Once again, I must marvel at how people go into a panic over bad weather around here — not only when snow or sleet is actually falling, but at just the mere mention of same.
One of the first things I do every morning is check the National Weather Service forecast on the Internet, to see which coat or jacket I should have on when leaving the house and venturing out into the cruel world. When I did so Friday morning, I was greeted with this report:
“Today snow and sleet” (which some might consider ominous on the surface), but upon reading further there was this telling tidbit: “Total daytime snow and sleet accumulation of less than one inch possible.”
“Oh, my God, stop the presses — we might get every bit of one inch!” the evil-twin part of my mind thought sarcastically.
Then the good-twin half interjected, as an overly protective parent might, admonishing my evil side: “But what about tonight, Mr. Smarty?”
So as I diligently read on, the forecast continued, “Tonight. A chance of snow and sleet (only 30 percent, mind you),” and then this clincher: “Little or no snow accumulation expected.”
Not exactly the stuff of Armageddon, or something to make one feel the need to pack up and go to Florida, find the nearest bomb shelter or even batten down the hatches.
Yet when I journeyed out into the world (after the evil twin sufficiently ridiculed the good twin for wringing his hands like a scared old washer-woman), I saw that the air was thick: Not with precipitation, but panic.
In the interest of full disclosure, some kind of white stuff WAS falling at the time which seemed to be a mixture of snow and freezing rain — but no biggie. The roads were fine, except for the speeding motorists trying to run me over as I crossed Renfro Street to reach Reeves Community Center, site of a senior health fair Friday (more on that later).
It’s funny how people drive faster when some kind of wintry precipitation is falling more so than under normal conditions when the pavement is dry. After mumbling my disgust toward a cell-phone-talking bimbo in an SUV barreling down Renfro Street (I hope she’s not a lip-reader), I chalked this off to the usual weather-related panic.
I’m sure that fine young lady had a legitimate reason for her haste, probably due to wanting to get to the supermarket before all the bread and milk were sold out (which I’ve never understood anyway).
When I finally got to the community center, I learned that half the scheduled exhibitors hadn’t bothered to show up because of the weather. Others were packing up early out of fears over the inevitable sky-is-falling scenario.
The health fair still was a success, with about 100 people already having come through and more trickling in to RCC. I guess they hadn’t gotten the memo about the world coming to an end.
Then when I arrived back at The Mount Airy News office I must admit that panic was thick in the air here as well. There was talk of early deadlines, school closings, postponed basketball games, etc., etc.
All because of that daytime/nighttime forecast of “snow and sleet accumulation of less than one inch possible” and “little or no snow accumulation expected.”
I was stricken by the realization that mankind, at least in this part of the country, is a pretty cowardly lot when it comes to any kind of wintry weather. Heck, the same thing happened on Thursday of last week when no snow came at all — just another dire forecast for the demise of Western civilization.
There also is a bit of irony linked to local people’s fear of weather which is associated with the present infatuation with sport utility vehicles. You know, the so-called off-road models, with intrepid-sounding names such as “Chevrolet Traverse,” “Nissan Pathfinder,” “Ford Explorer,” “GMC Terrain,” “Chevrolet Tahoe” “Ford Excursion” and so on.
(Television commercials for such vehicles usually show them speeding up the side of a mountain in the Himalayas, but certainly none of their drivers are from Mount Airy.)
This led me to conduct an informal survey of the News parking lot, which revealed that roughly half the vehicles sitting there were either SUVs or large trucks with four-wheel drive. I would guess the same ratio applies to all those in the community.
And while my observation revealed that there seems to be an ample supply of SUVs out there, courage is in rather short supply, I must say. It doesn’t matter if someone has a “Pathfinder” or Sherman tank parked in their driveway, if they’re too scared to drive either at any sign of wintry weather they might as well own a Schwinn.
It makes me wonder how all these Nervous Nellies in our midst would react if faced with a REAL crisis — weather or otherwise.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.