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Snow Days

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By Matt Lettieri

Snow is subversive. Despite our astonishing advancements in science and technology, we can't prevent frozen water from falling out of the sky nor even predict with certainty when it will fall and in what volume.

Snow seemed even more subversive when I was a child. They could make me go to school for 10 months of the year and there wasn't much I could do about it. But when it snowed enough they had no choice but to let me stay home, and they knew there was nothing they could do about that. Snow was my ally in a battle against them.

When I was nine years old, I learned about the paralyzing affects of a good Nor'easter. A blizzard swept through and dumped 20 inches of snow on my hometown of Ulster Park, N.Y.. Heavy winds created snow-drifts of up to four feet, which was just about my height at the time. I watched this seemingly apocalyptic storm through the portion of our living room window that wasn't already blockaded by the snow.snow125.jpg

I went outside the day after the storm, tip-toeing my way across the frozen surface of the snow-drift that was our front yard, knowing that at any second the crusty white fa├žade could crumble beneath my 60-pound body and draw me down into the frosty underworld where the snow would reach eye level.

We didn't go to school for about a week because of that storm. It was a miniature adolescent rebellion orchestrated by divine providence.

Fast-forward 15 years. Today, snow feels like a conspiracy to prevent me from carrying out the endless list of responsibilities thrust upon me by the world.  They can't make me go to work in the same way they could make me go to school, but they can insist that I pay my bills whether it snows or not. Snow no longer means freedom. It's just one more thing to deal with.

The storm we got here in Philadelphia on January 11-12 was the first major snowfall I've experienced as a resident of the city (I was home in New York for the Christmas blizzard). That week, I started a new job at an office in Center City. As I began to hear the forecasts, these thoughts about the tainted nature of snow crossed my mind. Fortunately, my commute to Center City is easier than most; I live only a couple blocks from the Broad Street subway line. Even so, I knew from past minor storms that the sidewalks get quite messy and I wasn't looking forward to it.

This all changed when my supervisor told me that if the Philadelphia School District cancels school, then the office closes as well. This came as a surprise; I figured most offices simply allowed the employees to decide whether they can make it in or not. This development opened up a world of possibility that I hadn't experienced in years. I could now look at a snowy forecast with a sense of optimism once again.

When I woke at 7:00 the next morning I looked out the window to see snow-covered sidewalks but a clean Girard Avenue, which was plowed and clear of parked cars due to the fact that it is a snow emergency route. It appeared that the storm had stopped a bit too early in the morning for a snow day. But, I went online to check the school district's website and was surprised to find that school had been canceled. I immediately tried to picture Ed Rendell's reaction: "We're a nation of wusses. The Chinese would be walking to school doing their calculus homework on the way!" 

I went back to sleep for a few hours in commemoration of my long-lost but newly found snow day. When I woke the second time something wasn't right. Minus the carefree mind of a child, the day off felt like a waste. I've learned to embrace responsibility, which is a good thing. This was no rebellion against "them" because now I am "them." And it turns out they were right all along.

I got a call around 11:30 and was told that the office had opened for the day since the roads weren't that bad.  They asked me if I could be there by noon, and I told them I could. I was happy to go.

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