Monday, January 31, 2011

The Cathartic Effects of Vigorous Snow Shoveling

Well, La Nina is really rarin' her ugly head here on the East Coast, ain't she? I know that my dear Southern compatriots are being hammering with about 50x more snow than they are used to (i.e. more than 2 inches over 4 months), and here in Virginia, we are beginning to see Old Man Winter inflict his wrath on us, as well.
It was a very interesting week in the NOVA/DC area... we had our first real snow of 2011 and it was kind of a disaster. Who says that no one listens to the president? Well, the HR guy for the federal government certainly does; even though the forecasters were saying all day that the storm would hit hard and heavy during rush hour, Mr. Federal Government decided to prove that he is highly efficient and not let the fed employees out until 4pm (i.e. when the snow would hit). In consequence, the massive flood of federal workers, and private industry workers whose snow policies are tied to the federal government, poured out onto the road right as the gross wintry mix turned into gross wet snow. Result? Havoc.
It was at this moment that my inner Southern snow-wimpish soul served me well. Having received my work's email suggesting we leave at 3:30, I decided to leave at 3:15, thinking that even if it took me a couple hours, it would at least not be dark out while I was en route. This had happened to me a couple of weeks earlier, when I drove home in the driving snow, unable to see the interstate lanes. Seriously - it was one of the tensest drives I've ever had, as I depended on the crazy Maryland drivers around me to play ball and not do something stupid. I will write about Maryland drivers at a later date, but for those of you who don't already know, that's asking a small miracle.
Thus, having been burned once, I left early. It was slow going, taking me 1.5 hours to drive the 15 miles home. I watched the wintry mix get heavier and heavier, clinging to my car and beginning to cloud the lane lines. By the time I was a couple of miles away from my destination, one of the intersections on a side street was so confusing that a fellow motorist got out of his car and caucused with me and a couple of other people about the strategy to employ once the light turn green. Good thinking, buddy, because further on the road, I saw a pile up resulting from a similar area of confusion.
Finally, I arrived, cold but unscathed, at my house. I was surprised not to see my roommates there already, but I figured they'd be along soon enough. Wrong. Around 6pm, I got a call from one of my roomies, who was standing at the East Falls Church metro station in the cold. She was stranded, since the buses were stuck in traffic... so she ended up having to walk almost 4 miles in the snow. She arrived on our doorstep at 7pm, resembling a very chic Nanook of the North.
Our other roommate was not so lucky. She left the office at 4pm. Now let's keep in mind - she works about 5-6 miles away in Tyson's Corner. It's a straight shot home for her. She didn't walk in the door until almost 9pm. Her paralegal was riding with her, and at one point, she left Dawn to go get some dinner and found the car in the exact same place she left it.
There were horror stories the next day - 13 hour commutes, people who slept in their offices, people who abandoned their cars and walked the rest of the way home and then got up the next morning to go get it, people who just slept in the car and never made it home. It was nuts.
All this to say, snow has come to Virginia. And it, along with its buddies ice storm and hail, will be frequent visitors by the look of things, considering the federal government has already allowed its employees to work from home tomorrow due to the incoming ice storm tonight.
I'm okay with that. Once you get you and yours indoors, away from slick roads and crazy compacts trying to monster-truck it through a snow mountain, snow is really one of the best things there is. It's not just that it's pretty or encourages the creation of delicious, hot comfort food. My favorite thing about the snow is the silence. There aren't many cars out or people carousing or rain splatters to cut the quiet. It's beautifully absent from a distinctive sound and that's what I most love about it. I feel like I can forget about all the little tasks and noise of my normal life and curl up with a book, guilt-free. I sit by the window and read and occasionally glance up to observe the accumulation.
Once the snow has stopped, however, you have to deal with the loud cars skidding on the ice, the scrap of the shovels against asphalt, and the sound of sirens rescuing those too dense or unlucky not to be tucked into their own house. Resulting from the snow overload of 2010 (Past Snow), also known as Snowmegeddon, I used to hate this time, because it means that you can no longer sit on your duff and read, but are compelled to go outside and dig yourself out of the mess.
This year, however, I have embraced snow shoveling in a new way. Is there any activity, short of primal scream therapy, that is better for releasing stress and aggression? You are viciously striking at a pile of snow and ice, throwing it behind you, and striking again, all while listening to some good tunes. You get the satisfaction of seeing the progress as the concrete slowly reappears from underneath the grimy slush- it's the same kind of feeling I get when I do filing work, only I'm sweating and I get to grunt with effort.
In fact, I've enjoyed it so much this time around, I've thought about clearing some of my neighbors houses. But I'm pretty sure that's creepy. And I'm even more sure that if we have more than 1 or 2 more of these things, I will no longer be nearly as enthused on the sport. So I will save up my snow-lovin' mindset for the next snowy day.

No comments:

Post a Comment