Thursday, December 18, 2008

A brief word for the scoffers

It is common for non-northwesterners to scoff at us Puget Sound dwellers and the way we respond to snow. For much of the country (think Chicago, New York, Denver), life goes on after the snow; whereas here in Seattle (as it is in Portland), the slightest dusting of snow paralyzes the cities. Schools close, the government shuts down, buses stop running. Cars are abandoned on the freeways and side streets, trash isn't picked up, everyone stays home or wishes they had.

"Ha!" say those who live elsewhere. "A bunch of ninnies who can't handle a little snow!"

If you find yourself in that crowd, let me explain a couple things.

1. Hills. Steep hills. Seattle has a lot of them. And a lot of roads that go up and down them. Chicago, Denver, Calgary. . .all those snowy cities are flat. But Seattle has virtually no flat ground. If you're not going up, then you're going down. Flat snow compacts under your tires while you go merrily on your way. But on hills, it becomes like little ball bearings under your tires, causing you to lose control and slam into things. That's not bad driving, that's gravity.

2. Temperature. It never really gets that cold in Seattle. It always hovers around the freezing point. Which means things begin to melt, then freeze again. During the day all that snow warms up and turns to slush, and then at night it freezes as a solid sheen of ice. It's not the snow that's a problem, it's the ice underneath. And if you take all this ice and put it on the hills mentioned in #1, it creates real problems. You hit ice, you lose all hope of control. Again, that's not bad driving, that's gravity.

3. It's not a big enough problem to make it an issue. If you live in a place where it snows 6 months out of the year, you have chains or snow tires or studs. If you live in Seattle, where it snows one or two days a year (if you're lucky) you're just not going to put that much time and money into buying chains and snow tires and studs.

4. Californians. They're the ones who move up here and then have no clue how to drive in the snow. Seriously. Or the midwesterners who assume that they can handle snow because they used to drive in Nebraska in the snow, but who don't take into consideration #1 and 2.

So quit your scoffing. It's probably all so much jealousy, anyway, since you all wish you could live here.


Kim said...

Um, I noticed you left New Englanders out of your "scoffers" list. We got hills. We got ice. Now, suck it up and try doing this EVERY winter, ya big crybaby! (ducking & running)

And then there's Syracuse. Our Assoc. Pastor is originally from Syracuse. When he moved here he laughed at our tiny little snow plows. You know, snow plows? Big trucks with plows on the front of them? hee hee...

Seriously, I am jealous. I love snow, and I even don't mind driving in it. Supposedly we've got 8-14" coming tomorrow into Saturday. Wheeeeeeee!!!!!

Gracie said...

Please, from this west coast girl who now lives in Michigan, AND lived in New Hampshire, may I add to your list?
The city where I reside is poised, at any moment, to respond to snow, or the hint of snow with not only the most amazing plows, but also salt, and any other type of ice melting, preventative, even, snow fighting equipment.
Given the rarity of snow in Seattle, for instance, why would that area even begin to invest in such things?
Personally, snow days in Seattle were such an adventure of both amazement (beauty) and transport. The snow here is glorious, but we so take it for granted, and so quickly can jump into the crazy rhythm of life, I wish it slowed us down a bit more.
Enjoy the "paralysis" and perhaps you'll also see the majesty.
(Stepping off the soap box now)

Erin said...

I'm with you and Seattle Dan. I just moved to a snowy place, and, being from socal like I am, I am terrified to drive in the snow, and I WISH they would shut everything down! LOL! But everyone here just laughs at me and tells me to get used to it.

Beth B said...

Chesterton wrote, "The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost." Another way to love something is to appreciate its rarity. One of the blessings of living in the NW is that, given the scarcity of snow, we actually marvel at it, and are even able to celebrate it, rather than take it for granted.

Linda Anderson said...

My New England winter driving was many years ago. Thankfully I now have friends and children who don't get ruffled driving in this stuff, a co-worker with a couch a mile from the building and now a bit of overtime on my next pay check! It is beautiful,isn't it!!

Kim said...

I'm with you, Beth. Last Sunday during coffee hour our first snowfall started (nothing much, just a little mood snow) and me and couple of the teenagers dashed outside and twirled in the parking lot getting covered in it. That's what I'm talking about!

I love snow. We now have 10" on the ground to love, with another 8-12" coming tomorrow. :-D