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D.C. Snow’s Silver Lining

snowstormI admit it: I love the snow and the cold.

I love to be outside, gazing up at the stars on cold, crisp evenings. I love how the snow blankets my hillsides. And most of all, I love how snow disrupts daily life — particularly in Washington, D.C.

I lived in Washington for nearly eight years. No sooner do a few flakes fall from the sky there than incompetent drivers are in a panic and bureaucrats in the Office of Personnel Management make the call to shut down much of the federal government.

It’s ironic, if you think about it. The very same bureaucrats who desire to run every aspect of our lives are sent into panic and chaos because little white flakes are falling from the sky.

As cities in the North are pelted with several feet of snow, the sissies in Washington, barely receiving a proper dusting, shutter school buildings and government programs as though the end times were upon us. They do so not because too much snow falls, but because more snow might be headed their way.

The pubs in D.C. are always packed on such nights, as thousands of non-essential government employees — and there are lots of those — are required to stay home, which means they can afford a throbbing hangover in the morning.

Washington has long been unique this way. If you need someone to create a nationalized health-care system or initiate any of dozens of new programs that use our own money to tell us how we must live and work, there are thousands of individuals at your disposal.

These people happily sit in climate-controlled office buildings, crunching statistics, generating reports and performing many other activities without any regard to reality — so long as little white flakes don’t fall from the clouds.

But ask these same people to melt snow so the cars won’t wreck and they will look at you the way a dog would if you asked it to discuss quantum physics.

If you’re from Pittsburgh, or most other places outside of Washington, you tend to have a more practical approach to life. If your furnace breaks, you shop for a high-quality furnace at a good price and hire someone to install it.

If you’re self-employed, as I am, and don’t deliver, you won’t get more work. If you don’t get work, you will eventually be without shelter or heat. In Pittsburgh, you see, you live in reality.
When snow falls, you get out your shovel and remove it — and you also help make sure your neighbors, particularly your elderly neighbors, are safe in extra-cold conditions.

But if you’re from Washington, you’re wired the opposite way. You do work that isn’t necessarily necessary, and are well paid for it. If you work in politics, you can lie, cheat and slander others to get ahead — and if you get caught, depending on your political party, you’ll not only NOT get fired, you’ll probably get promoted.

So it’s no wonder that many folks in D.C. don’t have the first idea how to melt snow, that being something that actually matters.

It’s no wonder that otherwise all-knowing Washingtonians, who promise to do a better job running our lives than we can, are barely able to survive the relatively mild winters that are common to their region.

But that’s not all bad. As long as the snow and cold keep their town shut down, no new taxes or spending programs can be launched.

That’s why I love the snow and the cold so much.


Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Sean McClanahan Mysteries,” available at Amazon.com is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.


  • Cathi M.

    How nice for you to be able to continue to work, solo, unimpeded, in such weather! And what true charity you show on a religious site. Judge not, lest …
    I commute to DC from 65 miles out, and the commuter trains that get me to work, and a few other folks in my branch, were not running. Neither were the trains on the other commuter lines, the long-distance commuter buses, or for that matter, at one point, the subway and city buses.
    I’ve shared an office with daily commuters from Ladysmith, Va (about 85-90 miles south from town), King George, Va (50-55 miles, and a VERY scary bridge), Front Royal, VA ( about 75 miles west),Leonardtown, Md, Easton, Md., Aberdeen Md., Charles Town, WVa (75-ish miles) and Gettysburg, PA (gotta be 90+ miles!) The diameter of the commuting range around DC is nearly 200 miles across, edge to edge – in good, safe, driving weather. Too many people have to come too far to take chances.
    Everyone who could telecommute was warned to take a laptop home with them, and was required to telecommute, not take the day off. My work is on-site, with telecommuting not an option.
    There are many single parents and solo parents with deployed spouses who have to make arrangements for kids too young to stay home alone everytime the schools close – and they play it safe in the suburbs. There’s a school bus route about 2 miles from me that follows a dirt road uphill. Do you want to be the school board member who ordered the busses to run and had one slide into a ditch and overturn?
    Where did you get the idea that government workers are invariably going to be paid if they don’t make a risky trip in to work? If you aren’t a full-time, permanent worker WITH some leave saved up, a missed day is probably LWOP – Leave Without Pay. And, for every full-time federal worker staffing an office, there’s probably 1 or more private staff – cleaning and building services, security, part time intermittent staff, snack bar help, etc. Not making it in equalled lost wages for most of them. Metro shut the buses down in the evening. They’d have been stranded at work.
    As it was, I was at home during the 6 hours of sleet (yup, the ground was cold enough that it all stuck) and the 5 inches of snow that followed. Neighbors’ cars could not pull our hill the next morning when the government opened 2 hours late. One car got stuck across the driveway. I was blocked in, but one coworker was injured in a fall on the ice, trying to make it in.
    Where were the bars open & crowded? The only two coworkers I know who live in the city say it was a ghost town, with many bars and restaraunts closing early because patrons and staff weren’t coming, and because there were security concerns with police & fire response time delayed. Radio stations were broadcasting strong requests from local authorities to stay in unless it was an emergency. Local governments ASKED the Federals not to open, so that road crews had elbow room to work and because police and ambulance crews were overwhelmed on the interstates.
    Enjoy spring. I know I intend to.