Snowstorm burnishes collective reputation


IF YOU LOOK AT it strictly from a PR angle, the Big Storm of '03 may be the best thing to ever happen to this town.

For starters, with Baltimore suddenly transformed into Fargo, N.D., we might finally be losing our national reputation as snow wimps.

I can't be the only one getting calls from friends all over the country who say, with barely concealed admiration in their voices: "Man, you really got slammed."

Oh, we got slammed, all right.

So no more ragging on little ol' Baltimore, Mr. and Ms. Out-of-Towner, not unless you can look out your window and see drifts the size of Mount Rushmore and people engaged in hand-to-hand combat over parking spaces they just dug out.

The big storm also served to remind us what real snow is, the kind you usually see only on the 11 o'clock news when the weather guy is killing time with footage from Buffalo or International Falls, Minn.

Not that we can really expect our collective psyche vis-a-vis snow to ever change.

No, the TV stations will still go nuts whenever there's a hint of snow in the forecast, dispatching armies of parka-clad reporters out into the "field" to hyperventilate about the cataclysmic driving conditions on the way.

And people will still stampede to the supermarkets and elbow 90-year-old great-grandmothers pulling oxygen tanks to get at the milk, bread and toilet paper.

That's just the way we are. It's hard-wired in our genetic code.

Speaking of terror in the stores, I haven't heard the word "terrorist" mentioned in days, have you?

Are we still under a Code Orange alert? One minute people were stocking up on duct tape, plastic sheeting and gas masks, the next minute they were grabbing the remote and saying: "Shhh, here's Tom Tasselmyer with the weather ..."

If al-Qaida agents came marching into my neighborhood with canisters of Sarin gas strapped to their backs, people would fling open their doors and shout: "Hey, buddy! Fifteen bucks if you shovel the walk and the driveway."

Then again, typical American arrogance makes people think: "Well, the terrorists wouldn't dare set off a dirty bomb now. After all, it's snowing ..."

On another note, the fact that the Big Storm has caused Baltimore County schools to remain closed for the rest of the week has cast a predictable pall over my house.

"No school ... there's a deadness in my soul," said the 11-year-old.

"As you know, I am all about learning," the 17-year-old said. "The pursuit of knowledge consumes me. Without school ... well, I don't know if I can go on."

No, of course they didn't really say that.

Basically, what they said when they heard the schools were closed was: toga party! I'm surprised they weren't wheeling in kegs of Bud Light and showing the band where to set up the minute I left for work.

In the past, I've wondered about some of these snow-related school closings, especially when school is canceled before the first flake has even hit.

But not this time. This time the streets in my neighborhood are so choked with snow, you can barely get through them with a Schwinn 10-speed, never mind a school bus.

One final observation about the Blizzard of Aught-three: It sure pointed out the differences between the genders when it comes to killing time.

Here is how my wife spent the three days in which she was basically snowbound: cleaning out and organizing all the closets.

I know, I know - be still my heart.

But that's what she did. She said it helped her "relax."

And when that was done, she went through all the stacks of magazines and threw out all the "old ones" - old in this case being anything published earlier than three days ago.

As a general rule, men do not do this sort of thing.

I have never, ever met a man who wakes up to 2 feet of snow on the ground and thinks: Y'know, this is a good day to clean out and organize closets.

Most men I know would look out the window and see everything covered with snow and think: Isn't there a bass-fishing tournament on ESPN?

Anyway, I see where the TV stations are already gearing us up for the next meteorological crisis: rain and warmer temperatures this weekend, which could cause - oh, you'll love this one - flooding.

Yes, flooding! Where are we, Johnstown, Pa.?

Are we being punished for some horrible sin perpetrated by the citizenry in a previous life? When do the locusts and the flaming hail stones get here?

Look, until I see people floating past my window in rowboats, until I see toddlers in life-preservers bobbing down the street on chaise lounges with their anxious mothers, I'm not worrying about flooding.

Hey, this is Baltimore.

We can only handle one crisis at a time.

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