Living Through The Siege of a Blizzard
Winter time and the livin's not easy
The Article The Buffalo News Would Not Publish
It is 2010 and I now live in Phoenix, AZ. Back when I still lived in Buffalo, NY I wrote this article about surviving a snow storm. I had been published in the Buffalo News in the past and I thought that this would be a fun story to which everyone in Buffalo could relate. It turns out that any negative slant on weather in Buffalo is taboo. I think it has something to do with survival as a city. Well, I like this piece and when I re-read it now it reminds me of that experience and the reason why I sought out a dry hot climate.
Buffalo Under Seige
This is the third day of the worst blizzard in the history of the most prolific snow city in the United States… Buffalo, NY. My daughter Renee lives with me in an upstairs flat in my mother’s home. My mother Irene lives downstairs. Most days this is not a problem… after three days of being trapped indoors with them I start daydreaming about how I will lock them both in the basement. Blizzard Time must not be mistaken for normal time like three days one might experience in the real world. Three days trapped indoors during a blizzard is long enough to grow a beard… even if you are a woman. If you don’t believe me paint your windows white and lock yourself in for three days with your loved ones… we’ll see how long they remain your loved ones.
If I could just get rid of my family I could luxuriate in my solitude while eating all the left over Christmas cookies. I could watch something I like on TV… a dramatization of a Jane Austin novel or something about archaeology. After three days socked in with these two women I have become used to the whining when I try to watch the Discover Channel. If I don’t hear it I adjust the volume looking for the high pitched nasally noise that I’ve come to associate with educational television. My daughter wants to watch those blind date shows. My mother wants to watch movies about women who, against all odds, get rid of an abusive husband, save their daughters from a drug and prostitution ring, or cure themselves of eating disorders by meeting a man who loves them just the way they are. The real problem is that if these things are on TV I will watch them. I feel my brain melting away and if I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the screen I see a dazed face, mouth agape with the expression of a cave woman trying to figure out an Epilady. The movies invariably make me cry and I’ll sit there through dozens of commercials for antidepressants and wonder how the announcer can get through all those side effects without changing their cheerful tone of voice… but then again maybe they’re paid in medication. Normally we are three women in one house who rarely cross paths. Right now there are seven feet of snow blocking every path between here and Pennsylvania. If we kill each other we couldn’t even be buried properly until spring.
When you are trapped in the house for days at a time you notice things. Little things that ordinarily you could not see without an electron microscope. You see that there are more brown hairs of the approximate length of your daughter’s hair on the bathroom floor than red ones. You notice that the inside of the cabinets in the bathroom needs organization. There are way too many little plastic bottles from hotels. You suddenly feel compelled to co-join the 7 bottles of shampoo with two tablespoons of substance at the bottom of each. Compelled might be too soft a term… maybe driven is more accurate. All of a sudden there are nicks in the paint, fingerprints on the woodwork, dust balls in the corners of carpeted rooms and piles of papers that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. At least you have never noticed them before.
Your photo organization project that’s been on hold since your daughter’s prom 9 years ago takes on a whole new significance. You spread out photos and negatives across the dining room table like your life depends on it. You make little piles of family, friends, old boyfriends, and a parade of photos of you spanning from 32 and sexy to 45 and puffy… Mental note: No new photos until you lose 20 lbs.
And then there’s that diet you’ve been on… the one where you eliminate white flour, all natural sugar products, and never combine carbs with fats. Up until the storm you were doing great, you fit into your black jeans. In cold climates it’s more important to be thin in the winter when you need to fit into your jeans while you’re wearing long underwear. You ponder these thoughts as you pull the peanut butter cookies out of the oven and eat all the broken ones so your cooling tray looks like the ones in the woman’s magazine downstairs at your mother’s… the one you laugh at your mother and daughter for reading. You cook everything in the house. You convince yourself that you are doing it because the house is warmer when the oven is on. You eat everything in the house. You convince yourself that you need the extra calories to keep up your rigorous blizzard activities. You check yourself for bedsores after your third nap in one day.
Everything becomes a tragedy. “Oh no! I can’t get the Scotch Tape off the refrigerator where I had my grocery list of things I’ll buy when I can move my car out of the seven feet of snow that it’s buried under!” The seven feet of snow seem like a pittance to the inch and a half of tape goo that you can’t get off. Note: Add Gunk Off to shopping wish list.
You make an attempt to go outside and shovel. First you must dress appropriately which means trying to attach your entire wardrobe to your body. The first layer over the obligatory underwear is your nice smooth micro fleece long underwear. Next comes the turtleneck and fleece lined nylon pants. On top of that comes a ski sweater and the pair of jeans that fit you when you were 20 pounds heavier. You now look 30 pounds heavier. Two pairs of socks and Thinsulate waterproof boots. Why do you never have reliable shoveling gloves? Could it be because you have tried to make it a habit never to shovel? Two pairs of inadequate gloves and a hat that you tuck your hair into and look like a mole. Your skin is ruddy because on the second night of the blizzard you noticed, after examining your face with that electron microscope, that your pores looked enlarged. You gave yourself two facials and burned the epidermal layer crisp.
You wait for the driving ban to be lifted. Every local television station runs continual closings listed along the bottom of the screen. You sit there with the sound off and watch as Baby Pumpkin Patch Day Care cycles past time and again. Buffalo: Driving Ban in effect, State of Emergency. I’ll tell you what’s a state of emergency… I’m running low on coffee and the local Gas and Go has no milk… THAT’S what I call a situation. This is Buffalo, it’s supposed to snow, I can drive in a blizzard with zero visibility but I can’t go one morning without my caffeine… I take the law into my own hands and drive the two blocks to get into Cheektowaga where the ban was lifted at noon. If the police stop me I plan on making up an elaborate story about how I’ve been trapped in my car for two days. Lord knows I look a mess with my blotchy skin and strands of matted hair drifting out of my ugly hat. Maybe I’ll even get a police escort? I’ve always wanted a motorcade.
Then comes the big question: Why do I live here? When Cheech or was it Chong… I can never get those two straight (no pun intended) came to Buffalo he screamed at the audience, “Don’t you people know you can leave?” We all know we can and we all plan to leave every December through April. We all pack our bags and put our homes on the market and look for jobs on the Internet in Phoenix, Miami, and Bora Bora but once the spring hits we all get weather amnesia and it never seems as bad as it was. Or we say things like “Well, at least we don’t get hurricanes.” or “I don’t have to worry about an alligator eating my dog when he goes out into the yard.” Yes, we actually say these things. Or we get proud of our weather… like someone is proud of doing something crazy like climbing Mount Everest or wrestling a grizzly bear. We’re a strange group of survivors who, instead of leaving after enduring, stay every year to survive again.
And the snow keeps falling. The awning over the upstairs porch is bending under the weight of snow. The roof over the door is bowed. The icicles that hang from the roof are three feet long and six inches in diameter. One hour of thaw could lobotomize the papergirl and the mailman in one fell swoop. Now my daughter is asleep and my mother is on the phone with my sister who lives in Orlando and it’s almost like time to myself.
I call my boyfriend who lives in Colden. Michael is viewing this as a camping trip. He tells me he hasn’t bathed in three days and the Southtowns haven’t even gotten hit yet. He describes his coarse curly hair that he usually tends more vigilantly than a hairstylist at a Gigit movie as “one huge matted hair.” I can hardly wait to see him again. Michael is not unhappy about the weather. He skiis and he watches TV… the two most popular winter sports in Western New York. I usually do neither.