Today at work, I’m grabbing as many chances as I can to get outside. The sun is shining and the temperatures are climbing into the fifties.
Here in Baltimore, it has been that way for much of January. And as we close out this month and dive into February, the weather forecast calls for more of the same.
Although I could do without all the rain we’ve been getting, I have loved the mild temperatures. I enjoy a pretty snowstorm or two, but ice and bitter cold winds make me just want to curl up in my house and hibernate. Since that’s not an option, I’ll take the almost-springlike sunshine any day.
Still, winter isn’t ALL bad. Blizzards and winter storms might not be much fun when you’re living them, but they make for some good memories. Here are a few of mine from years past:
1. Ice Day
A few years ago, we got an overnight ice storm in Baltimore. When I went outside in the morning, my street looked like a very cruelly designed thrill ride. I, of course, was due to be at work.
My boss knew I lived on a dead-end street that also happens to be one big hill. That means we can’t always get our van out safely in icy or snowy weather, even when the main roads are relatively clear. He also knew that there’s a busline that goes right from the bottom of my street to the campus where I work, so I could still trek downhill on foot and get to the office.
That morning, I sent him this picture with a note that said “I’ll be there, but I’ll probably be late.” Then I pulled on several layers of clothes and my boots with the best downhill-slip-and-slide traction. In the time it took me to do that, I received the following response from him: “Holy crap! Forget that. Just check your email from home today.”
Who doesn’t like a surprise “get out of the office free” card, even if it is a frozen one?
In my first year of college, I commuted with a girlfriend. During a winter final exam week, we stayed at her house and pulled an all-nighter for a tough 8 am exam. In the morning, snow was falling hard. We anxiously watched the morning news and called the campus hotline, hoping to hear that we’d be closed and our exam delayed. No such luck. Because he was worried about us traveling in the bad weather, her father dropped us off at campus on his way to the office.
We headed to our classroom and found a few other students milling around waiting for the professor. We chatted nervously about the exam. We waited. And waited.
That was back before everyone had cell phones, so finally one of us went to a payphone and called the campus hotline. Sure enough, they’d made a last-minute decision to close the school for the day. Unfortunately for me and my girlfriend, we now had to wait until her dad got off work to get home. Along with a few of the other students, we trekked to a comfy area of the building. We sprawled there all day with nothing to eat but the collection of mints, gum and candy we all pulled from our pockets and purses and nothing to drink but water from the fountain. We studied our butts off, because when you were stranded in the pre-Ipad-and-Angry-Birds age, there was absolutely nothing to do other than open your textbook.
We aced that exam, and a few others too.
A year later, I had moved to an apartment on campus. I was one of the few students who stayed in their apartment over the January break rather than going home. My friend Scott had come to visit. One thing about college students is that they don’t pay much attention to weather forecasts when classes aren’t in session. So we were blindsided by a sudden snowstorm, and Scott got stranded at my apartment.
Our friend J was also staying on campus over the break, and it was he who decided we had no reason to be bored. He rummaged in my kitchen cabinets until he found my box of trashbags, and the three of us bundled up and trekked across campus to a hill that led down into an open field.
We spread the trashbags out, sat on them, and took turns giving each other pushes down the hill. It was no flying saucer ride, but it was fun all the same. With a really good shove, we got some great momentum flowing and flew down that hill on our trashbag magic carpets. All the sudden, we weren’t college students any more. We were children again, with sleds and snowballs and a day off from school.
Our butts and the rest of us were soaked by the time we gave up and went in. We warmed ourselves with cheesy movies and peppermint schnapps that we drank right out of the bottle, and before we knew it the sun had come up to find us still giggling and chattering. To this day, that remains one of my favorite snowy memories.
4. Parking Wars
In our mid-twenties, my then-fiance and I lived in the heart of Baltimore City. For most of those years, we had mild winter weather. Our image of winter in the city was how pretty flurries looked in the soft light of the streetlamps outside our favorite pubs.
Then one year, the forecast called for a walloping. That day, we noticed a strange phenomenon on our street. When our neighbors would leave for work, they would pull out of their parking spaces and have someone else in their household put a lawn chair in their vacant spot.
“Freaks,” we thought. “How paranoid can people be?”
Until a day or so later, when the snow had fallen and we left our own carefully shoveled parking space unguarded while we ran to the grocery store. We ended up pulling up outside our house, running our groceries in, and then driving BACK to the grocery store to leave our car in the parking lot and walking home. Someone had grabbed up our spot, and with the streetsides so full of snow there was simply no place else to put the car.
In the city, a snowstorm means “guard your parking space with your life.”
The next time it snowed, we no longer thought the Lawn Chair Legions were mad. Problem was, we had no outdoor furniture of our own. We did, however, have a ferret cage we weren’t using because we’d just upgraded to a larger one. So when he went to work that morning, I walked out with him and plopped the cage in our parking space when he drove away.
I felt like the “Crazy Weasel Lady,” but we had a parking place.
5. Back to Back Blizzards
Two years ago, Baltimore got hit with two blizzards in a week. Considering our average is MAYBE one every five years or so, that was off the charts. We couldn’t get our van off our street for a week, and did so much shoveling that we ached all over. What could possibly be so great about that?
– A day that me, Lee, and 5 or 6 neighbors we really didn’t know decided we were tired of waiting around for a plow and worked together to shovel the snow off our entire road. There’s no better way to get to know your neighbors than to have to work together on a ginormous job.
– The night I had such a bad case of cabin fever that I put on my boots and trekked down the hill on foot to meet my Dad at the bottom of the street. He had dug out enough to get back and forth to his pub so that he could reopen it, but my street was still impossible to get through. Everyone at the pub thought it was hilarious that I wanted to get out and have a beer so badly that I’d slid and snow-stomped my way down to where someone could meet me to whisk me off for some socialization.
– The way Lee became so childlike (in a good way) because of the snow. He was in his element, and loved every minute of it. We invented silly games to pass the time and he kept me calm during the blizzards themselves when the power flickered (I was OK with us being in the dark, but not with my ferret being without heat. Yeah, I know …).
– The unexpected week I got off work.
I’ll never be a fan of truly bad weather, but there is something just a little magical about being pulled out of your normal routines. I’d rather see a pretty snowstorm than a rainy day most of the time. After all, rain never comes with a chance of getting off work.
Are you experiencing a mild winter like ours this year, or are you getting some snow days? Do you like the occasional winter wonderland or would you prefer endless summer? What are some of your favorite winter weather memories?