By Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times -
Editor’s note: This headline was shortened because the author loves words that are too big for the internet
Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, Snowacide, whatever hyperbolic name you attached to it, Seattleites were expecting utter chaos at the very thought of some light frozen water falling from the sky. We were all desperately hopeful, like a driver trying to make it up Queen Anne Avenue, but we slowly slid down into reality, and slammed into a Buick.
Granted, this was not entirely our fault. The National Weather Service released predictions that were constantly “evolving.” First it was supposed to be 14 inches, then it was supposed to be 10 inches, then Romney was supposed to win South Carolina. Not a single accurate forecast. Every mention of the coming downpour piqued our anarchistic imagination. We fantasized about a snow version of “Mad Max,” with rogue snowmen prowling the streets, drag races between plows, and raging heaps of snow, requiring an intricate system of tunnels to and from the nearest café. But the vaunted Snowpocalypse never came, and the city shut down anyway.
Over 300 flights were cancelled, over 250,000 homes lost power, and there were several hundred car accidents in a mere 48 hour period – mostly due to drivers uploading pictures of snow. Everything closed: the library, the schools, the symphony, the zoo (why would a zoo close?), and even the Seattle Shakespeare Company, which was especially unfortunate since that’s exactly what the animals had planned for their only night off. All this for what amounted to about 6 to 8 inches of snow. Six to eight inches. That’s a little smaller than this column.
So why did Seattleites collectively freak out? Is it because, as one Los Angeles writer put it, we’re “snow wimps?” What is a snow wimp? Is it someone who cowers and screams right before a snowflake hits them? Is it a person who cries next to their car because they can’t get the snow chains on? Is it a person who is so afraid of slipping that they wear snowshoes in the deep jungles of Pine Avenue? Because if that’s a snow wimp, then call me a snow wimp, you fancy LA writer.
Let’s be a little fair to Seattle for a moment. We’re not a city that’s used to seasons. We do know rain; we know rain like the back of our wrinkled wet hand. It rains so often that umbrellas are considered hackneyed. So it’s only natural that when something else falls from the sky, we notice, perhaps a little more than other cities. (“Why is the rain falling so slowly?”) Having one type of weather for so long can cause a kind of detachment from nature, but when it changes, all those forgotten human emotions come rushing to the surface. It’s what triggers a Seattleite to look at their apartment as if for the first time, and see it not as a place to live, but as a big closet full of things to slide on.
I saw children and adults zooming down streets all over Seattle, using all sorts of ingenious modes of conveyance: garbage bags, lunch trays, baking pans, water tubes, and shopping carts. I even saw an empty wheelchair at the top of a hill, though no one dared to try it.
Every other car buried in the snow had little drawings on it. Sometimes it was something as innocent as a name, but most of the time it was genitals. Does this look like a city that’s afraid of snow? I don’t think so.
Remember as well that you must not confuse the actions of a government with its citizens. We were franticly warned to keep off the roads, to stay in our houses, and to watch out for flooding. I half expected Mayor McGinn to go on television and say, “Please say goodbye to your families.” The local authorities got us all worked up into a frenzy, like a pet owner with a dog, and then could not understand our inability to calm down. They started it!
Our snow complex certainly comes a little from hype, a little from excitement, and a little from the need to have a story, but the main reason Seattleites go snow crazy is because of a clever childhood trick: We all secretly know that if we make a really big deal about the snow, that maybe, just for a day or two, we won’t have to go to work, and can shut down this little rat race called life. Everybody plays along. This city doesn’t have the resources to handle a snowstorm because it doesn’t want the resources to handle a snowstorm. The authorities put out their fake little warnings, and we nod knowingly, never shattering the fourth wall that is essential to good theatre.
So let us have our Snowpocalypse, and all future Snopocalypses, even if all the snowflakes can be counted on one hand. It allows a grown man to take a swig of beer in the middle of the day, yell “push,” and slide down an icy street into oncoming traffic. I can’t think of anything more beautiful.
Now here are some additional snow names I came up with:
Snowcano, Snowtagion, Snowtaclysm, Snowsaster, Snowtacular, Snowtastrophe, Snowbacle, Snowicane, Snowplosion, Snowpidemic, Snowbbatical, Snowfestation