“Congratulations, you won a surprise vacation. It’s to your own house, it’s bitterly cold outside, and you’ll spend most of your time doing back-breaking manual labor. Oh, and your kids will be there, too. Enjoy.”
That’s the essence of a snow day as an adult. Gone are the carefree moments of sledding and building snow barriers to block traffic and rob motorists. My parents never figured out how I could afford so many nice things. For a grownup, a weather-related work cancellation isn’t a free pass from responsibility; it’s merely an alternate set of obligations with frostbite thrown in. The misery brought on by a snow day is particularly unwieldy because it’s buried beneath so many layers of clothing. Even unhappiness is clumsier in mittens.
Thanks to the largest blizzard in more than three decades, I recently had two days in a row off work. It happened at the end of my regular holiday vacation, so I ended up being away from my job for so long I lost track of what day it was. It’s hard to remember the date when I don’t have something to dread as a benchmark. While anything is better than a day at the office, my life in a cubicle is both warm and devoid of physical activity. During my time off, I had to shovel snow outside when the windchill dipped to -40 degrees. And don’t ask if that’s Fahrenheit or Celsius because the mark is the same on both scales. The guys behind each system agreed to synchronize that one number to make it the universal mark for “too damn cold.” At that temperature, even snowmen freeze to death.
|Technically, it’s only a snowman if it has a massive snow penis. Otherwise it’s just a snow androgynous person.|
It’s a shame there aren’t weather cancellations in better seasons. I’d love for my boss to call me in the morning and say, “Today it’s going to be 75 degrees and sunny. That’s way too dangerous for you to come in to work.” If there’s an inch of ice on the road and a stinging wind cold enough to kill polar bears, I’m hyper-vigilant and drive at a slow, safe speed. The last thing I want to do is slide off the road and get eaten by starving penguins. If they’re hungry enough to come all the way to Indiana in search of food, they’ll eat just about anything. But if it’s a beautiful summer day outside, I could easily be distracted by a butterfly and crash into a tree. Then the penguins would get me. They don’t waddle very fast, so even if they leave now they’ll still be here when June rolls around. What my employer should do is make me drive to work in blizzards but give me most of the spring and summer off. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in the name of safety.
|I’m not saying I’m afraid of penguins. I just hope they don’t know how to unlock car doors.|
Winter is the worst possible time for a surprise vacation day. I don’t go outside voluntarily in any season, but if I ended up trapped in natural sunlight in August, I’d survive. The worst that could happen is I’d get a sunburn and suffer separation anxiety from the wonderful electronic devices inside my house. Don’t tell my wife, but the official beneficiary of my life insurance policy is my laptop. But if I got stuck outdoors in January, even if I dodged flightless birds with a taste for human flesh, I’d still lose fingers and toes for the unforgivable crime of not being inside. Mother Nature is pointlessly vindictive. She is definitely a woman.
To add insult to injury, spending time in the elements is mandatory in frigid weather. During the summer, I can put off outdoor chores indefinitely. An overgrown lawn won’t prevent me from going to work, unless it shelters a python that attacks me as I walk to my car. But I don’t have the luxury of ignoring the six-foot snow mound a plow helpfully dumps around my car. I either have to shovel it immediately or stay home until I lose my job and run out of groceries. I couldn’t even resort to eating penguins to survive since the python would probably get to them first. The longer I wait to shovel the snow, the denser it gets. After a few hours, it becomes impossible to drive through since the wall of ice is harder than the steel on my car. I don’t own a pickaxe, and I can’t pass the necessary background check to buy dynamite. When it snows, I either have to shovel it right away or be trapped in my house until the spring thaw. I can’t imagine a worse fate than spending that much time with my family.
|A snowplow’s job isn’t to clear the roads. It’s to trap everyone’s cars in snow mounds so no one can drive when it’s dangerous.|
Snow days are terrifying for me because I’m rather fond of my fingers. It’s called the “digital age” because most people communicate solely by using their digits. Between typing emails and sending text messages, I often go days without speaking face-to-face with people who sit at desks mere feet away from me. I don’t even remember what my voice sounds like anymore, but I bet it’s similar to that of Darth Vader or possibly R2-D2. Unfortunately, it’s too late to find out. My tongue withered away due to years of silence and a constant barrage of hot sauce. If it doesn’t burn off my taste buds and cause permanent nerve damage, then it doesn’t belong on my sandwich.
If I lost my fingers due to frostbite, I’d essentially be mute. That would be a triumph for the world at large. I’m fairly certain my family members and coworkers ignore all of my electronic communications, anyway, even when they’re essential. If I sent my boss an email with the subject line, “CODE TO DEFUSE THE BOMB THAT WILL EXPLODE IN TWO MINUTES,” he’d send it straight to his spam folder. To overcome my newfound life of silence, I’d have to learn to type with another, less efficient part of my body. At least I’d get the satisfaction of destroying keyboards with my elbows.
Not working for a few days was a nice change of pace, but I’m ready for the terror of this winter wonderland to come to an end. It’s not that I want to get back to my job; I’m just tired of checking my health insurance policy to see if it covers amputations. Plus my family has been trapped in the same confined space for far too long. If something doesn’t change soon, my wife and kids will feed themselves to the carnivorous penguins just to get away from me. I can’t say I blame them.