Sunday, January 31, 2010

North Versus South

When I was a young man, I lived in Maine for a number of years. The big storm we got yesterday, our second in six weeks, reminded me of Maine, and of how I used to spend hours on snowshoes out in the woods, or on cross country skis. Winter and cold weather were a big part of life in Maine. The question, asked only partially in jest, was how many seasons does Maine have? The answer was two, although there were at least two variations to this. The first was that the two seasons were winter and last winter. The other answer was that the two Maine seasons were winter and three weeks in July when the ice skating gets kind of poor. In Wayne, Maine - the little town where I lived for a while – snow removal was the second biggest line item on the town budget behind schools.

When we cancelled training yesterday, a very wise decision, I started thinking of how Northerners and Southerners think differently about snow and cold weather. Virginia is not Deep South – our weather is not much different from Pennsylvania, at least in Central Virginia – but we think of ourselves as Southern, I guess because of the Civil War. So here are a few of the scenarios I thought of.

Scenario 1 – the weather forecast, where the TV announcer talks about a big storm coming in. Northern couple: the husband yawns, and turns back to his paper. The wife says “Hey kids, better get to bed a little early tonight, because you have to get up 15 minutes earlier to get to school on time.” Southern couple: the husband and wife leap from the sofa with blood curdling screams. They jump into the car and drive 80 miles an hour to the supermarket, nearly getting in several accidents with the crush of traffic heading to the store. They park 800 feet from the store in the last available spot. In the store, there is a mob scene as people strip the shelves of bread, milk, and beer. Meanwhile, back at the house, their kids are dancing around and giving high-fives – no school for at least the next week.

Scenario 2 – the mercury hovers at zero F, and it is time for a run. The northern runner decides to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt, and starts running. The southern runner bundles up with five layers, steps outside, and cannot move from all the layers.

Scenario 3 – it is snowing hard, and a couple has dinner plans with friends. The northern couple throws a snow shovel and a bag of cat litter in the trunk, takes a couple of sleeping bags just in case, and starts driving – hell, it’s only 40 miles. The southern couple sends their regrets – there is no way they are going to drive that mile to their friends’ home! (And actually, there was this time in Maine that we drove 70 miles each way in a snow storm to have dinner with friends. The drive home, very late at night, was through a raging blizzard, and it took over three hours to make the drive back. Another time, we drove to Portland and back in a snow storm to go to our first opera. Yesterday, I didn’t even leave the house.)

Scenario 4 – a couple is selling their home in a tough market. The southern couple seals the deal by including their golf carts. The northern couple seals the deal by throwing in their snow-blower and two snowmobiles.

Scenario 5 – a big storm, starting just before morning rush hour, is forecast. The Southern company announces before the start of work that the offices are closed that day. The highway crews can easily take care of the low-traffic roads. But with the Northern company, everyone shows up to work, slogging in through the storm. The snow fall gets worse and worse. The wind picks up to blizzard intensity. Finally at 3:30, the company and all other businesses in town close for the day. This results in a massive traffic jam as every commuter hits the road at exactly the same time in the snow storm. Snowplows are stuck in traffic just like everyone else.

1 comment:

Karen said...

So true, Art! I'm from the Northeast, with 7 years spent in Buffalo before coming down here to Richmond. I'll admit I just stand back and watch with some amusement when snow hits VA. Right now, VCU just announced they're closed tomorrow. While I'd like the day off, I'm fighting the guilty feeling of knowing I have no good excuse not to go in!