Have We Become Snow Wimps–And Why That’s OK

Are we really that scared of running out of milk, bread and eggs? Is this 1952? We have plows. We have salt/sand and ice busting chemistry. Many people have 4-wheel drive vehicles.

just-an-inch.jpgGrowing up in New York City in the 50s and 60s I seldom got to experience school cancellations or delays. If it snowed we went to school. The official pronouncement from the Board of Education was, “tough nuggies.”

I hear similar stories all the time. People muse over the fact that this is New England and it does snow. “When I was a kid…,” they’ll begin. No need to finish the sentence. We all know where it’s going.

Is today’s reaction to a tiny snowfall prima facie evidence that we’ve gone wimpy? No! No emphatically.

Schools weren’t canceled as quickly 30-40 years ago (and more recently as well) because we just didn’t know what was coming! Yes, there were weather forecasts, but they were awful compared to today’s (and today’s have room for improvement).

We just don’t have “Blizzard of ’78” scenarios anymore.

We still get blizzards, but we’re not surprised by them. 1978’s storm was by-and-large unexpected. Sure the exact snow forecast timing might still be off or we’ll blow the amount of snow, but it’s been a long time since snow snuck in totally unannounced or a forecast of flurries became a dumping.

School superintendents wake up with “actionable intelligence,” to steal a military expression. That leaves them with a quandary. What’s the potential downside for having school versus canceling–especially with the huge percentage of kids who bus in?

There is no upside having school on a snowy day and plenty of potential downside. That’s why they’ve developed hair triggers and why schools are shut at the drop of a hat. It’s also why “snow days” are already built into the calendar.

Pity the superintendent who keeps schools open and has a bus slide off the road, even without injuries!

Weather forecasts have more utility and they’re being used. That’s a good thing. On the other hand old habits die hard. That’s bad.

Because we have better forecasts (and much, much better mechanized technology) your chances of being stranded somewhere for more than a handful of hours because of snow have become very low. Still the mere mention of snow causes a panicked run on supermarkets!

Are we really that scared of running out of milk, bread and eggs? Is this 1952? We have plows. We have salt/sand and ice busting chemistry. Many people have 4-wheel drive vehicles.

The real wimps aren’t running schools. The wimps are at the grocery store!

I’m Not The Super

We’ve already established the story of my youth as an apartment dweller in Queens. 65-43 Parsons Blvd was half of a double 6-story building with 37 units. The first 36 were on floors one through six. The 37th was in the basement. It belonged to the ‘super.’

I am guessing ‘super’ is a New York City term. In case you’re an out-of-towner, it’s short for superintendent and most moderate to large buildings have one or more.

The super took care of getting the trash out from the incinerator, watching the boiler and keeping the building in shape. If we had a problem in the apartment, it was the super (or someone else assigned to maintenance in this immense apartment complex) who would come to make the repair.

Because I know about supers, I don’t know about hammers or screwdrivers or any of the other tools adult males should understand. I never used tools – I didn’t have too.

Obviously, in our little apartment, there was no woodshop or work bench. I am deprived in that classically city way.

Now I’m an adult (hold your comments). I live in a house. We have a basement, but no super. I’ve checked. He’s not there!

That brings me to today and the beheaded mailbox I wrote about yesterday. It was my job to reattach everything, but I’m an idiot as far as handiwork is concerned.

I headed to Home Depot last night between newscasts. One of our anchors chides me for going, in a suit. You do stick out in Home Depot wearing a suit. I have little hardware store experience.

I needed the rectangular plastic piece that sits between the post and the mailbox.

I walked the aisles of Home Depot, marveling at all the neat things they have, whose purpose is lost on me. My prey was hiding in aisle 11.

I’m sure it has a name, this piece of plastic… and surely a super would know it. I do not.

Today, as Rudy the mailman drove down our block, I went to the curb. I was in pajamas, a coat and work boots. I carried a Black and Decker cordless drill.

While driving one screw with the drill, the bit fell out. I’m sure the super would have a done a better job tightening it. In my case, it fell through the snow pile like a “Daisy Cuter” into a mountain at Tora Bora.

Maybe in the spring the bit will show up. Right now, it’s MIA.

Getting the old plastic off was easy. Getting the new plastic piece on was also easy. That’s probably because I put it in the wrong spot!

Once the plastic was properly in place, I attached the mailbox. By now Rudy had come by to watch me work and to tell me, even though he had passed my mailbox-less house, he was coming back to drop it off at my front door. I hope so.

I attached the left side of the mailbox, walked around to the right and realized I had positioned it too far over. Back to loosen the first screws, then insert the others.

For a super, this is a two minute job. For me, a guy who came perilously close to failing 7th grade shop (and who had to find a piece of Ponderosa Pine when I ‘planed’ through the one the school had given me) the job lasted over 20 minutes.

So, tomorrow when Rudy drives our block, he’ll have a place to put the mail. And, of course, next time it snows, there will be a new target for the plow.

At this moment, I really miss having a super.