What We Talk About When We Talk About Snow (in the South)

I started this post to tell you what it’s like when it snows in the South.

To recount, as we do, the trying, dark times of winter in places where snow is arguably inconsistent. In our daily airing of woes, this is exactly the tone of the conversation. We congregate around the industrial Keurig in the small breakroom near my desk at the office. Someone takes a resolute stance on traffic, another on the hourly weather forecast, still others on the lack of quality winter-wear and the relative hot or coldness of the building once we’ve travelled the non-salted, non-brined, non-plowed roads (this is my area) and make it into the office.

On Wednesday, it’s a rainy 60 degrees in Nashville. By Thursday morning, it will be 15 degrees and I may already be deep into this conversation, which will, no doubt, be the exact conversation from last week, verbatim – no irony. My social media feeds are replete with photos of snow: dogs in snow; kids in snow; skinny and lopsided snow-families against a backdrop of snow; calligraphy on car windows in snow font, much talk of “braving” the conditions we’ve been forced to endure though there is never a point where you can’t see dark green blades of grass sticking up through the accumulation. Our mutual dedication to our jobs compels us to emerge from the relative warmth of our apartment igloos and into the murky territory of a shared office space where we converge around the coffee maker, the warmest place in the building since they outlawed space heaters and gave us all fleece jackets instead.

We joke. #Snowocalypse. #Snowmaggedeon. #Snowmygod. When the snow fell on President’s Day, we said: #Snobama and laughed at our own ingenuity (though we weren’t the first to coin the phrase).

We’re a diverse group of white women — which is to say, we are basically, exactly the same. Almost all of us were born tow-headed, worshipping at the altars of country music legends, and have penchants for anything with a “Mama’s recipe” disclaimer. We’re loosely separated in regard to our accents or lack thereof, age and prime time television preferences. We don’t talk about politics or world events and we don’t stray too far into community news. To talk outside of our well-defined conversation hearts might cause our co-working plateau to be suddenly and irrevocably revealed as a thick, topographic map of divided beliefs from which even superficial friendships are doubtful to survive.

But the weather, the weather we can do. Talking about the weather is where we excel, where we bond, where we discover essential truths about each other like how this is totally something Dorothy Jane Torkelson would say and how we’re going to give a piece of our minds to the weather guy who predicted eight inches of snow when we got two inches of ice. “It’s really bad out there,” one of us says, and then another with slightly different wording. After a few minutes, we resort to the phrase again, because you know, it’s really bad out there. You know how in Alaska they have 50 words for snow and 70 words for ice? We’ve got them too.

According to my TimeHop app (which I was guilted into downloading), one year ago I was trapped in a house with my parents for three days because of ice – which I should probably mention now, is really what we talk about when we talk about snow in the South. Snow is not the enemy; the enemy is ice. Ice is romantic and fantastical until you realize you can’t make it to your car without crawling and the shiny tint on the door is actually a solid inch of you’re-not-getting-in.

The three days wouldn’t have been that bad if I didn’t have to work at the same time – joining a conference call in my sister’s childhood bedroom while trying to get comfortable in a pair of borrowed purple velour pajama pants. Near the end of it, I was so desperate to leave the house, a veritable cocoon of weird smells at that point, I wrapped myself in three pair of sweatpants, the thickest-soled boots I could find, pulled an ostrich pillow around my head and crawled down the front steps for what I hoped would be a photogenic adventure. I made it as far as the end of the driveway, looking like something from an X-File, before I slipped, fell and began awkwardly sliding toward the road, finally coming to a stop in the hard, re-iced grooves of tire tracks.

When we talk about snow, we talk about ice, and this snow compared to all the other snows in our lifetimes; we talk about the ice storm of ’94; the brother stuck on I-65 for two days and the river that’s likely to rise when the temperature moves into the 60s next week. The thing about the snow and ice, and part of what I learned last week, is that it can be a little isolating, and it’s nice to know we’re all out there, in it together.


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