It sounds very silly to say this after spending the last two winters in Antarctica, but I have missed snow dreadfully. Oh, not snow lying about on the ground.
I’ve had heaps of that, more than anyone could wish for. What I’ve missed has been the actual falling of flakes. While plenty of snow drifts to the South Pole, it almost never falls there; the high pressure and extraordinarily low moisture content of the air prevent precipitation. On the few occasions when it did snow at the South Pole, the flakes were thin, anemic, dry dots that never lasted long.
So when a winter weather advisory was announced for Baltimore last weekend, I’ll admit that I got excited about it.
“A winter storm warning.” my co-worker announced over lunch break. “For tomorrow. Better get ready.”
“Do you think it’ll be bad?”
“Bad or not, one thing’s for sure — the supermarket will be completely out of milk and toilet paper by 10 o’clock tonight.”
“Oh yeah … Baltimore doesn’t know how to handle snow at all, and everyone will panic.”
“I’ve got tickets for a concert tomorrow night,” I said, uneasily. “I hope I can get there all right.”
“You’re from Maine,” my co-worker responded, surprised. “You can handle snow.”
“It’s not the snow I’m worried about,” I said. “It’s the city and the people. If 3 inches can shut down Seattle just because no one is used to it, well, I’m not taking any chances south of the Piscataqua River.”
She laughed. “Fair enough.”
I went to the store that afternoon and sure enough, it was crowded. But unlike the people who grumbled over their hastily bought eggs and bread, I couldn’t wait for the promised snow.
When Saturday dawned with an encouragingly dark cloudbank, I waited eagerly, glancing often out the window. I had it pictured perfectly in my mind: big, fat, fluffy flakes, wafting toward the ground.
They would be gray as soon as they hit, of course — this is a city we’re talking about, not some Christmas card — but they would be white and perfect as they fell, slowly and steadily, from the sky.
Well, I was wrong. In Maryland, the first snow of the season can be just as gray while it’s falling as it is when it finally hits the ground — at least that’s what happened last weekend. For maybe a half an hour or so, some white flakes came down, already wet enough to dart, rather than float, to the ground. For the rest of the day, a steady, slushy gray sleet fell, piling up on my small balcony and trimming the rooftops with an almost shiny, translucent gray.
“Gross,” my date said, looking morosely out the window. “The sky is puking on us.”
“They call this snow?”
I didn’t give up hope for some small shred of romance.
“It’s not pretty,” I said, “but maybe it’ll all freeze later. And the roads will shut down. We’ll have to walk to the concert.”
“The concert’s on the other side of town.”
“So? That’s still only two miles from here. If it gets colder when the sun goes down, this whole city will be covered in ice. None of the buses will run. We’d better plan on walking.”