Snow, Sleet, and…. Sea Shells

Gorgeous collecting shells this morning
Gorgeous collecting shells this morning

The northeast is bracing for what may or may not be an epic storm hitting them later tonight.  News outlets like to use words such as epic, historic, crippling, paralyzing, etc. to maximize the importance of both the event itself and their coverage of it.   It’s the time of year when local TV stations get to roll out self-serving monikers that extol a meteorological expertise over the competition.  The high-tech gadgetry they use to predict a storm’s predicted path gets more and more elaborate each year.  I don’t know about you, but I still have no idea what a Doppler really is.  I assume if I have one, it probably isn’t as big as the TV weatherman’s.

For many years I lived in California’s central valley.  Except for the annual Tule Fog in the winter time, there really wasn’t much going on in the way of weather activity.  Summers were always completely dry with no precipitation ever.  The winters had plenty of rain but never enough for the growers who would complain about it loudly and blame the President, Congress, scientists, and everyone else but God for their troubles. Nonetheless, the lack of much weather drama didn’t stop the TV stations there from having “Storm Team Five” or “Storm Watcher Seven” handles.  The same short and dramatic musical intro to the weather report would play to get your attention, only to find that… yep, it’s sunny again today.

I grew up and lived in the upper midwest until I was in my early twenties.  I knew from deep, frigid temperatures and large amounts of snow.  I later moved to the Washington, DC area and would smirk at how people there over-reacted when snow fell.  Still, the Mid-Atlantic region has certainly had its share of big storms in the last several years.  Just like the politicians who consistently question the science behind the warming of the earth’s temperature, I too will say with all candor that “I am not a scientist.”  But I just have to believe that there ought to be valid scientific reasons why we are consistently seeing weather patterns in regions that for decades never experienced such degrees of meteorological extremes.  I applaud all of those brave scientists who roll their eyes at the prevailing rhetorical winds and instead concentrate on hard data only.

In the DC area, the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has the authority to either send workers home early during a storm, or to actually close the government on those early mornings after a big overnight dumping of snow and ice.  They make their decision after consulting with the region’s local governments about road conditions, public transportation challenges, and general public safety.  Private businesses and organizations will usually at least watch what OPM decides in order to make similar decisions about its own workforce.  Comparatively speaking, it is one of those rare instances of quasi-cooperation between government and non-governmental entities.

Back before there was an online presence for any of us, when all we had were radios, TV’s, and telephones, I was an absolute pest in my office during those DC snow days.  As the skies got darker, the snowflakes larger, and the ice slicker, we would all stop working and just look out windows at the situation.  Managers would nervously huddle in closed circles whispering confidential news from upper floors.  They also did their best to avoid eye contact with line staff.  To the brave soul who ventured forth with a question about whether we would be sent home early, the response was usually a firm “there hasn’t been any decision about that. We expect to work a full day.”  Everyone knew that wouldn’t be the case, so the waiting game would continue with absolutely no work getting done at all. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Because coordination by management in those days was top-down via conventional means of communication, it took forever for there to be a final decision.  I decided that the only way to speed things along was to make bold face lies.   Having absolutely no knowledge at all, I would walk into an unsuspecting manager’s office and tell him/her about two federal agencies that were beginning to send workers home.

“Health and Human Services and Agriculture have both begun to send staff home.  I’ve got friends at both places who just called to me.”   Then I would hurriedly walk back to my desk to ostensibly “monitor the situation.”  Whether this actually resulted in our being sent home early is remote.  But such were the cocky antics of a brash twenty-something before Jim Halpert of TV’s “The Office” was created.  My co-workers laughed at my theatrics. I did this for a few years running before management got wise to me.  Oh, and the Internet was finally invented which allowed for better coordination and also a way to expose frauds like me.

I still have friends who live and work in DC.  Some of them are now in management (Hi, D). I kept up with a handful of them today to see how they were faring and to find out about their own storm planning. Some told me of the usual empty bread and toilet paper shelves at the grocery stores, and others were at the office waiting for some word about tomorrow. All were watching the weather closely.

