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GARY SMITH: Northern exposure

NW Arkansas samples how the other half lives by Gary Smith | February 19, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

To the person or persons who elected to give up heat, electricity and water for Lent, could I ask a small favor? While we may all appreciate the depth of your commitment, could we collectively ask that, in the future, you make sure that this is an individual request on your part and not a regional one?

Asking for a friend. And, generally speaking, the entire Southwest.

It would seem that the events of the past few days are yet another once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon in a rolling series of once-in-a-lifetime phenomenons or the very cruel answer to all of us who may have asked, "Can't get any worse, can it?"

Yes. The answer is always "yes."

On the bright side (and yes, the glare of a snowbank can be very bright, but that's not it), if you were wondering, given the fact that the pandemic still rages, if it's a good idea to get out of the house, you'll be pleased to know that that option, frankly, doesn't exist. You have effectively been relieved of the tyranny of too many choices.

There is, however, value to the winter weather that has blanketed the region (and don't even start with the whole "getting to spend time with family" thing. I think most of us may have ridden that horse as much as we'd care to, thank you). The value is that it either serves as a demonstration of how the other half of the country lives or a reminder of why you now live here.

For those who have never experienced the magic of a northern winter, well, this is it. OK, maybe with ice hockey and snowmobiles, but yeah, pretty much ... this.

And by "this," I mean, basically, a daily struggle to combat the elements' very public attempt to do you in. Maybe the heat will go out. Maybe the pipes will freeze. Maybe you won't be able to get out of your driveway or even down to the end of the street. Maybe packs of wolves and polar bears. OK, probably not the wolves and polar bears, but you never know.

I recall the sense of anticipation that awaited us every morning in the North when we would hop out of bed to see if the heater had survived the night's negative temperatures or if the car would start. Not exactly the childlike wonder that accompanied Christmas, mostly because no matter which way it went, you would probably be shoveling snow. Which, due to the impacts of lake-effect storms, would be like trying to lift a snow shovel blade full of bricks.

So if all this brings back fond memories of your childhood or at least earlier times, let me be the first to say, well, I guess it takes all kinds. And that the phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder" can also apply to four-foot snow drifts.

For those of you who haven't spent much time in less temperate climes, here you go. This week is sort of like a trip to the zoo for you -- if you spent all your time in the Arctic animals exhibit and you couldn't leave, but ran out of food. And your kids still had to go to virtual school or remote learning or whatever it's being euphemistically called now.

If there was one upside to winter weather in the North, it was the possibility that you'd have a snow day. And now, since many of our kids are attending school from the dining room, they get the joy of looking up from their iPads long enough to witness the falling flakes before going back to not learning math. They can't send you home if you're already there.

The possible advantage of all of this is that, unlike the situation for folks north of here, all the snow and ice will be gone by next week and we'll be back to complaining about drivers for more conventional reasons. Of course, the fact that we're expecting spring-like temperatures in just a few days does make any potential damage you may consider doing to yourself or your vehicle just to get out of the house a bit more problematic. I mean, really, can't it wait?

And if the promise of, if not spring, at least spring-like weather isn't enough to make you feel better, try this. I say it a lot about a lot of things, typically more of a political nature. But, in this case, it covers the weather as well.

Could be worse. You could be in Texas.

Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.

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