YOU SEE THEM everywhere this time of year, staring wistfully up at the skies in their loud ski jackets and goofy knit caps and ugly insulated boots.
These are the Snow Freaks. While sensible people everywhere hope for warm weather and clear skies, the Snow Freaks actually get down on their hands and knees and pray to their gods for howling blizzards and two feet of fresh snow.
This is because -- in addition to being incredibly self-centered and uncaring of the world around them -- the Snow Freaks want to go skiing.
Or they want to fire up their snowmobiles and go roaring across the nearest meadow like the Arctic Cat chapter of the Hell's Angels.
Or they want to crank up their 4-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokees and Chevy S-10 Blazers and go zipping through the snow-choked streets with a smug, self-satisfied look while all around them people dig out from the storm or sit cowering in their homes.
(I ask you: Is there a more disturbing sight than that of a man with a working snowplow on the front of his truck?
(The feverish look in his eyes as he slices a snowbank in half . . . the hysterical laughter as he clears one driveway and gleefully moves on to the next . . . the primitive, guttural sounds emanating from deep within his chest as he rams that baby into reverse, pops the clutch and stomps on the accelerator in order to clear a particularly nasty hill . . . my God. Freud would have a field day with these people.)
For the most part, the Snow Freaks spend their evenings huddled around the TV, waiting for the weather report and whining: "When is it ever going to SN-O-O-O-W?"
And when the weatherman finally announces that snow is in the forecast, the Snow Freaks do not curse loudly and punch their fist through the wall like normal, decent, God-fearing citizens.
Instead, their fat little faces glow with pure rapture. Often they will do handstands across the room before racing off to the telephone to relay the news to their similarly disturbed friends.
"Snow tomorrow!" they gush in breathless tones. "Six or seven inches! Isn't it MARVELOUS?!"
The Snow Freaks tried to ensnare me in their twisted little cult years ago when I was in college.
Like college students everywhere, I was bored, vulnerable and -- this is the key point here -- not very bright.
So when a bunch of, ahem, friends suggested I accompany them on a ski weekend to Vermont, I said sure, it's gotta beat doing laundry.
(Which, as it turned out, was not the case at all. I'll take a box of Tide, roll of quarters and a cozy laundromat any day over the living hell of a ski trip.)
The drive to Vermont alone nearly killed me -- 8 hours in the back of a Volkswagen bus listening to four beered-up pre-law students (it figures) babbling about the latest in skis, bindings, poles.
Unfortunately, things became even more frightening when we arrived at the ski slope. It was then that I got my first look at the mountain we were to ski down, a towering chunk of snow, rock and Douglas firs that to my eyes looked like the north face of the Matterhorn.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "You expect me to hurtle down this cliff to what any fool can see would be certain death?"
Well, this is the Beginners slope, they said. This is the one you should ski -- unless, heh-heh, you want to try the Intermediate slope.
"Tell you the truth," I said, "I'm looking for the Toddlers slope -- something with a two-degree angle and handrails going all the way down."
I wasn't crazy about getting up on the ski lift, either. But apparently this resort was doing things on the cheap, as there weren't any escalators around.
To make a long story short, I was trapped on this godforsaken mountain for three nightmarish days, surrounded by thousands of giddy, rosy-cheeked, Ken-and-Barbie types who seemed to revel in the cold and wet and occasional 40 mph collision with a tree.
Well. That just about tore it as far as my relationship with snow was concerned.
Now when I think of snow, I think of shoveling four feet of snow off my 10-year-old Toyota, which won't start anyway since it's so damn cold.
I think of slipping on an icy sidewalk -- or worse, someone slipping on MY icy sidewalk and suing the pants off me, with the TC cops eventually taking me away in handcuffs to debtor's prison.
People say I have a bad attitude about snow. Gee, I wonder why.