Longing for days of snowfall and panic

The Baltimore Sun

I don't know about anyone else around here, but I'm sick of the whole thing - this winter without significant snow.

Bad enough the Steelers won the Super Bowl and Channel 11 had to reduce Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to the size of a playing card so they could telecast the Maryland evening lottery numbers being drawn during the halftime show.

Bad enough that we're now in the real boring part of winter - Pro Bowl, anyone? - and that the Terps aren't doing so well, and Gary Williams appears to be circling the drain, and Michael Phelps wants again to be forgiven for being young and foolish.

On top of all that, there's no snow.

We get the rumor of snow. We get the threat of snow. But no snow, at least not to speak of.

It happened again yesterday.

We have not had a snowfall over 5 inches in three years.

That's a drought. That's an eye-glazing epoch of brownish gray blah.

No wonder I'm depressed. If it wasn't for the mayor being under indictment, there would be no excitement around here.

Speaking of the mayor, she needs a snowstorm more than any of us. Why? Because, here in the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin, snow isn't only a distraction, it's a public relations opportunity.

As we all know, in Maryland 6 inches of the white stuff is a major snowstorm, and it causes widespread panic.

A foot of snow spells catastrophe.

Two feet is the apocalypse.

Such challenging times present the mayor of Baltimore with a chance to show everyone, including potential jurors, who's boss.

Commanding the city's emergency response to big snow, Sheila Dixon would come across like Princess Leia at Echo Base in the frozen world of Hoth - strong-willed, focused, unafraid of a little frost on the eyebrows.

Riding atop a big public works truck, wrapped in a fur coat and with a designer bullhorn in her hand, the mayor would patrol the city streets, ensuring that all are safe and secure in their homes. She could be seen on the evening news shoveling sidewalks, handing out blankets to senior citizens and breaking up fights between homeowners trying to save parking spaces with trash cans in Highlandtown. The local TV stations would interview her at the snow command center, and ... well, it would be a public relations coup for the mayor.

And she needs one.

But firming up Sheila Dixon's image is not the only reason to stick a bust of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the window and pray for snow. (That's what my mother, the former Rose Popolo, used to do when she wanted the weather to go a certain way. It's what I used to do, when my mother wasn't looking, if I wanted no school the next day.)

The main reason for snow is drama.

We're in the long, boring patch of winter, and the one thing a good snowstorm around Baltimore can always guarantee is drama, a little zing and a little zong, a little Sturm und a little Drang. People who have moved to this region during the past three years - particularly families sent here from up north because of, say, military base realignment - have no concept of the madness that comes with a snowstorm.

Let's be honest. Snow is a royal pain, but it also gives us something to talk about, something to amuse us during the bleak Patapsco winter. And it provides us with a break, through cancellations, from all those things we were starting to get sick of right about now (ceramics classes, board meetings, jazzercise).

I know I speak for many when I say that this long drought in Maryland snow has left us in a prolonged state of longing.

How I long to once again hear those alarmist voices on television with "winter storm warnings" and those litanies of urgent weather-related announcements on radio: "Overeaters Anonymous canceled; please use your home supplies."

For three days in advance of the big storm, we need to see snow bulletins crawling across Web sites and updates from Bob Turk in our e-mail.

How I miss the drama of the supermarket - panic buying of toilet paper, tugs-o-war over gallons of milk, grown men cuddling dozens of cans of Manwich as they wait in long lines at the checkouts, shelves emptied of bread in the old Soviet socialist style.

And, on every TV channel in Baltimore, there must be Rob Roblin. (I know he works for Channel 11, but, in a cost-saving move, he could be on every channel simultaneously. Nobody does wind-swept, roadside snow emergency reports better than The Double R.)

We need for life to come to a halt for a day or so, and for all nonessential personnel to get a day off without feeling bad about being nonessential. We need the whole neighborhood covered in a big blanket of fluff, and neighbors on the street striking up conversations, and kids scheming up snowball fights and designing snow forts. We need big snow - 2 feet of the easy-to-push kind, followed by a few days of clear, sunny weather.

This we need, for our sense of time and season, for heightened drama, for a moment of wonder, for a chance to get out of all those activities we'd rather not be doing anyway.

Let us pray.

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