There aren’t a ton of perks to living in the northern tundra wasteland in the dead of winter, unless you happen to be a polar bear. All former kids, though, can recall one benefit - the glorious, gleaming gift from the gods of precipitation known as “the school snow day.”
Insert sound of trumpets from on high here, and perhaps a chorus of opera divas trilling “hall-elujah!”
These events were borderline national holidays, or at least northern plains cause for moderate mass celebration. They were unplanned and often unexpected - not unlike your cousin’s eight pregnancies. Weather prediction was a pretty short-term process until Doppler radar came along in 1988. Little known fact: “Doppler” is from the medieval Bavarian for “whose idea was it to live in a foresaken place where ice falls out of the sky?”
Before radar a kid would get out of bed and run to the window praying to see a blizzard, then huddle around the radio to listen for that golden announcement. Unless you weren’t a bright kid, then maybe you huddled around a toaster oven or something by mistake.
Until fairly recently, a snow day was in fact a day. Then came the advent of the half day, when you had to show up, but it was just for looks and they turned you loose at noon, coincidentally just long enough for the district to be able to count the day toward the required 180 the state paid it for.
Because, as sweet as the snow day is, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the spring snow make-up day is that horrifying. Life-destroying impending doom - and that’s just from the teachers’ point of view.
Of late though, every school district seems to have caught on to the concept of “two hours late.” Not an hour and a half, not three hours - always exactly two hours. Because in mid January, if you wait two hours, spring should arrive. Everyone knows that.
The two hour late day isn’t exactly a school day, not really a snow day. It’s why, if I was 16 again, I’d schedule Algebra II for first period. All three times I have to take it to pass.
I suspect that some of the wild joy of the snow day experience may have been tamed over the years.
As rare as a hen’s tooth, the snow day used to be spent savoring hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows and Bob Barker on “The Price is Right” - then running outside to play in the same deadly snow and ice that the superintendent of schools so desperately tried to spare you from.
I’m not so sure kids go outside any more, because, well, outdoors is not electronic. Yeah, I know there’s probably an Outdoorz.com, but follow me here. When was the last time you saw sleds, skates, snowmen, snow forts and snowball fights in your neighborhood? You’re more likely to spot Sasquatch copping a squat in your hedges. A snow day without an adventure seems like a waste of a precious resource.
As of this writing, it looks like Icemaggedon 2017 this week wasn’t quite the end of the world as we know it, as was predicted, though I did execute some moves that haven’t been seen since disco, trying not to fall flat on my mug in the slick Pilot parking lot.
No idea what I’m going to do with the 312 TV dinners I salted away the day before in my newly-dug winter storm fallout shelter. With all the storm’s-coming hype, I was just sure I would be at least a couple of years before I’d be able to escape the house. When nuclear war comes, only cockroaches and Swanson hungry man salisbury steaks will survive.
I heard people were even stocking up on ammo. Who knew you could shoot winter?
Despite all of the high-tech equipment, meteorology majors and 15-day forecasts, weather is still a slippery science. Predictions are at best, an educated guess. Just like my answers on those Algebra tests.
It’s not like we’re disappointed that the dire warnings might have proven slightly overdramatic. Ice storms are best avoided at all costs, like most Adam Sandler movies. For my money, I’d rather deal with a foot of snow than an eighth-inch of glare ice that can easily turn into pile-up accidents and cause lengthy power outages.
We could live without food, heat or human interaction, but without “American Pickers,” we’d be insane within a couple of hours.
For one, I’m not about to add my voice to the people giving schools grief for canceling and delaying sooner and more often than they perhaps once did. I know how painful it is to be called sissy all the time. But with a couple more years of therapy, I should be ready to forgive great grandma.
Remember, with consolidations, Iowa schools today run bus routes as long as 50-60 miles. Without seat belts, or for that matter eight-track stereos. Uncivilized.
To be serious for a paragraph, a bus sliding off the road and tipping into a deep ditch, or heaven forbid, coming into the path of a jack-knifing semi, would be the kind of tragedy that no one ever wants to see. In this case it truly is better to be safe than it is sorry.
Snow days are difficult for parents, I understand. While kids get out of school, a lot of times mom or dad’s jobs go on, snow and ice, or no snow and ice. And finding someone on short notice to watch the offspring can be a challenge, especially since they are liable to dressed in smelly footie jammies all day and drooling animal cracker crumbs all over the carpet - which would be a lot cooler of your son wasn’t 17 and headed to the University of Iowa.
I’ve heard people say that a school’s job is to educate children. That’s true, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to educate a kid who doesn’t have two broken legs.
So, adults can quit whining about schools closing. Just be happy you survived Icemaggedon, mostly mentally intact. You did choose to live in the tundra wasteland, after all, and spring couldn’t be more than - what - ten months away?