I moved to the Pacific Northwest thirty years ago having lived almost my whole life in the snowy, chilly, Midwest. I briefly lived in Flagstaff, Arizona which is an elevation of seven thousand so the winters there were equally snowy.
My first year in Seattle, the city had a blizzard-their words not mine-with almost four inches of snow. Aghast…I laughed when the whole city literally shut down. I couldn’t understand what the big flippin’ deal was? Come on people, get out of my way and stop fretting over a light dusting of snow. I’d just moved there from a place that had real snow. To be fair, Seattle was ill-equipped to handle any amount of snow because the city rarely got any.
A year later, I moved to Bellingham which received slightly more snow than Seattle, but it was still the west side of the state where snow levels were relatively low compared to where I came from. Five years later, I moved to Whidbey Island and was faced with the same situation. Anytime we had any amount of snow that stuck to the ground for more than a couple of hours, the locals went nuts and all the schools closed.
When I was a kid, I remembered the school closing once, but that was because a water main had frozen and busted – flooding the school. On occasion, the buses would run late, but the attitude in the Midwest was we’re not letting no stinkin’ snow stop us. Kids, get your butts dressed because snow days are a fantasy around here.
Finally, when I moved to the East side of the state almost twelve years ago, I got to experience the kind of snow I was used to as a kid. We got feet. I was home again. Sure there were still some idiots in their big bad trucks littered in the ditch because they were overconfident, but most people knew how to drive in the snow and didn’t panic at the first snowflake.
I’ll admit it, I was smug. I made fun of those Washingtonians who freaked out with the first snowfall. I joined in with the other east siders who made fun of those west siders. I’d put my snow tires on and brazenly managed the the seventy five miles (round trip) each day to work. The conditions would get dicey, but I knew how to handle myself in snow. I grew up with it.
A few years after I moved to snowy Cle Elum, I was driving to work in the freezing rain. The roads looked clear and I was driving a reasonable speed, or so I thought. Suddenly I hit a patch of ice, did a one eighty and traversed backwards into the Yakima River. Fortunately, the rocks stopped me from going all the way into the icy river of death. This was the article reported in the local paper….
I wasn’t cool and collected about my driving prowess anymore. So who did I call as my heart beat loudly in my chest? Nope, not 911, that’s far too logical. I called my wife. Here’s how that conversation went (sorta it’s been a few years):
Me: I’m in the Yakima River. I don’t know what to do.
My Wife: Roll down the window. Can you get out?
Me: Yeah (vibrato voice).
My Wife: You’ll be okay. Did you call 911 yet?
Me: No, I called you first (awkward pause as I realized how stupid I sounded). I guess I should let work know I’m going to be late. The rocks look slippery. Oh here comes a guy. I think he’s going to help me.
My Wife: Okay call me back when you get to work.
Me: I will.
I called work right afterwards and the little stinkers kept the voice mail that I left which was something like, “I’m going to be late, I ended up in the Yakima River.” After they knew I was okay, they laughed about it for weeks. I was never late and had a reputation as a very unflappable person. The tremor in my voice when I left the message told the story. Yep, she can be rattled. I made the local paper. Here’s the blurb. I was the, “and one car was off the roadway and in the Yakima River.”
Since then, I don’t drive in the snow unless I have to and then I creep along at twenty miles an hour. It drives my wife nuts. She won’t let me drive because we’d never get anywhere in the snow if I did. I grab the, oh crap bar, every other second while she handles the snow like a pro. She commutes across the pass every day, so she should be a pro by now, but can you blame me for being nervous all the time?
I still love the snow, but now I have a very healthy respect for Mother Nature. When I retire, I think I’ll just get around in a snowmobile or cross country skis. Who needs to get anywhere within a specific timeframe anyway?
So if you ever find yourself making fun of people who freak out over snow, just remember that Karma has a way of always hitting when you least expect it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Tonight I managed to get home by sneaking through the cones at the exit 37 miles from my house on I-90. They like to close the highway when the pass closes for any significant length of time. It’s been closed since yesterday and won’t be open for an indeterminate time. I’m not moving from the fireplace room unless I slap on some skis.
We’ve been lamenting over the last two years about the lack of snow at our place in Cle Elum. Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. We now have four feet of snow! Here is my wife and I last weekend.
If anyone is snowed in right now and wants a good book to read by the fireplace, feel free to check one of mine out. You can access all the books by clicking on the two sites below. Have a safe and happy holiday!