Snow is all a matter of perspective

Don Young’s constant re-election to high office would probably be a sign of the apocalypse anywhere else but here in Alaska. Here it’s merely another humdrum moment. Alaskans just react differently to all manner of phenomena than do others.

This is why I am always so startled at the reaction of people back East to the idea that snow might fall on them. While I will admit that two foot over a weekend is a lot even by Alaskan standards, I really don’t think it is worth the hysteria it produced in everyone from Washington officials to my relatives.

No one seemed to want to take my advice to rent a bunch of old horror movies, fire up the fireplace, mix some Cosmopolitans and curl up with your honey all snug and comfy while the wind howled and the snow blew outside. In fact, truth to be told, some of my nearest and dearest relatives responded to this suggestion with language I know for a fact that they did not learn at St. Michael’s Grade School.

One of my Alaska buddies, Gary Wallan, sent me a note on this phenomenon back East. It said, “The news this afternoon reported bare grocery store shelves. I miss living in places where weather makes you lose all common sense and makes you prepare for imminent death by stocking up on cheese and macaroons.”

In Alaska, we tend to react with a studied nonchalance to overwhelming snowfalls. We seem to take it as a challenge to see how fast we can still drive on snow and ice before spinning into the center median. In fact, we react much more strongly to the return of any amount of daylight than we do to any amount of snow.

I thought the light had kicked off my spring cleaning gene and was the reason I decided to empty all my kitchen cupboards at 4 PM on Friday, throwing out the cans with expirations dates of 2007 or earlier and holding on to 2008 and later in the off chance I might need them in a blizzard.

Was this a wise thing to start at 4 PM on a Friday? Some might think not. Others might think it depended on how one felt about scrubbing cupboards out at 10 PM while sobbing softly and wondering when one had lost one’s mind. On the other hand, my sister used her snow time back East to wash all her crystal, clean out the china closet, wash down all her woodwork, clean all her door glass and deck sliding doors, organize her bathroom drawers and “samples” cabinet, and top it off by making baked ziti and verts and beans.

So maybe that cleaning impulse is genetic. After all, our mother once scrubbed the spots out of the linoleum in front of her stove and then wanted to return the linoleum as defective. A gene that strong is bound to make it through to another generation.

Most of all, though, this storm back east reminded me of one of those wonderful Alaskan moments that will live forever in my memory.

Many years ago when I was legitimately employed, I had occasion to fly to Washington DC for a conference. A colleague from Alaska and his two grade school sons were also on the trip. He’d brought them along so they could see our nation’s great capital.

Our plane was the last to land before the airport was closed for a blizzard. Our taxi was one of the very few still attempting to take to the roads. We drove down the one lane open on a two-lane highway with snow piled up on either side. Our driver explained we would be his last fares because school had been closed due to the snow and he had to go pick up his kids.

The two young Alaskans in the car sat up in total astonishment at this pronouncement, looked at their father with wonder tinged with disbelief and said, “What does he mean? Why did they close school? We never get snow days. No fair.”

Too much snow is really all a matter of perspective – though I think my brother would vehemently disagree. But then, I really think golfers should probably just all live in Florida.