Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let It Snow

Not really. I hate the snow. Never really liked it as a kid, and as several car accidents many years ago happened after it snowed, I loathe the little white flakes. But since I cleared out Gilda’s gardening stuff in the garage today to make room for the snowblower, which actually started on the first try, I’m ready for what Mother Nature hurls our way.

Impetus for my wintry preparations came from weather reports of snow making its way into upstate New York. The forecasts were a reminder of the long winter I spent in Syracuse earning my master’s degree in journalism at Syracuse University back in 1971-72. Syracuse’s nickname is Salt City. Until my last week there I assumed the nickname came from the liberal spreading of salt on city streets to clear the average 115.6 inches of snow every year. (The year I was there it snowed 133.7 inches.) The nickname actually derived from the nearby salt mines, to which I was oblivious.

Over Thanksgiving weekend 1971, a pounding snowstorm struck New York State, shutting down all highway traffic, forcing me to wait until Monday to return to school from my parents’ home in Brooklyn. Roads were still barely plowed in New York City, but as I got closer to Syracuse the highways were almost totally clear. Even city streets were passable. I remarked to myself that Syracuse sure knew how to handle snow. I further wondered what all the fuss was about, why travel had been restricted on Sunday.

I parked in front of the gingerbread-style, three-story house on East Genesee Street where my studio apartment, with shared bathroom, occupied part of the top floor. As soon as I stepped out of the car the extent of the snowfall became apparent. Snow engulfed my legs up to my hips. I struggled to reach the front stairs, then made my way up to the third floor.

I opened the door to find half my apartment half covered in snow. The roof had caved in under the weight of the snow. It took several days for the landlord to repair the roof.

The rest of the winter passed without incident, though I was nervous each time I ventured out driving in the snow. My Buick Skylark, red with black vinyl top, weathered the winter with no dents, no fender bender, no scratches.

On a bright, warm early June day, diploma in hand, I packed the Buick up in the driveway shared with the house next door. The getaway was a few moments away. As I bent into the car to reposition my stereo, I looked out the passenger side window and saw another student’s car backing up, slowly, inexorably, toward me. I screamed, “Stop!” I waved my hands. To no avail.

Thunk! Broadsided in broad, summer daylight in my passenger side door. I shook my head in disgust. So close to escaping Syracuse.

I hate snow. I hate Syracuse.