Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Welcome to the North East

My drive to work takes me seven minutes on a good day.

Today, it took me 25.

Why would a seven-minute, three-mile drive take me 25 minutes, you ask?

My answer is simple: Winter.

Yesterday, we here in Milford were warned that we would be hit with "4 to 7" inches of snow. As it turned out, we were instead hammered by 8 to 10 inches of snow, followed by sleet, with a grand finale of freezing rain. Commuting even a measly three miles is treacherous and anxiety-inducing. Public transportation isn't offered in a booming metropolis boasting only about 3,000 citizens, so elevated trains and underground railways aren't options for us; We're forced to clean off our cars, pile into the driver's seat bundled in our winter-weather gear and take to the streets. A litany of Four Wheel Drive vehicles crawl through the mush and ice toward their destinations...And even though I, too, own a 4WD automobile, I find myself terrified to drive in even the threat of snow. Anyone who lives in a winter climate suddenly becomes an expert in the freezing patterns of winter weather: We're wary of an unseasonably warm day, because that means whatever has thawed will inevitably freeze. We know that where there's unplowed snow there is always packed ice. We worry about black ice and snow drifts. We pray for snow plows and sand trucks to make traveling easier. We watch the weather channel "On the 8s" with baited breath, hoping that tomorrow's forecast will not include the words "Wintry Mix." Or at least I do.

I can't make plans more than a few days in advance during the months of December through March. And I if I'm feeling crazy, and make a date for a week from now, my confirmation is always followed by a disclaimer. "Okay, so we're set for a week from Thursday. As long as it's not snowing." I feel betrayed by Mother Nature when an event is cancelled due to inclement weather, hating the idea that I'm being forced to stay home.

Winter also brings with it gloomy, dark mornings that make it nearly impossible to get up on time. I'm a faithful gym attendee. I go five times a week (three mornings, two days after work), and have been doing so for just about a year. But then Winter came. When my alarm goes off at 6, the winter weather outside says to me in a singsongy voice: "No, don't get up. Stay in bed. You don't want to drive in this. Give the roads time to warm up. It's too cold to go out. It's too dark to get up. Stay in bed." So I do as the weather has suggests, and I stay in my cocoon of blankets until the last possible second I can get up and get to work on time. The part I never factor in is the preparation time it takes to drive. You can't just get in your car and drive. You have to go outside, turn on the car, kick the heaters on full blast and let it warm up for at least five minutes. Then you have to scrape the remnants of the weather off of the hood and the windshield and the windows and the roof. The process is long and painful, especially when you're running late. I try to give myself plenty of time to get to work...But somewhere between starting my car, blow drying my hair, and chipping the ice from my windows, I always get hung up.

Winter has never been my favorite season. Even when I was growing up in the desert of Las Vegas, where winter meant 50 degree weather, Christmas music and little else, I resented the idea that I had to replace my belly shirts and booty shorts with pants and a coat. I thought moving to a climate with four actual seasons would help me accept Old Man Winter...But I've lived in the north east for over five years, and I still can't accept the snow and the ice and freezing temperatures. The only silver lining I can find on these snow-packed clouds is that winter affords me the ability to accessorize with hats and scarves and gloves. But that only gets you so far...Many people have suggested that I take up skiing, or sledding, or creative snowman construction. But to that I say "No Thank You." I wear high heels every day. I make no exception for the weather. I refuse to trade in four-inch heels for ill-fitting snow boots. And trust me, I am not about to put my body into one of those terribly unflattering snow suits. I prefer to enjoy winter from the warmth and comfort of my home, where I can sit with a glass of wine in hand and not worry getting snow in my pants.

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