What kind of a nut goes outside into a much-ballyhooed blizzard? Well, obviously:
people who have to walk their dogs
somebody who’s out of groceries or diapers or other necessities like gin
You see a pattern? Clearly, it’s those who have a professional calling that won’t be interfered with, people who are selfless, those who are taking care of other creatures human or otherwise. Paragons of some kind of virtue or another, in other words. People who are better than the rest of us.
But, wait. I have to add one more category to this list that kind of taints the whole noble enterprise:
People who paid full price for theater tickets months ago — nonrefundable, no-excuses, don’t even think about whining if you’re deathly ill theater tickets. People who would rather freeze to death or be stranded in the storm of the century than miss something they’re dying to see and have paid a three-figure price for.
That last group would, of course, include people like my husband and me. By God, we had paid good money to see Present Laughter with Victor Garber and we were going to see it if it killed us. Because we love art! Because it would kill us to waste the money!
So, anyway, we set out two hours early, with dire storm warnings pleading with us to go nowhere unless it’s an emergency ringing in our wool hats. We looked, as we have this entire winter, like a couple of overly ripe Eskimos, wrapped in layers of down and wool and cotton long underwear. Unattractive, admittedly, but fiercely determined and full of pioneer thrift and spirit.
New Yorkers, I knew, never freaked out unnecessarily about snow — unlike, say, residents of farther-south regions of the country like Washington, D.C. I knew this because a woman in my yoga class had told me. “I can’t believe all that whining in D.C.,” she had said, rolling her mat and her eyes at the same time. “I saw pictures of that snow there — and it was nothing. New Yorkers wouldn’t even have noticed that little snow. It wouldn’t have stopped anything here.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, agreeing, as if I weren’t from a part of the country that immediately becomes hysterical, buys out stores, and closes school districts based purely on rumors of snow. “I know.”
So, if take-charge, panic-at-nothing, unflappable New Yorkers were closing schools and canceling events and shutting down stores to prepare for the blizzard — we must be certifiably crazy to go out into it. When we arrived at Times Square, the snow was pelting us in the face and the dazzling light show was shrouded in white. For once, it wasn’t crowded. Most employees had been sent home from their jobs early.
But the theater was open and cheerful and brightly lit. The show must go on! Inside, maybe a third of the seats had been taken. “I’m moving to a better seat,” the woman next to us said. “I hate sitting behind somebody with a big head,” she added accusingly. “Are you sitting behind somebody with a big head? You might want to move, too.”
No, we said, whispering and hoping she’d take the hint, the heads in front of us were pretty normal-sized.
“I just hate big heads,” she said loudly.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, the play was wonderful — funny, perfectly timed, entertaining. Its set was lavish art deco, full of polished wood and swirls and elegance.
Three hours later, we stepped out onto the street, expecting Times Square to have turned into a tundra. But it looked pretty much the same. The storm, it turned out, had been overbilled by melodramatic TV anchors and hyperbolic meteorologists. The show might have gone on, but the big snow hadn’t. I think we’ve learned a lesson, even if I’m not quite sure what it is.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about another case of weather hyperbole of the rain variety