Any Given Day: To this native New Yorker, the reaction to the s-word here will always leave me out in the cold

No need for panic, people

Posted 1/14/11

Ever since the day I arrived in 1997 to make this the state where I live and work, I've done my best to live the Maryland experience, to try new things that were foreign to me as a native New Yorker.

I've learned the difference between a snowcone and a snowball.

I've beaten steamed crabs with a wooden mallet (so much work for such little return!).

I've had Old Bay on potato chips and even popcorn.

I've had sauerkraut at Thanksgiving.

I've cheered for the Ravens and the Orioles (but not when the Yankees were in town).

I've mastered the loops, both Inner and Outer.

I've seen the holiday lights on 34th Street, been to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and ate lunch at Café Hon.

I continue to learn quite a bit about, shall we say, regional differences and, for the most part, I get a kick out of them. (On that note, however, you could not pay me enough to eat a soft-shelled crab. Ever.)

One of the more frequent differences people make a point out of drawing attention to is my (so-called) accent. For example, the way I say the word 'dog' may, to the untrained ear or random observer, sound like 'dawg,' or 'coffee' may sound like 'cawfee.' Again, I get a kick out of this just the way I get a kick out of how often you hear someone use the word 'hon' around here.

One of the things I will never get used to, however, is the panic that sets in when that blasted four-letter word is in the forecast and I am not talking about rain or hail.

Of course, I am talking about the s-word. Snow. Just uttering that word out loud in these parts triggers schools to delay opening by two hours or else sends the tikes back home two hours ahead time in early dismissal.

In wintertime in Maryland, a kid's hope is summed up in a host of double-word phrases:

Two-hour delay;

Early dismissal;

And the big Kahuna, snow day.

I was back home in New York visiting family when news of this latest storm started to develop. Where my parents live, eight to 12 inches are expected to fall by morning. I drove back to Maryland, not wanting to get stuck or start off the year using vacation days to dig out their driveway.

I did some food shopping for her the night before, not because my parents were in a panic about the storm, but because they needed to go shopping and I happened to be visiting and offered to do it.

It was a whole different experience than shopping the night before snow is expected to fall in the Old Line State. That is to say, there was bread and milk available and the checkout line did not stretch up and down three aisles.

When I talked to my mom once I arrived in Maryland she asked if any snow had started to fall.

"Nothing yet and probably not until later this evening," I told her. "Schools have a one-hour early dismissal."

"But no flakes, yet?"

"Not a one," I said.


I knew what she was getting at.

To me, it sounded unbelievable also.

I will never get used to that. When I grew up, we walked up hill in the snow to school, both ways. Just kidding.

But we rarely had a day off from school because of snow.

A former boyfriend, also a New Yorker, used to say "After all, it's just weather."

We never had to keep track of whether extra days were going to be tacked on to the end of the school year or added on to spring break to make up for lost snow days.

It makes me feel like I have a lot of lost time to make up for, all in my pajamas, or outside bundled up, carrying a sled up a hill for one more ride.