I haven’t had a snow day since I was 17. I’m 50 now. So that’s a certain number of years.
That’s not to say there haven’t been days when snow has fallen. It’s to say that in the early 1980s colleges didn’t close for snow. After that I was always a journalist, and journalists don’t get snow days.
I have some vivid snow workday memories, though. I remember driving my brand-new 1986 Toyota Tercel over the snow-packed roads of rural Floyd County with photographer Gene Dalton, heading to cover a house fire. I’d always had rear-wheel drive, but in this little front-wheel-drive hatchback, I was invincible. We got there fast, but the fire was out already. So we spent the day reporting and photographing a weather story for our employer, the Roanoke Times & World-News. (That paper is now just the Roanoke Times, but I bet its news staff still calls it the Big Lick Times, BLT for short.)
A couple of Januarys later I was the paper’s Shenandoah bureau chief, the inflated title that came with the one-person news office in Lexington. It snowed all day, but I was stuck in the office writing a Sunday story. I finally left about 4 p.m. to make the 17-mile drive to my rented home, an outbuilding of a stately old house in Brownsburg. I never made it out of town, stopped by the sickening crunch of my hood into a telephone pole. They towed away my car, and I spent that night at the Keydet General motel. The next day my colleague and mentor Mary Bishop came and fetched me and took me to her house for a couple of days till I could borrow a car from the newspaper. There’s something to be said for owing a lot on a car. The insurance company opted to fix it rather than total it, thank God. I drove it another hundred thousand miles or so, then sold it.
I worked for The Free Lance-Star after that. I remember many snows and ices and snow-ices and ice-snows, and we worked them all. There might’ve been a couple of times when it snowed on my day off, so I didn’t have to go in. And during the very worst snow I ever saw, the Blizzard of ’96, I was also as sick as I have ever been, with a delirious whole-body 103-degree flu. My reporter friend Rusty Dennen finally crunched his four-wheel-drive over my un-plowed rural Stafford road to get me. But he only took me to the doctor and home again, where I stayed for another few miserable days. By the time I was well enough to go back to work, the roads were plowed, though snow stayed on the ground for weeks.
At least I lived out in the county then. When I moved back into the city in early 2000, I became a de facto member of the snow crisis team. When other reporters, editors, and copy editors couldn’t make it in, I could, dammit. I lived close enough to walk. I worked a lot of snow days from 2000 to 2012. It stopped being an adventure. It made me grumpy.
In December, I got this nifty job with the University of Mary Washington, writing and editing for University Publications. And wow! These days, colleges do close when the weather is really lousy. January and February brought no really lousy weather, though, and I figured we were out of luck for this winter. Then this happened. It isn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
So far today I’ve started this blog, taken a nap, force-marched the reluctant hound around the neighborhood, and baked six dozen chocolate chip cookies. I’m reveling in it. And I’m already eyeing the forecast for tomorrow.