Snowbound Musings

Falls Church Times Staff

February 11, 2010

What’s caught your attention?  Thirty-plus inches of snow are certainly hard to miss, but it’s the impact – and occasional lack thereof – of all that precipitation that is so striking.  The last time the City of Falls Church recorded this much snow, the Alaska Klondike gold rush was in full swing, Mark Twain was writing new material, and the actor Humphrey Bogart was three weeks old.

Should a significant event, a “haven’t seen this for fifty, maybe a hundred years” occurrence, influence people’s behavior and give them pause as they consider whether or not to press ahead with their daily routines?  I guess it depends.  Throughout these recent snowstorms, we have all witnessed acts of humanity, generosity, and perseverance.  I’m certainly no Man About Town, but some of what I’ve observed over these past five days leaves me awestruck at the good fortune that accompanies the oblivious as they endeavor to achieve the unremarkable.

Writing by the fireside

He Got All the Parenting Moments Right but One

You’ve been there; the image is seared forever in your snowstorm memory files.  The weather forecast finally confirms that snow is headed for the D.C. metro area and within minutes, every checkout line at every grocery store has 10 people waiting with various assortments of things you just can’t do without in a snowstorm.

I was in just such a line at Giant, self checkout number 3 to be specific, and forward progress was slow at best due to either operator error or scanner anomalies.  Thankfully, the five-year-old boy and his father who were just in front of me in line were only purchasing two bags of candy.

I’m a pleasant enough fellow when waiting in line: a smile, casual eye contact, and minimal inclination towards chattiness.  As a customer struggled with the scanner, the father turned to me and introduced his son.  Let’s call him Eddie.

Eddie had helped shovel snow at home and had earned some spending money.  That money, all in coins – mainly in pennies – was in a glass jar and Eddie had decided to spend his windfall on his favorite candy.

This was to be a shopping experience imminently satisfying on two different levels, however.  Not only was Eddie going to walk out of the Giant with two bags of candy, he was going to get to feed all the coins into the slot of the self checkout kiosk.  The prospect of those coins disappearing one by one into the slot was a matter of great anticipation for Eddie.

I suddenly realized why the father had sparked up a conversation with me over what in so many ways was a true feel good story.  He wanted to get some feel for what would happen when Eddie started feeding pennies into the coin slot.  Would I suddenly teach Eddie some words he had probably never heard before?  Did I have the kind of cold, black eyes that would convince most people to use a debit card and sort out the change later?

where to buy cigarettes

I elected to remain reticent.  It seemed an honorable thing to do and it allowed me to position myself to see how the 12 people behind me in line were going to react when $4.46 was due, to be paid with approximately 400 individual coins.

I must be vague about what came next as this is a family oriented publication.  Let’s just say the father probably wishes he had grabbed hold of that last parenting moment, the one where Eddie comes to understand that putting the coins in the slot can wait until another day.  There’s snow on the horizon, after all, and if all those customers in self checkout line number 3 don’t get out to the parking lot with their bread, bottled water, and batteries posthaste, there won’t be time for a Starbucks before hitting the gridlock en route to their snow bunkers.

A Shovel Ready Project Every Day

There is immediate gratification associated with shoveling snow, provided you monitor the progress of the snowplows to preclude revisiting some stretch of your property again and again.  With a snow blower and a shovel, you can achieve incredible feats of snow engineering.  Shoveling also puts one front-and-center to observe those who are out and about, braving the elements for pleasure, curiosity, or necessity.

“Thanks for clearing your sidewalks,” a purple Michelin man (or woman) wearing a black stocking cap said.  “Of course,” I replied, watching as he or she advanced through the flurries down the street.  My wife and I had not yet completed that round of shoveling so our purple overly-bundled neighbor could not take advantage of our handiwork.

A few moments later, what had been silence except for the rhythmic crunch of snow shovels, was interrupted by the whoosh of tires on ice and the whine of a four-cylinder engine.  As the rear wheel drive car fishtailed down the street, I wondered whether the driver, clearly in over his head, would meet up with my neighbor, trudging along and no doubt sensory limited due to a hat and scarf.

I turned to my wife and said, “What do you think?  Did we just witness someone driving to begin his shift at a fire station or emergency room, someone delivering prescription medication to the homebound, or someone who elected to venture out into the storm?  I just hope there isn’t a big purple mess down at the end of the block.”  My wife encouraged me to quit pondering and get back to shoveling.

My time shoveling also let me witness the fact that although social media like Facebook may be pervasive our youth still yearn for actual human interaction, preferably with individuals to whom they are not related and have not been cooped up with for the previous 48-hours.  The snowfall would slow and they would trudge past our house in groups of two to five, their bare fingers texting away, no doubt publicizing their temporary furlough.  And following the kids down the street or turning the corner and trying to maintain traction were more drivers undoubtedly hurrying to deliver babies or repair natural gas leaks.

Until we hunker down again, I wish you safe passage through the snowy streets of our little city.


February 11, 2010 


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