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.