I have a few random thoughts from SnowJam 2014.
First off, this wasn’t our first rodeo, y’all. We’ve seen snow creep across that Alabama border in the middle of the day before. Does the year 1982 strike a chord with anybody? Same scenario. We watched the storm approach, from our schools and offices and other jobs, and then, as soon as the first flakes hit the top of the Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags, we said to ourselves, “Time to go home.”
About a million people hit the icy streets at about the same time and the rest, as they say, is history. I was teaching and coaching at Clarkston High School at the time and wrecked my precious midnight blue Monte Carlo about a half-mile from the school, walked 6 miles through the snow to spend the night with a player’s family and collected enough stories and memories to share for at least two decades.
Times have changed, even here in the Deep South. We considered SnowJam ’82 to be a big frozen street party — albeit one that covered about 400 square miles. On the fifth anniversary of snow Jam ’82 Gary McKee awarded me a prize for having the best story about that event — and most of my story was true. I think he sent me a Quixie in Dixie T-shirt and if I looked hard enough I could probably find it among the bags and bags of cast-off treasures in the attic. And, yes, there was a baby boom nine months after the ice melted.
This year’s debacle didn’t seem to carry any of the light-hearted whimsy of the original SnowJam. Just about everybody seemed more interested in pointing fingers and placing blame. I suppose the arrival of the Internet age is to blame for that. Back in the day people had to stand in line and use a pay phone to let their friends and family know about the dire straits in which they found themselves. This time we were blasted with an endless array of instant messages, texts, tweets and even video from all corners of the city and its environs. A lot of those messages were downright mean spirited.
Perhaps this shows just how dependent we have become, without even realizing it, on the government. Could the city of Atlanta and Nathan Deal done a better job of dealing with the debacle? Could they have been a bit more proactive? Absolutely. But y’all!
What do think is going to happen if every mother’s son and daughter who works inside the perimeter walks away from their jobs and get in their cars at the exact same time? Our roads have a hard enough time getting people out of the city on the Friday before a long weekend.
Then you mix in the school buses that hit the roads at the same time. I have always been in favor of cancelling school at the drop of a hat. The possibility of a random snow day somewhere along the line is what kept me going through a lot of extra-long Januaries. I bet next time a snowflake shows up on a 10-day forecast in metro Atlanta schools will be making preparations to close. And if I were one of those heroic teachers who stayed all night at my battle station to supervise the poor kids who were forced to sleep over at school, I wouldn’t think twice about calling in sick at any threat of snow in the future.
This is Atlanta, not the frozen tundra of the North. Twenty hours before snow started falling at our house it was 64 degrees and I was walking around our farm in Bermuda shorts and a Key West T-shirt. When the snow hit it didn’t stick. It melted on the relatively warm ground — and roadways. When the arctic blast came it refroze, and the snow that did stick was on top of a sheet of ice. I don’t want to hear about how y’all used to do it up North. The laws of physics are not suspended for Yankee-Americans who infiltrate the South. Nobody can drive on ice.
Then we hear stories about people being stuck inside their cars for 20 hours. I know some folks had mitigating circumstances, but I promise you I wouldn’t have been stuck inside my car for 20 hours. I would have rolled that thing off the road and walked somewhere. It wasn’t Siberia — it’s inside 285. Nobody was more than a mile or two of shelter. Hearing those stories reminded me a little bit of two Democrats stuck on an escalator. Google it. It’s hilarious, no matter how you vote.
But now the ice has melted and the snow is gone and I was back outside Saturday playing golf in my shirtsleeves. Soon SnowJam 2014 will be a distant memory and the next time snow falls on Atlanta in the middle of the day, the exact same thing will happen. Times change, but human nature doesn’t.
Georgians ain’t about to stay home just because it might blow up a bad snowstorm in the middle of the day.