We’ve just wrapped up the extended Thanksgiving holiday, and we had a noteworthy time both at our home and away. We saw family and friends, we ate well, and we said goodbye to a dear loved one. If the weather holds, we’ll go out and I’ll chop down a monstrous Fraser fir and we’ll pop it up in the corner of our living room. Mrs. G. will look at it from every imaginable angle, I’ll rotate it until it’s just so and then she’ll say that we’ll wait to decorate it. “We’ll let it fall for a few days,” she’ll say, but she won’t wait. She never does. By all accounts, it was a week to remember. It covered all of life’s bases.
OK, so let me just get this out of my system because this has been a stone in my shoe for a while.
They say that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Well, they’re half right because one can get out of taxes so allow me to revise that worn-out axiom to something more accurate:
There are only two things in life that are certain: Death and weather.
We didn’t make a big deal out of weather when I was a kid simply because there wasn’t a darned thing we could do about it. This air of uncertainty forced us to be both prepared and creative. Everybody’s basement had canned goods, both of the store bought variety and the kind Mom made on the stove and put into jars with wax seals, and we had plenty of water flowing from the tap. We were all set and we even managed to pull through the various Great Blizzards without much drama. As kids, we even had fun. Once the driveway was shoveled, we’d carve a hole in the snow pile near the road and made a fort out of it. It was all about the forts back then. We also had sleds and ice skates, so what more could we ask for?
Bob Mills was our local TV weather guy, and as far as I know, he probably knew how to spell meteorologist but that’s about it. He didn’t have an alphabet of letters after his name to show off all his accreditations. There weren’t any fancy digital graphics or AccuThis or DopplerThat. All he had was a great personality and the ability to stand in front of a camera and point to a feltboard with what amounted to his best guess of what was going to happen in the next few hours. He’d stick a sun or a cloud or a combination of both over the area and that was that. On days when he predicted the actual high and low temperature correctly, money was donated to some sort of charity. I certainly hope they didn’t rely on him, because that didn’t happen often.
I bring this up because we recently had six inches of snow dumped on our collective heads, and if one were to judge the severity of warnings beforehand by the number of TV screen emergency crawlers, Facebook and Twitter alerts, one would think it was about to start snowing baseballs over the next twenty-four hours. Let me politely say this to you: If you live in an area where it snows, you can expect snow to fall in varying amounts over the next few months. This shouldn’t be a shocker. This isn’t Jamaica. It’s New York. It snows here. If you don’t have a snow shovel, a furry hat and a pair of boots by now, you’re living in the wrong state.
I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t already know, but I’m making this personal pronouncement: I’ve had enough of the guys in embroidered L.L.Bean/Weather Channel nylon jackets standing on rainswept docks or in thigh deep snow drifts or next to expressway overpasses or in front of massive piles of road salt every time some meteorologist gets a weatherwoody over a high pressure system.
I’m going to forgive the random transplanted Arizonian who has never seen snow and suddenly moves to Syracuse and has no idea when and where this stuff will hit, but most of us New Yorkers live in areas where we more or less understand the seasonal weather. If not, please allow me to help:
It’s July? It’s going to be hot and not so rainy. September? Cooler and rainy. December? Snowy and cold. There. I did it for you. Dress accordingly.
Make sure your furnace is running, make sure the car is tanked up and try to have twenty-four hours worth of food stashed away. It won’t be that bad. The guys that run street plows have nothing else to do in the winter but plow snow. The towns pay them to play cards otherwise, so at the first sign of a flake, these guys hit the road. Hell, they run plows down my street when it’s bone dry. There are so many sparks flying off the plow blades, I’m afraid the trees will burst into flames.
So what’s with all of the hyperbole over what is really nothing more than seasonal and wholly expected weather?
Way back in 1792, Robert B. Thomas believed that sunspots influenced the weather, and he developed a formula that allowed him to make predictions, as much as anyone could predict the weather. Those predictions were sold as the Old Farmer’s Almanac. They didn’t have computers in 1792, but what they did have was math and a heck of a lot of patience to study weather patterns. Have they been right all the time? No, but has anyone? The recent snowfall where I live started out as a slushy mess that was predicted to dump twelve inches of snow. We got about half that and it’s been sunny and nice outside ever since. Even if we did get twelve, so what? It wouldn’t be the first time.
It’s going to be a long winter for most of us, so my plan is to completely ignore the weather guys the moment they get giddy. At the first sign of a spike in their vocal range, I’m turning the TV off. The more excited the voice, the more boisterous the hand gestures, the less accurate the forecast will be. If they’re flapping their arms as if bees are attacking them, expect the complete opposite of whatever they say.
All I ask of any of TV weather guys and gals is to give me a reasonable range for the high and low temperatures. Most of us old guys that have spent time working or playing outdoors know how to read the clouds and the winds and if I need to know exactly when the rain or snow will hit, I have a radar app on my phone. I’m as confident as I can be that I’ll survive tomorrow’s weather. If I look out the window and it looks as if it’s going to be a nice day, I’ll do something outside. If it doesn’t look good, I won’t and if I really have to go out in bad weather, I’ll use common sense (and four-wheel drive). I feel sorry for (and a little annoyed) by the folks who listen to these panic forecasts and collectively fishtail their cars to the nearest grocery store only to turn into a milk and bread flash mob.
So that’s my plan for the upcoming winter. Look out the window, walk around a bit and make a judgment call all on my own. I’ve got a snow blower, a shovel and snowshoes and there’s enough food, wine and coffee stashed in the house to survive the next big one. Oh, and if I hurt the feelings of any local weathermen or weatherwomen, I’m not the least bit sorry. You and your fancy computer green screens brought this on yourselves.
©Rick Garvia 2013. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited.