An 80 percent chance of panic

Snow’s in the forecast, and suddenly Lawn Guyland doesn’t seem so far away:

You would think they’d never seen snow before the way they react when there’s a storm coming in. It’s a weird phenomenon that strikes whenever more than five inches of snow is predicted around here. People start acting as if they had lived in pure sunshine and heat the whole time. OMG! White stuff falling from the sky! We’re all gonna DIE! Please. You all drive Lincoln Navigators and Hummers with twelve-wheel drive. The town will clear the roads within 24 hours and your kids will be pelting the toddler across the street with snowballs within two.

I don’t know what everyone gets uptight about. And I certainly don’t know why they all feel the need to run to the grocery store as soon as Sam Champion says the word snow. It’s just a gut reaction in Long Islanders, I guess. HOLY SHIT! It’s going to SNOW! Gather the children! Man your posts! DEFCON ONE! And, like a sea of panicky lemmings, they drive en masse to their local delis and supermarkets and Dairy Barns, stocking up on milk and bread. Yes, milk and bread. It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’m not sure if it’s indigenous to Long Island, but it’s been around for as long as I can remember. There must be some forgotten urban legend that wove its way around the Island decades ago. A suburban family wakes one morning to find that it has snowed. The mom goes into the kitchen only to find that there is only a half quart of milk and two slices of bread left! The horror! The family screams, the kids cry, the mother frantically tries to pump milk out of her breasts even though she weaned the youngest eight years ago. And oh, irony of ironies, the deli just two blocks away has one gallon of fresh, whole milk left and one loaf of white bread on the shelf. If only there were some way to get two blocks away with having to trudge through the monster snow storm that dumped two inches of the white stuff all over town!

Hmmm. I’m just about out of Pop-Tarts.

And speaking of possible breakfast items, this sort of thing is bread and butter to the (M)ass Media:

Why is it earth shattering news that it’s freaking freezing outside? Is this something new? Are you touting some kind of bizarro world global unwarming theory?

IT’S WINTER. Say it with me. WIN-TER. You know, WINTER. That time of year in New York when temperatures plummet and white stuff falls from the sky and your car battery dies and the homeless are rounded up and thrown into shelters and the snot running out of some kid’s nose freezes to his face.

So I don’t get why you need to lead every damn news hour with the revelation that it is COLD and possibly snowing outside. As if this were some strange, new feeling for us. As if we never saw ice on our windshields or snow on the ground. You grab your camera crew and stand outside schools and offices and Home Depots and marvel at the people wearing hats and scarves and mittens because hey, we’ve never done that in New York before. No, we wear bikinis and speedos all year long. Jesus Harry Christ, people. Is this really breaking news? Do you realize that for the last ten winters in row, maybe more, you have started your nightly newscasts with stories about how to keep warm? Does this seem just a bit unnecessary to you? Granted, it’s not like we are living in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field here, but we are kind of used to 15 degree days. It happens. It’s WINTER. We really don’t need some “expert” staring at us from the tv telling us to wear layers and eat a good breakfast and warm our cars up.

I think what bugs me most is that I know we’re a resilient bunch — you don’t spend any time out here on the Temporarily Non-Electric Range without developing something of a survival instinct — and yet television feels compelled to treat us like scared second-graders. Maybe it’s just because of the handful of alleged grownups who actually act like scared second-graders under these circumstances, and the unfortunate fact that in 21st-century America, wherever there is a stupid person, there will eventually be a smart lawyer trying to make money off him. The rest of us understand that we are the first line of defense against, well, anything, and we will act accordingly; we delegate that responsibility only when it’s clearly beyond our physical capacities or our technical skills. (I can’t rewire an electrical connection to save my life; but I can go out and snip low-hanging branches in the middle of the storm to reduce the weight on those tree limbs and make them less likely to come crashing to the ground.) If I’d spent those hours watching television, I’d probably be cowering in the corner somewhere, waiting for someone to save me. Jerry Mander called this one right:

If you decide to watch television, then there’s no choice but to accept the stream of electronic images as it comes. Since there is no way to stop the images, one merely gives over to them. More than this, one has to clear all channels of reception to allow them in more cleanly. Thinking only gets in the way.

And can we lose the “Storm of the Century” stuff? The life expectancy in this land is somewhere around 75 years: the odds are pretty damned good that you’re going to see at least one of them.



  1. Tatyana »

    14 December 2007 · 9:26 pm

    The first conversation with co-workers in the office this morning ran something like this:
    K: [fanning herself with a printed report]I never know what to wear anymore!

    me: Yeah, they overheat the building so everyone is contemplating a small classy striptease act, or – to fix it – they turn on the air cooling. To lower the thermostat down a couple of notches doesn’t seem to come to their minds.

    K: But why do you want them to lower the temperature? It’s cold outside!

    Me: don’t you feel warm, right now?

    K: Yes, that’s why I said – I never know what to wear anymore! It’s cold outside – but it’s so hot here.

    B: They said, on NewsNYOne this morning it’ll be 48F. And look how cold it is now, what’s with the wind and all. They never said anything about the wind!
    All together: You never know what to wear anymore!

  2. McGehee »

    14 December 2007 · 9:50 pm

    If we had a forecast like that around where I live, I’d be gleefully telling everyone within earshot about my five years in Alaska, where we kept our year’s supply of meat on the front doorstep (usually some good vintage woolly mammoth) and we could commute to work by catching a passing glacier.

  3. miriam »

    15 December 2007 · 10:49 am

    I dealt with the snow-bread-milk-eggs problem in this post, my conclusion being that everyone had a sudden desire to make bread pudding.

    [Fixed link – cgh]

  4. Andrea Harris »

    15 December 2007 · 8:42 pm

    We get the same thing in hurricane season. Let a storm so much as look like it’s coming Florida’s way and people cram the stores to buy — you guessed it — all the milk and bread.

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