Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blizzard Perspective

Dealing with back-to-back blizzards provides some interesting perspective on life, nature and human behavior.

As humans, we think we can control everything. We dam rivers, kill weeds and cure diseases yet we can’t stop blizzards. Meteorological science enables us to predict potentially disastrous weather and psychological observation allows us to predict our reaction, but the weather keeps a comin’.

We watch the snow fall and fall and fall and accumulate and pile up. We break out the shovels and snow blowers and try to clear paths for cars and feet. Wind whips across open fields and between buildings, blowing snow back across the paths. The cycle continues but the only real progress occurs when the wind stops and the temperature rises. Mother Nature wins the Super Bowl ring every time.



After several years of little or no snow in the Mid-Atlantic we became complacent. Oh, it won’t snow much. We don’t need extra water, food or firewood. We don’t have to plan ahead in case we can’t get to work or home from work. Then this past December we experienced one day of record snow amounts. Then it happened again the first weekend of February and again four days later.

I tend to be an over-prepared guy but I still wasn’t really ready for the psychological impact of multiple snowstorms.

During that last one I stayed in a hotel next door to work for three nights. The first night was a party with twenty co-workers. All of them were still there the second night but only a few were in the bar drinking. Those of us who were still there on the third night stayed in our rooms; I know because I checked and saw no one I knew at the bar. The adventure wore thin. We started to feel stuck and unsettled. The word from home was that I might not even be able to get there and might need yet another night at the hotel.

Staying in a hotel instead of home means a major change in routine. Eating every meal in a restaurant gets expensive. Clothes get dirty, the room gets claustrophobic and access to activities is limited by where you dare to travel on snow-covered streets and sidewalks. The work routine includes trying to cover for those trying to work from home; technology makes telecommuting easier but it’s still not like actually being there.

Finally it is time to head home and the next level of reality kicks in: rude drivers with cabin fever, rushing to get where they’re going even though the incomplete snow removal efforts have left disappearing lanes and extended rush hours. And my ride home was made more frustrating with the realization that I hadn’t had to deal with my long commute for three days. Sometimes reality sucks.

This story has a semi-happy ending. Generous caring neighbors cleared my driveway, two days of above-freezing temperatures have helped start the snow melting process and this afternoon cloudy skies made way for bright sunshine.


And if you can look past the frustration and lack of control that a blizzard brings, you might see a little natural beauty dancing across the mountains of snow to the tune of some interesting perspective.

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