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Open Letter to Northerners -
You got something to say about snow in D.C.?

Not a flake of snow has fallen yet this season (Fall 1997), but I've already been subjected to the smug Northerner pointing out how a dusting of snow in Washington D.C. brings everything to a halt.

"People in D.C. don't know how to drive in snow (like we do up north, heh heh heh!)"

"They can't even keep the streets clear (like we do up north, haw haw haw!)"

Year after year... Gets a bit tiresome, eh?

My question is, exactly how many brain cells does it take to notice that snow causes problems in D.C. - when all it takes to bring traffic to a grinding halt here is 68 degrees, dry and sunny? Huh? How many? Two? Two and a half? Good grief.

Get a load of this item from the Washington Times, January 13, 1997:

Snow joke

Regarding this city's dusting of snow last week, which sent local television news crews scrambling to sensationalize, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich had this observation:

"In Boston, this would be nothing. But here in Washington, you get a day like this and people get all excited and it's news, and people don't know how to get from one place to another."

What a workout. I hope those 2 cells have recuperated by now, Mr. Reich.

Although we may have heard this accusation before (just maybe), your insightful "observation" certainly deserves our utmost attention, Mr. Reich. Let us examine a handful of articles taken from the Washington Times at the same time (January 12-14, 1997.)

Regarding "people don't know how to get from one place to another":

1. Disaster declared in North Dakota

(January 13, 1997) President Clinton declared yesterday that winter storms have caused a major disaster in North Dakota...

North Dakota's interstate highways and major roads reopened yesterday, most for the first time since Thursday.

2. Winter delivers wallop to Buffalo;
2-foot snowfall paralyzes city

(January 12, 1997) A fierce "lake effect" storm packing winds of up to 48 mph brought travel to a halt yesterday with up to 2 feet of snow, too much even for a city accustomed to severe winter weather...

Mayor Anthony Masiello banned driving in the city for most of yesterday so crews could plow the streets without running into stalled cars. Buffalo's airport also shut down for much of the day...

3. Cellular phone helps marooned woman survive;
snowmobiles reach her after 40 hours

Sioux Falls, S.D. (January 12, 1997) - Karen Nelson said there were times when she prayed and times when she cried while huddling alone inside her pickup truck, snowbound in the middle of a howling prairie blizzard...

4. Thousand of skiers snowbound at resorts

Salt Lake City (January 13, 1997) - An estimated 4000 skiers and snowboarders were stranded for much of the weekend after 2 feet of fresh snow and avalanches blocked a canyon highway...

So we don't know how to get around? Not like them Northerners do, huh, Mr. Reich?

Regarding "people get all excited and it's news", a small item from the Washington Times, January 14, 1997 quotes Walter Cronkite on this issue, generally.

The way it is

Tv Guide: What do you think of network evening news in its current state?

Walter Cronkite: The practitioners are very good and under severe pressure to get the ratings, and the news management has yielded to attempts to entertain...

Sounds to me like D.C. news behaves much the same as anywhere else, Mr. Reich. Really now, do you expect a tv newscaster to introduce a piece with, "Well, you probably don't really care about this, and, um, you probably don't really need to know it, and, um, we hate to take up your time, but..."

Regarding, "in Boston, this would be nothing", consider this item from the day after your quote appeared, Mr. Reich:

Bus plunge kills driver in Boston

A transit bus carrying no passengers skidded on an icy street, crashed a guard rail and plunged off a bridge into the frigid Charles River in Boston last night, killing the driver...

I hope that the death of a driver would not be considered "nothing" in Boston, Mr. Reich.

And then, just a few short months later, appeared the piece de resistance:

Slow snow cleanup riles Bostonians -
many side streets remain buried

(April 3, 1997) The novelty of the April Fool's Day blizzard wore off quickly yesterday as hundreds of thousands of people waited for the lights to go back on and commuters bogged down on snow-covered streets.

A state of emergency remained in effect in Massachusetts, and most schools and some universities were still closed...

Secondary roads remained a mess and hundreds of city streets were still buried. Boston ordered its schools to remain closed today.

A 79-year-old Boston woman injured in a fall had to be carried three blocks to an ambulance because her street was buried under 2 feet of snow. Even the downtown financial district was hard to navigate.

"There's no excuse for this," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. "We're trying to figure out what's wrong. We thought we had enough plows." ...

"This is a joke," said Corey Stiver, a student at Boston University. "It took me almost an hour to get to school this morning."

"They had almost all of last night to clean up the mess and the train is still running behind schedule," Kerri Noonan fumed as she waited for a trolley...

WE THOUGHT WE HAD ENOUGH PLOWS AAAAHAHAHAAAAaaa... (Stop, pleeeease - I'm gonna bust a gasket, oooohhhh...)

A few years ago I was at the house of a friend of a friend. The owner, Carol, was choking back laughter at the ineptness of D.C. in the snow. We heard a crunch, but didn't think much of it at the time.

Her boyfriend, also a Northerner, came in and sheepishly mentioned that his car had slid down driveway into the garage door.

While I didn't derive any pleasure from his mishap (well, maybe...), at least it was a big relief to my scientific side that the laws of physics involving frictionless surfaces apply to Northerners as well.

Winding up, if I could make one polite request of my friends from up north...


If you can't handle the cold, get out of the icebox.


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