old could tell you that! Gah. I’m so glad I don’t commute or my blood pressure might actually rise to normal.
The first year we lived in Colorado our humble abode was in (The People’s Republic of) Boulder, right in the foothills. The area got socked with a wicked early storm in October and Boulder really bore the brunt of it. We got 28 inches of snow in less than a day. We had just moved from Iowa and were horrified. I was supposed to go to a flute recital and managed to beg out of going. Public buses weren’t running and EMS was telling people that unless your water broke or your house was on fire you were pretty much on your own (ok, kidding a little on that last one), so there was no way I was leaving the apartment. But it was beautiful (arctic blue snow) and melted in a couple of days.
I don’t worry about snow so much anymore. I know how to drive in ice and snow (first tip: slow the hell down. Four-wheel drive doesn’t mean four-wheel stop); learned that quickly in high school. I drove to school shortly after getting my license and it proceeded to snow all day. By the time I headed home I was driving in 6 inches of fresh snow (quick storm, beat the plows). I also drove in an ice storm while student teaching, one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. There are semis jack-knifed in the ditch and I’m driving on the interstate by myself with no cell phone. Stupid.
But snow doesn’t worry me anymore. It helps that I only have to drive carpool today. And it helps knowing that it’ll melt in a couple of days. It’s just cold rain, nothing more. It’s just cold, semi-solid rain, not an Event. Last year A thought it was the bee’s knees to shovel the driveway and we might be able to milk that again this year. Hey, he loves to rake all ten leaves on the front yard, even did the neighbor’s (she paid him a dollar, his first paycheck), so snow removal is next. It hasn’t started yet, it’ll start this afternoon, plenty of time to snuggle in and wait for winter to start.
And that huuuuuge tree in front of my apartment house when I was five? Somewhere there is a picture of me sitting in the lowest (10 feet up) branch after the Blizzard of ’79 (cue ominous music). I was so proud to be up there, so high, and so amazed that I could get up there on nothing more than snow.