This morning Gorgeous and I watched the Weather Channel and decided to go to the beach.   We picked up shells, looked at seagulls, and wandered up and down the beach for over an hour.  I sent pictures of our doings via text message to my friends in cold places.  I’m sure that they were absolutely thrilled with me.   I’m older now but apparently still a pest.

Your humble blogger doing his best JFK imitation.
Your humble blogger doing his best JFK imitation.

15 thoughts on “Snow, Sleet, and…. Sea Shells

  1. My former next door neighbor moved to Edisto Island, SC 7 years ago. He calls us whenever there is a snow event in our area. Today he called to tell me he and wife went blueberry picking this afternoon and enjoyed the sunshine. .

    I hate him.

    😄 Not really.

    Well, not most of the time…


  2. Snakes,
    “Snow, Sleet, and … Seashells” is a hilarious piece of writing. I’m just surprised your superiors (although I’m sure they were inferiors) caught on to you even after a couple of years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, JC. Well, I was pretty low on the totem pole back then, and I also was careful to pick different managers each time. Again, I don’t really think my chicanery had much impact, but it may have been anecdotal fodder for management. Line staff loved it, and that was my audience anyway. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey, Snakes, you’ll like this: For the most part, Philly (half an inch) and much of N.J. did not get dumped on as our weather men and women had predicted. So a few of us got on Facebook and spewed our comedic venom and an actual weatherman replied. Here it is:

    Just wanted to let you know I’ve read every single one of your comments about the coastal storm, and its much more benign impact on our region than we had predicted. Not easy, but something I felt I had to do. Clearly there are a lot of people who are upset and you have every right to be. Not getting the forecast right served as a great inconvenience to a lot of people.
    I remember hearing it from others around this time yesterday, claiming Action News was underestimating snow totals (yes, UNDERestimating). Here are a few posted comments:
    “I love Action News, but I ignore them when it comes to snow… They always low ball the totals.”
    “They are the only station with ‪#‎s‬ these low. Be cautious & stay safe.”
    We had actually downgraded our outlook of the storm late last night (I watched the rebroadcast). For many, that was too late.
    The bottom line: you just can’t win. I know. It’s part of the business. You expect us to be right, and that’s what we aim to do. We were not. But I think given we were on the lower end of predicted snow totals, claims that we aimed to hype this storm just don’t make sense.
    Our priorities are the safety of our viewers, the accuracy of the forecast, and adjusting if things change. If we think a storm is going to make conditions dangerous, we will always err on the side of caution. We’ll take the flack later.
    So before I ramble on too long, just wanted to say: sorry folks. This is a real bummer for a news guy who wants nothing more than to be accurate, objective, and to make complete sense.
    For those of you who read this far down, thanks for ‘listening.’ Please take it safe as you travel today. And I’ll still be here tomorrow morning.

    My reply: Waaaaa.


    1. Well…. I do give him credit for addressing the “Maddening Crowd.” And he wasn’t defensive, so I’ll give him points for that also. Really, it ain’t the weather men that are the object of my scorn, but instead the station programmers and advertising geniuses who think we are all just plain dumb. Your response, JC, is perfect though: Waaaaa!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just north of Philly, we got a dusting. Nothing is closed not even schools. Around 11 p.m. last night the news changed the predictions to 4″ (we got less than an inch) from the original 6 to 24″. One of the meteorologists said she was so disappointed because these storms are what they live for. Whatever. I got my Starbucks this morning and life goes on. Wish I was picking blueberries…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sure your friends digging themselves out from the northeast blizzard truly appreciated your seashells on the beach pictures. I live in rainy Vancouver where there is little snow and love sharing pictures of flowers popping up in February while my prairie friends have 2-3 months of snowy frigid weather left. I’m sure my pictures cheer them immeasurably just as your seashells cheered the folks in Washington, DC. Looks like we have the same sense of humour.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.