Southern people are enthralled by snow. Fascinated. And, frankly, terrified. Even though we have daily encounters with water in various benign states (hot water in our showers, solid water in our glasses, muddy water in our abundant streams and rivers), when fluffy frozen water begins falling from the sky, the reaction can be likened to the hysteria that would result from an alien invasion.
“Everyone! Go outside! Look up! Raise your arms! Twirl around! Scream and shout! It’s snow! Aaaaaahhhhhhh! Run for your lives!”
The madness begins long before the snow falls, however – usually a week in advance, when the local weatherman presents his seven-day forecast and predicts a 30% chance of snow a week in the future. Thus begins the mad rush to Home Depot for gas generators and insulating covers for pipes and faucets. And don’t forget the canned-goods and other non-perishables. You can’t be too careful.
For the next week, grown men and women will neglect their duties at work by checking weather.com incessantly and studying the detailed daily weather analysis on James Spann’s weather blog. We (proudly, and somewhat smugly) become experts on snow-related terms such as “snowpack” and “snow band” and “winter weather advisory,” and begin using said terms in normal conversation with family, friends and co-workers. We are all meteorologists.
Our normal informal social greeting is a variation on “hey, what’s going on” or “hey, what’s up,” but in the week leading up to and at least one week after the snow is melted and gone, the appropriate greeting is “hey man, what about that weather.” This greeting is not presented as a question, per se, but rather as a segue to facilitate discussion of the abovementioned and related weather terms and of what preparations will be or have been made for the impending natural disaster, or, in the event the snow has passed, how you managed to survive.
Southern people know that the best way to survive a winter weather event is with one loaf of white bread and a gallon of milk. This sounds like a worn-out cliché until you visit the grocery store within 24 hours of imminent snowfall and find that the only available fresh bread is in the form of wheat hot dog buns. You may find a half gallon or two of skim milk if you reach far in the back of the upright cooler. Everything else is gone. If everyone else is doing it, then it must be true – no doubt the result of a southern survival sixth sense.
Gas is another important consideration. During the latest snow event, my dad called to make sure my car was filled with gas, because everyone knows “the pumps won’t work with the power out!” (In case you’re wondering, yes, my car was already filled to the brim – I am a southerner, after all, so I was prepared). We were only expecting a dusting, but you never know when things might take a turn for the worse. We get buried under two feet of snow, the grid goes down, zombies attack, people panic, and the gas supply dries up. It could happen. You just never know.
The day of the forecasted snow event is very, very weird. Our personalities change. We become fidgety window-watchers. At my office, the first person to spot a snow flake is obligated walk the halls like a modern-day Paul Revere and nervously inform all co-workers that the snow is coming. Word spreads like a virus. “It’s snowing, y’all…hey, it’s started snowing…look outside, y’all, you won’t believe it…it’s a blizzard…oh my goodness at the snow.” We all become children.
Then, we watch the news and wait anxiously for the four words that strike fear into the heart of every southerner like none other: “roads are deteriorating rapidly.” After that, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. Get out of my way, people. I’ve got to get home NOW, or face certain death. We grab our coats and keys, hands shaking, and do a panicky speed-walk to our cars, all the while racking our brains to remember the rules for driving on ice. Slow speed. Tap the breaks. Turn in to the spin. You’ve got this, Grant. Or, is it turn opposite the spin? No time to Google it. It’s go time.
The drive home is the most stressful time period of your human existence. Your seatbelt is fastened and your hands grip the steering wheel so tightly at ten and two that your knuckles turn white. Of course, the radio is off – a potentially deadly distraction averted. You sit as far forward in your seat as physically possible, because you must be alert to every lethal horror that awaits – sliding cars, sinkholes, downed power lines, flying monkeys, and, worst of all, the thing you fear the most, because it cannot be seen: black ice. Even though you are driving 12 miles per hour, you are convinced that at any moment black ice will attack and send you careening off into a ravine, never to be seen again.
There are a handful of appropriate times for a real southern man to cry, and one of those times is when you finally pull into the driveway and put the car in park. You have just survived the most treacherous journey of your life, so it’s ok to sit there for a minute and let it all out. From that point you walk in, plop down on the recliner, exhausted, and tune in for a long night with James Spann. What a day.
Northerners may chuckle at a southern person’s reaction to a dusting of snow, but we don’t take offense. We just invite you to Alabama in July, and challenge you to survive a week in the heat. Bless your heart if you try. We admit that our reaction to scant snowfall is borderline insane, but that’s just part of what makes us southern. We’re happy hunkering down in front of the fire, sharing snow pictures on Facebook and Instagram, calling one another to make sure everyone’s alright, and all the while calmly being reassured that with milk in the fridge and bread in the cupboard, we will survive.