Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Blizzard of 2003

Day 1: Saturday 2/15. First day of snow. No big deal. Snow plows came through and put down salt and sand. At Safeway we fought for food, water and duct tape. The distilled and spring water were all gone due to the terrorism scare, but there was still plenty of Evian, which just goes to show that at $3 a quart, people would rather die.

Day 2: Sunday 2/16. Blizzard. Heavy snow and strong winds all day. Sand and salt on roads now a moot point as we can’t even determine where the road is. Since it was supposed to snow the following day too, my family and I decided to play today and work tomorrow. Went sledding in our neighborhood on a nice steep hill that we repeatedly climbed up and slid down on toboggans. For my wife and me, it was just like sledding as children, with the following differences: 1) the toboggans cracked under our middle-aged girth; and 2) we could only make it up the hill about five times. We also went airborne a few times on our way down, landing in weird positions that we had previously seen only in porn videos. Took pictures of the community pool all snowed in, which will be nice to look at in July. Froze our butts off.

Day 3: Monday 2/17. Neighborhood totally snowed in with 23 inches, which we hear is the 2nd largest snowfall in Maryland history. We couldn’t care less if it were the 10th largest – we still had to shovel a lot of snow. It reminded us of the Blizzard of 1978, in which we also had a lot of shoveling to do, the difference being that during the Blizzard of 1978 we didn’t experience chest pains. My wife took the first shift because I spent the better part of the day brewing a batch of beer. After she convinced me to help (via several thwacks with a wet shovel), I joined her and we managed to dig out our vehicles and clear our driveway. The challenge was not just to move the several tons of snow, but also to find places to put it. We created a mountain range that was very similar to the Alps, but bigger. We let our two dogs run loose out front, which normally would be about as intelligent as handing O.J. a knife, but the perimeter of our shoveling zone acted as a nice corral that kept them on our property. We also shoveled part of the backyard so the dogs could do their “business”, and we learned that dog doodies stand out on top of snow like Osama bin Laden at a synagogue. When we finished shoveling we went to bed and did a lot of moaning (but not the good kind).

Day 4: Tuesday 2/18. It snowed an additional two inches during the night, increasing the total snowfall to record amounts. The long-awaited snowplow was unable to make it down our street, thanks to extremely inconsiderate van- and SUV-owning neighbors who had the foresight to park on the street directly across from each other, leaving a lane suitable only for Yugos and skateboards. We considered getting revenge by moving their vehicles to the center of our cul-de-sac and covering them with snow, but parking there is against Article 5 Section C of our neighborhood’s covenant. Instead I went with another neighbor (Tim, who is wanted in three states for beating up Hell’s Angels) to the offending neighbors’ house and nicely told them to move their %@$#* vehicles unless they wanted to have them surgically removed. We also considered paying an independent snowplow contractor, but since snowplows were in extreme demand, it would have taken a neighborhood populated by drug dealers and terrorists to pay their fees, and since we do not live in downtown DC, this was not possible.

In the absence of heavy machinery, we, about twenty of our neighbors and their assorted children got together and shoveled out our cul-de-sac and about a hundred yards of street. With that many people you can well imagine the assortment of tools that people used. There were several standard straight shovels – you know, the kind where the snow slides off the end and lands on your neighbor instead of the pile you were aiming for. There were also the bent-bar type that supposedly save your back, but for some reason the snow was just as heavy. And of course some parents had the bright idea to let their children help by wielding ice choppers to break up the compacted snow and any boots that didn’t move out of the way fast enough. Try to picture for a moment a street full of middle-class white-collar wimps and the sounds of “Scoop, fling. Scoop, fling. Scoop, fl-chop. Owwwwww!”

Of course, there were also the token snowblower owners who diligently cleared out their own driveway and promptly disappeared inside with their equipment. This prompted us to seriously reconsider where to put the extra snow.

It is interesting to note that as we shoveled, the topic of conversation swung from snow shovel stories at the local hardware store to survival and whether everyone had enough food, water, duct tape and beer. At several points we had to stop working and discuss our method of shoveling out the road, and since all of us were chiefs and none were Indians, it was sort of a haphazard approach until finally someone determined that it was time to get a car and try it out. Our next-door neighbor slipped and slid his way to the top of our street (at least that’s what we’ve heard – we don’t know because we haven’t seen him since). Then I, with a magnificent combination of brute force and ignorance, managed to do the same, and we all concluded that the street had been adequately cleared because if I could navigate it in my little rice burner, then anyone could.

Our neighbors and we concluded our efforts with hot soup and cold homebrew in front of my house. One of the good things about the storm was that it gave us a chance to see these folks who we hadn’t seen much of this winter, and we learned that it is never too cold outside to drink beer.

That night a bunch of neighbors gathered around a trashcan fire in the street, consuming assorted grilled meats and our neighbor Frank, who we pulled out of a large snowbank.

Walking thigh-high in snow made us realize just how far away our nearest grocery store is. It’s less than a mile but it seems longer by foot. Although the shelves were a bit empty because the delivery trucks didn’t make it, they were full compared to places like Russia where people stand in line for a loaf of bread, and so the point was brought home of just how lucky we are to live here.

Retail stores were unable to hold their annual sale on Presidents’ Day. I guess now we know why they call it a winter “white sale”. With all this snow you begin to hate the color white almost as much as Louis Farrakhan does.

The snow on top of my sunroom slowly slid off like a glacier, with chunks falling off periodically and piling up higher than the sill. It’s hard to believe that in just four or five months the grass will be all dry and crunchy underfoot.

Probably the most memorable part of the whole ordeal was learning just how many muscles the human body has, and how many of those muscles it uses while shoveling snow. My wife’s observation upon waking up after two days of shoveling was that even her boobs hurt. I pointed out that it was the underlying pectoral muscles and not her boobs that were aching, upon which she duly smacked me in my pectoral muscles for being so insensitive as to speak Latin while she was in pain.