David Murdock: An open letter to our friends up North about snow
Folks up in the North like to laugh at those of us down in the South over so many things, but the biggest kick y’all seem to get out of us has to be over our reaction to snow. I probably ought to make an attempt to speak your variety of English, so I’ll stop saying “y’all.”
Honestly, you guys, give the Internet a rest already. We get it. There’s lots of snow up North. To be fair, we have the same bemused reaction when we hear you guys refer to 95-degree weather as “hot”: We call it “a mild summer day.”
It’s Thursday morning in Northeast Alabama, and I’m luxuriating in the glory we call “Snow Day.” You guys up North have to have a really impressive snowfall to get the day off from work, but a nice dusting will send us all home down here. Yesterday, we got more than a nice dusting — about 6 inches here. That’s a lot for us. The last time I saw this much snow here was in January 2011. That was also the only time I ever had to shovel snow.
The danger of snow down here — and it is very dangerous for us — is that we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. The roads simply aren’t built with snow in mind, so snow affects driving conditions in the most adverse way possible.
So when it snows, we hunker down and wait it out. That works out fine unless the power goes out. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened where I am. However, during the fabled Blizzard of 1993 (which we discuss endlessly whenever the word “snow” breathlessly escapes from a meteorologist’s lips), some rural areas in my county were without power for weeks.
There’s a ritual to it. As soon as a forecast for snow is made, we rush to the grocery stores en masse. The shopping list? Milk and bread. It’s such ridiculously predictable behavior, even we crack jokes about. We call it “milk sandwich” weather. What’s worse than “milk sandwich” weather? French toast weather. That’s when we buy eggs and butter, too.
By the way, most of us buy beer, but we’re primarily Southern Baptists, so we won’t admit it.
The grocery store trip is usually frustrating — after all, the whole town is doing the same thing you are at the same time — but it’s also fun. Southerners talk to complete strangers all the time, so we usually trade “snow stories” while we wait in line to check out. (Oh, I’m sorry, I slipped back into Southern Midland dialect there — while we wait “on line” to “pay.”) Anyway, there’s no greater feeling of community down here as there is when “snow’s a-coming” (y’all just gone have to give me that one).
Once we’re safe at home with milk, bread, eggs, and butter, we wait for the snow. As soon as it starts, we again rush outside en masse to watch it. When’s the last time you guys up North went outside to watch snow fall? Down here, the question that gets the same answer is when’s the last time snow actually fell?
It’s so very peaceful here after a big snow. Nothing moves, not even the animals. It’s hushed, like in a cathedral. We even unconsciously speak in whispers like in a cathedral. We just can’t help it. The only loud noises are the delighted squeals of children building their first snowmen or throwing their first snowballs or sledding for the first time. That and the incessant clacking of heat pumps struggling to keep up with falling mercury.
Another side note — if you guys up North ever want to make a fortune, bring a truckload of sleds down here the day before a big snow. There’s such a shortage that we’ve become excellent improvisers at last-minute sled construction. Bring gloves, too. We only have fairly thin ones.
Be careful driving, though. You guys may think you can drive on snow, but we get a huge kick out of cars with license plates from up North stuck on the side of the road. Our snow is usually wet, sloppy and slushy. It freezes overnight into sheets of uneven ice. Very dangerous driving, even for people used to driving in it.
We’re Southerners, though, so we’ll help you out. We’ll tease you, but we’ll help you out. Plus, we’ve got all this French toast. Did anyone remember to get syrup at the store?
David Murdock is an English instructor at Gadsden (Ala.) State Community College. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.