Winter arrived on Monday night, another opportunity to realize that snowstorms often find us at our most absurd. The beginning, middle, and end of snow events unveil Northeasterners for the oddballs we are.
This particular madness officially begins the night before the first flake hits the ground. The news of the impending snowfall transforms the local gas station into an automotive Roman Coliseum. Cars jockey for position in a packed lot, cutting each other off in a race to the open pumps. You see people pounding on their steering wheels when they slip into an open pump only to encounter the dreaded yellow “Out of Service” baggie over the nozzle.
Still others triumphantly place their gas nozzle into their tank, flush with the knowledge that they will have gas while everyone else has to fight to the death for what remains. The hoarders pull out their red, 10-gallon gas cans amid a chorus of horns beeping their impatience. An unlucky few get to watch the gallon counter slow to a crawl as the pump empties. They rush into the station to demand what’s gone wrong before despairing at the length of the Line of Shame, those people desperately trying to buy ice scrapers and shovels just before the blizzard.
The perception of scarcity before a storm turns grocery stores into 70’s game shows. Suddenly, one cannot get enough cans of tuna. Carts are wheeled around the store with wild abandon as poor food choices abound. “Surely we will need more cupcakes if we get snowed in!” People scramble to grab condensed or powdered milk, those otherwise-neglected stepchildren of the dairy world. Standing over a 15-foot putt to win the Masters isn’t pressure; pressure is desperately trying to get the Fritos to ring up on the Self-Checkout while a line of angry shoppers wielding coupons and marshmallows give you the stink-eye.
Back home, we remember the list of things we forgot at the store: Batteries, toilet paper, milk, and, against all odds, shovels. Oh, we have shovels — lots of ‘em. We just won’t find them until it’s time to rake the leaves (in which case we won’t find any rakes).
The middle of any snowstorm finds us posting condescending messages on Facebook: “You really need to stay off the roads!” or “Can you believe that line of people at the store?”
Some of us pray that the power goes off so that, finally, we can justify the cost of that backup generator. We settle in to watch the television weather forecasters as if Aztecs watching a solar eclipse, only with less blood sacrifice. (That’s for those trying to buy gas.) We’ll sip hot chocolate and watch a real-world version of bumper cars as minivan drivers suddenly learn they don’t know how to drive in the snow. We wait for our wives to turn to us and ask, “So, you gonna go out there and shovel at some point?”
The snowstorm ends with an aching back and a silent promise that next year, by God, we’ll get a snow blower. We’ll swear off tuna and cupcakes forever as we sip on that wretched powdered milk.
Then, as the sun melts the last of the snow off the lawn, we’ll find all the shovels.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.