Like a politician forced into an argument that he can never win, I find myself addressing a subject that I have vowed never to address in a formal setting. I loathe the subject so much that I once devoted a column in this space many years ago to explaining why I don’t like to discuss it.
But here I am today, reluctantly, beginning a discussion about, yes, the weather.
It’s specifically the snow, of course, that has prompted this discussion. Have you heard about the snow? It could be three to five inches, starting at around 4 a.m. Tuesday and continuing into Wednesday. Or it could start as a wintry mix (wouldn’t that taste good with some seasoned road salt on it?), turning to freezing rain, and then back to snow. But then the storm could take a different track, and it could be all snow and it could be 8 to 12 inches. Hey, is that enough snow for you?
Actually, the result of this storm could be any of the above or all of the above or none of the above. The one thing for sure is that it will come and then it will go and then it will get warm and eventually hot. And on some blistering day in August someone will say “hot enough for you?” and then wish that they could trade that day for the day of the February blizzard. At that point I’ll change the conversation to baseball, because at least the outcome of any season is not pre-ordained.
For some reason this winter I have not been able to deflect the weather talk as deftly as I have in the past. This might be because some of the current spate of bad weather has coincided with our delivery days. And our deliverers, like a lot of other people, can get excited by bad weather, as well as the prospect of bad weather. That means Tuesdays around our office, when we should have our heads down trying to get the final details nailed down on the paper that is in your hands today we are instead answering phone calls from deliverers: “Have you heard about the snow? It could be three to five inches” . . . And so on.
OK. So what about the snow? Herewith my deepest thoughts on this shallow topic:
Be prepared. If you have or pretend to have a mission-critical job, make sure you have a four-wheel drive car. Add to that a snow shovel and you should be able to move around in most any blizzard we will face in central New Jersey.
In the great Blizzard of ’96 the streets of Princeton were proclaimed “closed.” We had a newspaper to publish, nonetheless, so I set off in my ‘87 Subaru, bound for an all-nighter at the office on the other side of Route 1. On Nassau Street, sure enough, I was stopped by a policeman, who accepted my argument and let me proceed.
At the old intersection of Alexander Road and Route 1 I encountered a more formidable obstacle — a bank of snow left by a plow on Route 1. Out came the snow shovel. After 15 minutes or so I had an alley cleared.
At the corner of Alexander and Roszel Road, about a quarter mile from the office, I encountered a more formidable road block: a bank of snow from a plow and the entire length of Roszel unplowed. I pulled the car into the driveway of the house owned by the veterinarian and asked if I could leave it there. Someone inside said yes. The paper was printed and delivered that Wednesday. A week or so later I brought the vet a bottle of champagne.
Have a plan. Sitting around talking about the snow for an hour or so and then deciding that you should close the office early, open it late, or take the whole day off and then begin the snow talk again the next day is not a plan.
A plan calls for some action. It’s a good thing because the snow is one of those natural adversities that an office can attempt to overcome by rallying around and celebrating individual effort. Here at U.S. 1 I have tried to impress everyone with the importance of delivering our papers on the day it is scheduled for delivery, Wednesday, regardless of how bad the weather is that day. If we don’t get it out Wednesday, then we want to get it delivered as soon as possible on Thursday.
Our plan hinges on us pushing the process as far as we can at every point. If (and this has never happened) the printer tells us the paper can be printed on Tuesday night but it will be impossible for our trucker to pick it up Wednesday morning, our strategy is to go ahead and print it and get it to the loading dock. If our trucker says he can get it up to our parking lot but he doesn’t think any drivers will be able to meet him, we say get it to the lot. If the deliverers say they can get the papers into their cars but can’t reach the offices, we say get the papers into the cars. When the path is cleared we will be ready to go.
Use your head. Four wheel drive may help you get through deeper snow than would otherwise be possible, but it doesn’t give you any extra traction once you are moving. Your tires do that and you should be sure that yours have plenty of tread. And stopping on slick roads is as difficult for cars with four-wheel drive as it is for two-wheel drive — give yourself lots of room to stop.
And remember that the road hazards caused by snow can be just as bad or worse the day after the storm. Plowed snow turns two lane roads into one lane or one and a half lane. Acceleration ramps that you normally use to move seamlessly from, say, Alexander Road to Route 1 South, are suddenly unavailable, forcing you to either slow down quickly or merge abruptly into high-speed traffic.
Well, is that enough snow talk for you? I’m done, for sure, and I won’t be around this Wednesday, February 2. Going hunting, for groundhog.