Commentary

Shaffer: No school like snow school

jshaffer@newsobserver.comFebruary 2, 2014 

— Monday morning, at approximately 7:53 a.m., hundreds of thousands of parents will shove their darlings out the front door for the first time in a week – letting loose a typhoon-sized gush of relief.

They’ll plod back through the landfills that occupy their living rooms, the half-built Lego castles and missing-piece jigsaw puzzles that lie in ruin across the footprint-smeared carpets.

They’ll consider the damage done by 3 inches of snow: the lost work hours, the busted travel plans, the brain cells fried by Scooby Doo.

Then they’ll curl up on a pile of parkas and wet mittens and dream deeply of April.

Wake County just endured four straight snow days, the longest stretch since 2004. Three years ago, we bounced back more quickly from a tornado.

A blanket of snow thinner than a ham sandwich wiped an entire week off the map. Everything but sledding got canceled, which is why you’re reading about the weather in this space today.

By Thursday night, the Triangle had sledded every yard down to the mud. Boiled every packet of cocoa. Popped every bag of popcorn. Re-watched every installment of “Toy Story.” Still, the roads hid under an icy sheet that foiled safe driving. When the schoolhouse doors remained shut again on Friday, parental weeping grew audible.

But we should have closed those doors. We’re not snow wimps. One school bus fishtails on an icy patch and flips on its side, and suddenly we look like criminals for sending the kids out unsafe.

Remember the hand-wringing in 2005, after a half-inch of snow made us a national laughing stock, after motorists abandoned their cars and kids spent the night stranded in school.

“If only the weather forecasters had gotten it right,” the News & Observer opined at the time. “If only the city salt trucks had been dispatched earlier. If only Wake County schools had been let our earlier. Or later. Or not at all.”

One look at Atlanta on the news last week ought to convince you that we got it right this time.

Still. Four freaking days.

Part of it is glorious and memorable. My kid, Sam, spent about eight hours here in the newsroom, either working on math homework – Did you know kids aren’t allowed to say “corner” in the first grade anymore? They’re called “vertices” now – or watching reruns of Letterman on YouTube. Not David Letterman. The superhero guy from “The Electric Company” in the ’70s, voiced by Gene Wilder. Yes. I’m old.

Anyway.

Snow day timeline

For the first hour of a snow day, it’s like Christmas morning. Your kid wakes up and sees the ground covered with snow and can’t wait to get out in it, so you both pull your boots on and dive in.

Then an hour later, you’re soaking wet and cold, and you come home. And it’s 9:30, which leaves you with a lot of day.

So you put all the kid’s wet clothes in the dryer and you get dressed all over again and you tromp snow all over the house, so you’ve got to mop it up with an old towel.

Then you try to “work from home” because you really do have a pressing deadline, but you don’t want to abandon your child to the television. And you wish it could be like it is in the Nestle cocoa commercials, where you serve up perfect looking mugs of hot chocolate and snuggle together.

But it’s not like that at all because in the cocoa commercials nobody has to turn the mittens inside out to make sure they get dry on the inside or mop puddles off the floor and say, “No, you can’t watch another ‘Scooby Doo.’ ” And in Nestle land, you can’t look out the front window and see every place the dog has gone to the bathroom for the past three days.

And then it’s 10:30.

So goodbye, snow. The next time I see you, you’ll be in Russia, and a guy in Lycra will be skiing across it. I can’t wait to drive to school Monday morning. When they open my door in the carpool line, I’ll be singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and drinking from a glass with an umbrella.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

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