At 4 pm yesterday—it was Martin Luther King Day, so we were both off work—Carolyn and I, after hearing that snow was in the forecast for Tuesday (today), started checking the weather updates. We got more obsessive as it got later and the temperature dropped. We each had our computers open to weather.com, which we refreshed every hour, on the hour. Although they were calling for substantial amounts of snow, the early reports were grim. Snow was supposed to start falling around 7 am on Tuesday and keep going until midnight. For those of you who love snow days, you’ll see why this was grim news: a snowstorm that begins after you’ve already left for work in the morning is useless, and a snowstorm that stops with a good seven hours left before the next work day gives the snow plow crews plenty of time to clear the streets. We started writing it off as another missed opportunity.
But then, we reminded ourselves hopefully, even if we had to go in in the morning, maybe our bosses would let us out early. If “blizzard-like” conditions were indeed on the radar, as some weathermen (weatherwomen?) were predicting, surely for the sake of employee safety we’d be outta there by noon. We went to sleep playing through the various scenarios—and praying, of course, for thick blankets of snow to inundate the Washington-Baltimore area.
The silly part about this is that, were it not for the potential of a snowstorm, we wouldn’t have given a second thought to the necessity of getting up and heading off to work. On a normal Tuesday, after all, that’s what we do. No fanfare, no whining (well, beyond the usual whining), no great expectations: just show up at 8:30, send a few emails, work on a research project or two, eat lunch, putz around on the Internet, chat with a few co-workers, and go home. An ordinary work day. But dangle the possibility of an unexpected day off in front of us, and we’ll go nuts. And if it turns out that, despite the presence of snow (even if it’s just a few inches, which is enough to allow the thought of a day off to weasel its way into our brains), our workplaces are NOT cancelled, well . . . it makes the day that much tougher to get through.
We awoke with a jolt, almost simultaneously, at 4:41 am. Carolyn immediately lunged for her phone, and I for her computer. I saw her phone flash, and heard her sigh: there was no text from the federal government, meaning so far work was still on. I checked the Maryland court closings website and saw that all courts throughout Maryland were still operational. We collapsed back into bed, like dogs whose owners had refilled the treat bin but had forgotten to give out any treats. Then, on second thought, Carolyn grabbed her computer from me and looked up the federal government’s website. Stunned, she looked at the screen, which read: “Federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. area are CLOSED today, January 21, 2014.” I peered at the screen and, seeing the news, rolled over, cursing under my breath, contemplating the unfairness of life. Carolyn, tactfully, said nothing.
Since we’ve moved into our apartment in Baltimore, Carolyn and I have had—not counting today—one snow day apiece. As fate would have it, our snow days came on different days, so each time we’ve been stuck by ourselves, alone in the apartment, feeling woefully guilty about our chance to laze around while the other one of us slaves away at work. My snow day—it was a Friday in early January; Baltimore had been hit by five well-timed inches of slippery ice and snow—was spent shuffling around in my bathrobe, watching movies (Traffic and Brokeback Mountain—two solid, if not exactly uplifting, films), and eating leftovers. Carolyn’s day was spent much the same way. Both days were absolutely miserable for the one of us who was working.
I remember when I was a kid, on days when blizzards hit Iowa City—it took a lot more than five inches in Iowa, let me tell you; Baltimoreans are weak when it comes to snow—my mom would come into my room, gently wake me up, inform me of the good news, and I would drift back asleep in an ebullient haze. Then I’d get up and go sledding or meet my friends for a snowball fight. It was a beautiful thing.
Having entered the work world, though, here in the early stages of my (supposedly) adult years, I’m realizing that snow days now mean even more than they did back then. For one thing, I don’t have to make up a work day missed due to snow. There’s no summer break to chip away from, after all. For another thing, work—at least my work—is so much worse than school ever was. There are no best friends to hang out with at lunchtime, no cool history books, no choir, and no early release Thursdays. I won’t bore you with a nostalgia trip about grade school, but you get the idea. These days, a day off work is a day in paradise. Carolyn and I can hang out, read, cook, eat, watch movies, and generally do whatever we want to do. It’s great. And it’s a precious, precious thing.
I went into work this morning in a foul mood. Carolyn was home, and though she kindly packed me a lunch and kissed me goodbye, doing her best to make the best of things, I couldn’t help but feel resentful. She was ahead of me now, two snows days to my one. She owed me—owed me big time. With her free to roam around the apartment and me stuck at the office, desperate to be join her, it was not going to be a good day.
But then, a magical thing happened. The snow picked up at around 11 am. It was getting bad out there. And word started circulating around the courthouse that the administrative judge was considering letting us out early. Then, suddenly, an email appeared in my inbox: the building would be closed at noon. Hooray! I was elated. I would get a snow day after all! Well, a snow afternoon, but still. At midday I packed up my things and hurried out into the cold, blustery snowstorm. I caught the train and ran back to the apartment, almost slipping to my doom several times along the way. I burst in through the front door, triumphant, to find Carolyn preparing lunch for us both (she had seen the good news online).
Now I’m sitting here with Carolyn, curled up in bed, writing this blog post. I think we’ll watch Silence of the Lambs when it’s finished. Life is good. Thanks goodness for snow days.