Winter has taken up residence in our area of North Carolina where snow, sleet, and ice create interesting scenarios. We are deep into the 2014 Southern Winter Olympics. The events may not progress as speedily as the official contests in Sochi, but competition is fierce and participation is widespread.
The Bread Scramble
The Scramble is a crowd competition, not an individual event. The local media sniffs out an impending storm and sounds the alarm a week in advance. Any official who will make a weather statement is quoted on news broadcasts until the anxiety level peaks. Good southerners wait at the starting line until the flakes begin to tumble, then everyone makes a mad dash to the store for essentials such as milk, bread, and beer.
Fight for a parking spot then rush in and grab anything that could serve as bread—bagels, donuts, tortillas, chips, or in an emergency, single ply toilet paper. Push through the crowd to the dairy section to tackle any milk product in any flavor or size. With prizes safely in hand, run to the checkout line. Stand perfectly still in toasty layers of winter attire for the 40 minutes it takes to navigate the checkout line and escape the store.
The Gotta Get Out Sprint
Stout mountain families can be homebound for weeks as the snow blows. At the first break in the storm they exit, still civil, still sane, and still bonded in familial love. Southerners not so much. Southerners are not vaccinated against cabin fever and experience “Gotta Get Out” 24 hours after the first snow falls. They must leave home and go somewhere—anywhere—or risk becoming stark raving lunatics. Many invest in very expensive 4-wheel drive rigs for an advantage on successful snow day jaunts to any convenience store with the lights on.
School Cancellation Lottery
The lottery is a guessing game. Will the officials cancel school or not? When will they announce the results? Should the wakeup alarm be set or is it safe to assume a snow day is imminent and sleep in? With time and experience, one gets better at the game. The last thing school officials want is the overnight responsibility for 1000’s of screaming young people who cannot be transported home due to road conditions. School busses in the south, or the north, make the worst sleds imaginable. Many school systems close at the threat of a storm. No actual snowflakes must be present to participate.
Somehow the mail carrier, in his tiny jeep with tire chains, delivers. Bless his heart! It is 50 feet from the house to the mailbox standing by the end of the driveway. Walk down the steps and get the mail, right? What could happen?
The first hint today’s mail retrieval will be an Olympic class adventure arrives at the top step when both feet become airborne and traction is reduced to zero. Arms and legs flail in a desperate attempt to override the cruel forces of gravity. In the end, the participant makes a cartoon character thud on the frozen tundra.
Oh, but hang on tight. The ride has not come to stop. The earth is rotating and the ice is polished to a shimmering glaze. The fallen body gains speed and propels itself across the yard toward the street. All that is missing is a group of neighbors holding up the scores.
The pucker factor of the Mailbox Luge is enhanced if the driveway has a slope.
The demolition derby begins when management at local companies, recognizing the worsening weather conditions, all decide to send their employees home in the same 1 hour period. The roads are not designed for such a massive influx of traffic on a July afternoon, much less on a snowy day in February. Start with numerous anxious parents navigating slick roads. Stir in the reality that one of every 4 cars needed new tires months ago. Glaze the entire dish with a complete absence of winter driving techniques. This is a winning recipe for arteries so clogged no amount of cholesterol medicine will help.
Snow March Marathon
Sit in the front seat of your idling car as major highways transition to parking lots. Wait until your bladder is about to burst or the gas gauge approaches empty. Exit the vehicle wherever it sits, lock the doors, and aim for home. There are no polar bears in the south so the biggest worry will be falling pine trees. Always run from the sound of crackling wood. Turn the first large tree or adult-sized shrub into a highway relief stop but be quick about it. There are vital body parts that suffer frostbite easily.
Work From Home Illusion
The popular employers allow work from home on inclement weather days. The challenge comes in finding activities that can be classified as work. With a house full of kids and snow piling up outside the window, work-from-homers think about working. That counts as work. They pray the power stays on and the Internet connection stays up. That counts. An industrious work-from-home adherent may clean up the desk and organize the workspace. That counts. Some hearty souls suit up to shovel driveways or push cars. Again, those count as work.
The Gold Medal Winners
The gold medals in the 2014 Southern Winter Olympics go to:
Power company employees. Many leave the warmth of home and travel from faraway places to pass the icy night in a tiny bucket several feet off the ground. Their goal is to restore power and warm cold homes as rapidly as possible.
Law enforcement personnel. After begging folks to stay home until the danger passes, officers patrol the roads, trying to help more people than is humanly possible.
Snow plow drivers. Pushing snow is not a southern thing. These folks are out-gunned with the number of roads needing attention, the depth of the snow, and the abandoned vehicles. They work nonstop on highways hoping the sunrise brings warmer temperatures to thaw the neighborhood streets.
Emergency crews. Firefighters, EMS squads, and ER professionals often work multiple shifts or bunk in place rather than go home. They are on the job, just in case we need them.
All in all, there are some real champions in the Olympics.
Photos provided by Shawn’s Studio, © Shawn Nichols.