Darkside of the Sun: What snow?

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday night in Westbrook, Maine and you might be surprised to learn that I am still alive. From all the yelling about the Imminent Snow Event of the Century, I figured I would be dead by now, along with anyone else caught lingering in the Northeast at this most dangerous moment in recorded history.

You see, it’s supposed to really snow tonight! Plus, there might be some wind, I guess. Okay, then. Wow. Better take a Xanax or something.

I think the recent scarification over Mother Nature doing her usual thing stems from the harsh fact that Southerners — that is, anyone living Equator-ward of the southern boundaries of New Hampshire and Vermont — have no racial memory of winter. Every December or January these innocents must start fresh. This happens because it’s never winter long enough down there for anyone to remember the last time it snowed. Not so here in northern New England, where we are likely to still be shoveling out our cars in May. The big news networks in New York get all silly when the forecast calls for a foot or more of snow. Heck, this week, the blizzard story even drove Deflate-gate off the front pages. And Deflate-gate may all be a mirage, too. What a country!

Anyway, as a people, we northern New Englanders know enough to prepare for bad weather. Each town gets up money every year to keep its snowplows fixed, stashes some sand and salt, and tries to take it easy on the town crew during the “shoulder seasons” (basically May and November), knowing that the lads need to catch up on their sleep while the sleeping’s good. Even most of us civilians dare the Great White Outdoors on our regular rounds, even when those wimps on the TV are telling us that shoveling is suicidal and driving possibly homicidal. Your true New Englander has a plow affixed to the front of his pickup, in case he needs to haul a town truck out of the ditch, or do some plowing for the town boys. We like to think we’re tougher than most, more determined. “Not going to let a little snow stop me from getting my morning coffee,” we say, and head out into the six-foot drifts, trusting that the state crews will have the main roads passable while the town crews are going great guns on the side roads.

Yes, sessions of schools and Zumba classes and church suppers and the like get cancelled or postponed whenever a big storm is predicted — and you have to admit that the weathermen are almost always right these days, though occasionally they are off by a foot or two, even with computer models telling them what to think. I’m beginning to wonder about this storm, for example. It’s 10:30. Still nothing.

When I arrived at the store this evening I figured the place would be packed with people, with folks shoving each other aside and cracking each other’s skulls with cans of tomato paste or the last six-pack of Mountain Dew. But clearly Mainers have cooler heads than our TV weather people do. The shelves had not been shopped to the bare wood, and the place fairly glowed with its burden of the usual everyday bounty — grapes from Peru, bread from all over, chicken from Maryland and beef from Kansas. It’s amazing, really, the things we take for granted in this modern world. The cornucopia that is a super-grocery, the hard work that gets and keeps our roads cleared — these would be everyday miracles, if we really looked hard at them, but they are considered all in a day’s work by the people who make it happen.

Still, it's 10:45 and I have yet to see Flake One. If it does snow two feet in the next 36 hours, as threatened, I hope you get your morning coffee without too much trouble. I hope the plow jockeys can all keep it on the road during the promised blizzard. It will be surprising if they don’t, actually. There’s courage and expertise in that sort of driving. We’re better prepared up here than the Boy Scouts are. Sure, we may not have all the sophistication and amenities and glory of those people from the southern states. But on the other hand, maybe we ought not to take our own forethought and planning so much for granted. Around here, nothing short of an appearance of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse qualifies as an actual crisis.

Anyway, if it doesn’t snow two feet, I’m going to be a little disappointed. And if it doesn’t snow at all, this whole thing figures to be a major downer for thousands of Maine schoolchildren! Even undergoing a blizzard would be preferable to forgoing the grace of a midweek snow day in January. We can all blame the weathermen then. Because in a weird way, a lot of us — not only a lot of kids — are looking forward to the Big Blizzard of ’15.

Mike Corrigan remembers the famous winter of 1888. He’s told us about it many times.

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