Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow 101 for Southerners

As a person born and raised in the South who has been known to try to dig a car out of serious snow armed with nothing more than a metal kitchen spatula, I am the last to proclaim my expertise on winter weather. When it gets icy around here, I walk like an 80-year-old lady with a glass hip. I have been known to fall down stepping outside to get the newspaper. On more than one occasion I have gone skating with an enthusiastic beagle on the end of the leash--on my butt, and not by plan. So I offer these elementary survival skills to people currently living in the Deep South not as an expert, then, but as advice for my fellow Southerners who may be similarly weather-impaired. Hunker down, chilluns, and learn:

1. If by some chance you do find yourself behind the wheel driving on an icy surface, repeat these words: "I am skiing with my car!" It sounds weird, I know, but it gives you a certain jaunty insouciance when things start to go sideways--and believe me, that's the attitude of Yankee drivers who grew up driving on this stuff. "Oh, lookit that 18-wheeler go! Hey, did you watch the game last night?" Amateurs panic; seasoned snow drivers just enjoy the passing view. Jesus, take the wheel!

2. This is a 36- to 48-hour weather event, not the siege of Stalingrad. Southerners tend to get excited about snow, and in that excited state we are apt to start running around like chickens. Believe it or not, you will see your loved ones again, and chances are excellent that you have enough toilet paper to last two days. Leave the roads to those poor schmucks who absolutely have to be out there.

3. Essential tools: windshield scraper. Kitty litter or de-icer. Gloves. Car charger for your cellphone. Smartphone app for the insurance company. A pocket flask of Jack Daniels is a nice extra.

4. When the icy Armageddon has passed and you emerge from your cozy storm lair, clean off the top of your car. If it's snow, it will create a mini-blizzard once you get on the freeway, blinding the guy behind you--and if it's melted and then re-frozen, it either shakes loose in little shards, like shrapnel, or comes off in one big whoosh like a sheet of plate glass. This seems like a no-brainer to people who are used to this stuff, but not to residents of the Deep South who rarely encounter snow. A Deep South expatriate, I drove around obliviously spreading winter cheer every couple hundred feet for a couple of seasons before it was, ahem, forcefully explained to me that I was putting myself at risk of becoming a victim of justifiable homicide.

Finally, take pictures. Your great-grandchildren may want to see them someday: climatologists are saying that if global warming continues at its present rate, in 100 years ours may be a world without snow.