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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow -- or not

It’s snowing outside, and the city is abuzz – mixed with a little dread of what this winter might be like.

Growing up in central Alabama and then living in Georgia didn’t give me much exposure to snow. We had the occasional flurry but rarely any accumulation. What we did get from time to time was ice, specifically freezing rain. That’s ugly stuff. As we used to say, even the folks from Minnesota drive into the ditch when the road ices over.

In 1985, though, I went to work for a company headquartered in Canada. Over my 24 years in their employ I visited Ottawa 60 times, Toronto 29 times, Montreal 19 times, and other Canadian cities (Vancouver, Whistler, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, St John, Halifax, and St John’s). In the process, I’ve been snowed upon every month of the year except June, July, and August; I’ve driven through white-outs; I’ve been stuck in snowbound airports; I’ve dug out snow-covered rental cars that were parked overnight in the open; I’ve trudged down snow-filled sidewalks that hadn’t yet been cleared.

Those experiences were memorable, and I knew they would be memorable at the time. (There’s probably a word for that phenomenon, and if not there should be.) Yet I wouldn’t say they were fun.

Ironically, my worst travel nightmare pertaining to snow was not in Canada but a supposedly innocuous trip to DC. I flew up on a Friday morning expecting to return that night. But there was unforecasted snow in DC, and a lot of it. My flight home was canceled. I got a hotel room. The next morning, the Raleigh airport was closed by snow so I flew to Charlotte instead -- just in time for Charlotte to be snowed in. Piedmont Airlines chartered a bus for its Raleigh-bound passengers, but the bus couldn’t make it up I-85. The driver pulled into a Days Inn near High Point where we spent the night at Piedmont's expense. (Imagine any airline offering that now!) I finally got home the next afternoon, a little funky after two and a half days in the same clothes.

Raleigh’s peak snowfall was in January 2000, 20 inches overnight. The city was effectively shut down for two weeks. It was fun for children but not so much fun for parents.

I never learned to ski, so I don’t see much upside to snow. I can’t shovel it as quickly as I once could, and I’m not tempted to retire in Buffalo or Denver. Perhaps the best part of snow is watching everyone else get so excited, for whatever reason.