"Potential editorial material: WHY WOULD THE REC CENTER CLOSE DUE TO WEATHER? What else do they expect students to do when they can't go to class, drink? Nonsense."
Receiving this e-mail from a concerned member of the University of Richmond community elicited a few responses as I considered it. First, I appreciated the column inspiration and view of the opinion section as a trusted forum for grievances. Second, yes: No doubt Natty cans were cracked with the first fall of flurries.
Third, I struggle to trek to the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness even when it doesn't entail a cross-country ski trip. Snow might award Olympic medals for physical feats come this weekend, but as the Richmond bubble morphed into a giant snow globe the last two weeks, rows of people chained to ellipticals and treadmills stood no chance against the comfy confines of my bed.
But clearly to some people they did, which inspired not only the following look into what the snow has meant for different people, but also the lesson of how we can always benefit from looking at situations from as many perspectives as possible. True, as Reilly Moore captured in his sports column last week, weather does not discriminate, as the snow has blanketed everyone. But spending time to observe the nuances of the effects of even a trivial topic can serve as good practice for being more conscious when it comes to more serious ones.
For me, snow granted a break from the real world, despite having to wrest it from the unyielding decisionmakers who waited until 10 a.m. yesterday to close the university for one precious snow day. The intriguing decision to post that information on an obscure hotline that nobody calls while they waited another half hour to send a message via a fairly modern tool that faculty, staff and students check 500 times a day — e-mail — unnecessarily dragged employees and off-campus students onto treacherous roads only to send them home again.
I'm still not sure how university administrators managed to collude with even Mother Nature in their evil plan to ensure we never have days off (I'm already looking forward to celebrating President's Day in the classroom on Monday). But after strategically placing the first two semester snowfalls during the weekends so we could still enjoy the profound pleasure of slip-and-sliding to class while area schools closed for more than a week, I'm glad she finally took a stand. The snow also afforded me another excuse to not do laundry, again.
But other snowpportunities have not been so attractive. Luckily, one professor had warned my class about Virginians' frantic responses to even the ficklest flurry forecast, so I was equipped to make sense of the jumble of shovels lying in the middle of CVS like a leftover game of pick-up sticks. Yet nothing could prepare me for the jungle that used to be Ukrop's — although I could've sworn The Collegian had reported that the sale of the chain wasn't for another few weeks.
The parking lot was packed, yet all the shelves had been ransacked. Panicked shoppers scurried to cram their carts with every item imaginable, leaving latecomers, such as myself, trailing them down the aisles longingly, hoping they dropped something, if even just a couple of crumbs we could scrape off the floor.
It was in this state of dark desperation that I spotted an unattended cart overflowing with mouthwatering munchies. An unfamiliar feeling surged within, and I had the sudden urge to lunge at the cart — as casually as possible of course — and roll it away as if it were my own. Thankfully, a second feeling — extreme shame — quickly chased away the first, leaving me with only a newfound perspective of the life of a looter (but still no food).
Fortunately for me and my stomach, snow for other people meant getting creative and courageous — snowgaritas and ambitious drives through the thick of the storm to procure breakfast. We even passed an intrepid or insane — take your pick — jogger who may or may not have been the sender of the aforementioned e-mail after the closure of the Weinstein Center forced him to the unplowed roads. An even more ambitious friend drove four hours for a solo ski trip, and another adventurer went cross-country skiing on the Intramural Fields.
But for others, the snow required more than my overdramatic anecdotes and exercise alternatives. An avalanche almost swallowed my friend on her way out of the B-School. Another student's fall outside Jepson Hall required two cop cars and an ambulance. Junior women had to walk themselves down The Jefferson's steps at Ring Dance because their parents' flights were canceled. Virginia legislators incurred further blows to the budget crisis after the December storm devoured Virginia's yearly allocation for snow removal. Selfless facilities and D-Hall employees slept on campus on inflatable mattresses in order to serve food and shovel walkways.
While I selfishly groaned about being awakened way too early after Ring Dance by snow blowers in neon orange jumpsuits, these employees were working on Super Bowl Sunday so I could leave my apartment. Six swarmed the University Forest Apartment walkways with shovels and snow blowers, and I even saw a white Bobcat machine ride across my front lawn. I'm not sure the baby backhoe was completely necessary, but I was amazed that all this was being done for us.
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Granted, I would hope there would be some kind of overtime bonus, and with 2.8 million laid off nationally in 2009, I'm sure people are eager for work. But I doubt they were happy about missing Puppy Bowl VI, which occurred at Animal Planet Stadium for an unnecessarily long period before the Super Bowl. Or as one shoveler said, "I just want to go home and eat a hot ham."
But at least they had homes to return to. When I finally stopped dwelling on my solemn desires for canceled classes and a better selection at Ukrop's, I started thinking about what in the world homeless people do during snowstorms.
When getting to Ring Dance in heels became the biggest snowbstacle of my day — luckily those Virginia legislators haven't mirrored D.C.'s plastic bag tax yet so I could still craft shoe covers — somehow visions of Holocaust death marches with people walking miles barefoot in the snow flashed to mind. Maybe it was just Stephanie Rice's news column last week on Holocaust survivor Alex Lebenstein, but maybe becoming more conscious about how circumstances affect others can not only help maintain an accurate perspective on our problems, but also create a more sensitive and cohesive community.
When I questioned my little sister about why she texted me about inflatable chairs from our childhood at 11 p.m. on a Saturday last weekend, her response was, "The snow's making me weird." So although the physical effects of snow may be obvious, apparently mental effects are possible as well. But instead of just making us weird, maybe it can also be a source of consciousness — and not just a reason for yet another kind of boots.
Contact opinion editor Maura Bogue at email@example.com
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