The International Writers
precipitation has a way of bending the mind. Terror rules the
day. Otherwise functioning humans with nary a care in the world
become jabbering loons, dangerous to themselves and others almost
immediately. Motor skills are abandoned and concern for their
fellow man forgotten. And those are the lucky ones, the ones that
get out. The rest batten down the hatches and disconnect the phone
lines, light candles, and hold solemn vigils, praying to Jehovah
to spare them.
draw back the curtains, slightly, to peer into the engulfing white,
sigh despondently, and then scramble about to make certain the children
are still breathing. It is strangely Pavlovian, a conditioned response
to bad weather that devolves the best of us.
I should know. I've spent many a grueling hour driving in deep, blinding
snow -- day and night. I used to deliver medical records at all hours
traversing all types of terrain -- mountain roads, winding cliffs, city
streets (all five boroughs) in and out of the weird and crippled psyches
and speed-addled truckers. Adverse conditions have caused me to participate
in several multi-car pile-ups and once even forced me to flip a brand
new company truck. Upside down. Lying on the cab's inner roof with my
precious contents sprawled about me, serenaded by a radio blasting something
by Stevie Nicks.
Still, it is hard for a former professional like myself to fathom the
pure fear that grips the hearts of travelers up here. It is as if they
had forgotten the concept of pedal/brake. There is no logic to their
methods. And when they do manage to operate their vehicles it's like
being led through soup on an anchor. Sideways. Wheels spinning. Cars
sliding. The panic visible in the frantic faces of overwhelmed motorists
struggling to reroute the random whirl of the steering wheel, locked
in a futile wrestle with inertia.
Ice makes fools of us all. No tread equals no control and no control
equals either rapid speed decline or feral abandon. There is no in between.
A handful of drivers ignore the conditions altogether. These are your
four-wheeling types, splashing and crunching over all kinds of ice and
snow with little regard for the space outside their capsule. This causes
the already nervous set to recoil in horror, prompting a strange ballet
of spastic prudence and reckless assault. But I prefer bravado to caution.
At least I know where the bold are headed. The paroxysmal driver is
hard to read. Anything could happen, and often does.
But it still makes no sense. It snows more than a little around here.
You would assume familiarity with vacillating weather patters might
have a positive effect on the overall performance of the locals. I know
it's been a light year, accumulation-wise, but it's not like it hasn't
stormed in half a decade. Down where my parents reside in North Carolina
there is a declared state emergency once anything frozen appears in
the sky. Dark clouds send weathermen to their knees with convulsion.
Clamoring hordes pile into supermarkets pushing and shoving for milk
and bread, as if faced with pending doomsday. Schools are closed for
a month, the mail stops, and the National Guard is on alert. Once in
a great while mistakes are made and people disappear, but the governor
is on record as stating, "It is a small price to pay for safety".
However, we northerners should never be shocked into terminal frenzy
over a little snow. We live in the mountains. Yes, the mountains. There
are mountains in New Jersey, as I have repeatedly explained to my friend
Ani Difranco, who lives in Buffalo, where it snows for keeps. She doesn't
believe me, as I do not buy her horror stories of snowdrifts burying
dogs and sheaths of solid ice that crack trees in half. Sometimes, she
claims, people don't come out for weeks on end and even then are armed
to the teeth and driven around in heated bubble cars, flashing their
ID's to the authorities whenever they need to transfer through the old
Underground Railroad tunnels.
Buffalo is the read deal. Or Syracuse, where my wife's family lives,
pummeled by four, five, six, seven feet of snow in mere days. My poor
mother-in-law is practically a shut-in, reduced to recording the fallout
in digital photographs to escape madness -- 12-foot drifts covering
every man-made structure as if the Loch Ness monster was feeding in
her backyard. For months no one within a 100-mile radius believes the
sun will shine again, much less the vague promise of a beckoning thaw.
We live somewhere in the middle of these extremes: Total, crippling
conditions and a minor ice squall paralyzing the entire state. We should,
theoretically, be able to handle six inches to a foot occasionally,
without widespread mania akin to a Wellsian radio serial. This is not
Minnesota we're talking about here. Out there, the very idea of venturing
outside is considered suicide. I have seen video of a man tossing a
pot of boiling water and it freezing in mid air.
Ah, but at some point there is joy in the brave snowmobile souls who
begin trudging through the tundra outside my house for fun and sport,
whizzing down back roads as if chased. I could hear their clarion call.
Burrrrrrrr. Look at us, free of fear and angst and embracing nature!
"Join us!" they shout with unbridled glee. I am envious, sipping
coffee from the relative warmth of my office lair. Then, without warning,
"Look out, Junior!" BAM! Jesus, now the cops are here and
an ambulance siren wails closer. I'm trying to finish a column on snow
and now this. How ironic. How inconvenient. I live here for quiet, not
the incessant pounding at my door and these insipid cries for aid; "Help
us! Help us! There's been a terrible accident!" The voices cry
out. "Go away you crazy bastards," I scream. "Can't you
see the storm has rendered me incapable of even the most random act
Their shouting is followed by the intermittent pelt of snowballs, which
spurs an angry wave of my fist through ice-streaked windows. I would
call the cops but one of them has joined in. There is no law now. The
weather has rendered these bumpkins to anarchists. Right in my front
yard! They would sooner let their friend bleed to death than let me
My wife has gone berserk, ordering the cats to defend our honor and
raging incoherently when they do not.
Soon, I remind myself, it will be spring.
James Campion Feb 16 2007
has come to light that big oil lobbyists and henchmen of the Bush Administration
bankrolled by and jam-packed with Oil Men suppressed scientific panic-speak
on the accelerated global warming dangers.
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