The first snowfall of the year is usually preceded by several days of breathless predictions regarding the imminent snowmageddon (often followed by tropical weather and maybe a sprinkle). On an intellectual level, I know this is all about driving advertising revenue by scaring people into tuning into the six o’clock news. It’s an opportunity for the station to pay for whatever new doppler radar contraption they’re bragging about that season.

On an emotional level, however, my mind goes back to Aesop’s Fables and the story of the ant and the grasshopper. I don’t want to go begging at the door of that ant, the one who rubs it in that I didn’t put anything away over the summer to prepare for the harsh winter. (I’ve always disliked ants.)

I hear my dad’s voice in my head as I prepare before every storm, trudging out to fill up the gas in the car while it’s still fifty degrees. I can only assume he lived through a winter storm where the scarcity of gas turned the world into a Mad Max movie for several days, but I haven’t. I do it anyway. I also check to make sure we have all the essentials in the fridge in case the electricity goes out and we get knocked back into colonial times.

Yes, if we lose power we need only put the milk out in the garage, but that’s grasshopper thinking.

When I was a kid in school, snow days were portable holidays, surprise days off that often saved me from my habit of putting off homework. They also served as the economic engine of my adolescence, allowing me to pick up a few bucks as I shoveled my neighbors out of their driveways. Mostly, though, snow days were an opportunity to stock up on a child’s most precious commodity: sleep. The only time we ever purposely listened to the radio was in those pre-dawn minutes we waited for our school to be added to the roll of delays or closings.

As an adult, snow days lose their luster. It’s still nice to see the occasional dusting, but most employers aren’t as understanding as the local school district when it comes to showing up on time. Snowfalls require us to get up earlier to dig our way out to the car, then force us to play another round of “Guess Who Doesn’t Know How to Drive in the Snow?” on the highways.

When I left the business world to go into teaching, my view of snow days changed yet again. Yes, they often ruin my lesson planning and no, I don’t enjoy any extra sleep on the days they close the schools. (Dogs, like those ants, rarely take a morning off.) On the other hand, I rarely have to drive into the teeth of the storm anymore. I can attack the snow on the driveway when there’s actually some light in the sky.

Like most sixteen-year-olds, the snow blower I bought in 2003 takes a long time to wake up and doesn’t like to do much work when it finally does. It’s mostly a very heavy shovel that makes a lot of noise. However, like me, it can turn into an ant when the need arises.

I’m told this will be a particularly fierce winter, so here’s hoping all you grasshoppers out there are ready. Or, if the next storm is anything like the one they predicted earlier this week, maybe you can just sit back and watch those ants work themselves into a frenzy for no reason at all.

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