Thursday, February 24, 2011

Portland takes a Snow Day -- Hey, we need it!

No shoveling was needed to clear these walks.
By Barry Johnson

Arts Dispatch, as I've said many times, is stationed in Portland, Oregon, where today it is snowing. Sort of.  Readers on the East Coast might not think that our little dusting really constitutes "snowing," not after the Snow-mageddon that they've endured this winter.

Today, with the roads bare (mostly), the temperature inching above freezing and an inch or two of snow not quite covering the ground (maybe a little more in the hills or "higher elevations" as the local TV news has it), Portland has more or less shut down. Schools are closed. The freeways, usually jammed by now, are lightly traveled. A few souls are on the sidewalks, pretending that they may slip at any moment.

The people who have ventured into these onerous conditions seem a bit put out. Or they smile bravely and act as though their sense of duty is so great that they have taken on the risks associated with bare pavement. "I'm just crazy that way." Needless to say, local news stations are covering this "weather event" as though it were an End Times blizzard.

I used to think this was all ridiculous. It's what happens to people who live in a place with a narrow temperature spectrum (40F-80F), I thought. They become soft and silly.

But I have a new hypothesis. Portland closes down because Portland doesn't want to go to work.


We want to stay home and putter around, then maybe hit the local cafe or coffee shop. Linger a bit. Consider the situation in Libya or Wisconsin (Dear Wisconsin, Right wing crackpots buy our elections, too. Be strong. Love, Oregon). By noon, it's time to start thinking about provisions for dinner, and there's still plenty of time to get a soup or stew going. We have all afternoon!

We don't want to go to work. We know what's there, heck, we were just there yesterday. And for those of us who are freelancing, it's easy to blog a little and then pack it in because no one at a real job is working today: Self, how can I get anything done when no one returns my emails?

This is totally understandable. We work too much. Americans especially work too much (unless they are unemployed, which is another subject). Our workplaces are rarely creative or democratic. Our work is too infrequently connected to the public good. One of the things I like about Portland is that our chance to do creative, meaningful work for a fair employer is greater here than other places (possibly because we have tens of thousands of very small businesses with very few employees), but still, even so, it's easy to grind away at it six days a week, 50 weeks a year. And you know what I mean by "grind," even if you love your job, right?

So, yes, a Snow Day.  Or, like today, a Hint of Snow Day. We wink. We take the day off. Or stamp loudly on the floor to dislodge invisible flakes from our boots as we wander in to work a few hours late.  It's what we do to restore the balance, assert our freedom, contemplate the natural world and our place in it, repair the social sphere we neglect.

And after a day of this? We watch for tomorrow's forecast. Any chance those roads might be a little slippery?

12 comments:

Bob said...

Snow days lose some of their charm when your cat gets you up at 5:30 in the morning and then refuses to go out, but by then you're wide awake. And even at 5:30 it was obvious the streets were, shall we say, eminently navigable? On the other hand, I finished those last two chapters of "The Day of the Triffids" ....

cynseattle said...

I feel fortunate to wok in a place where we are all here this morning despite said "snow event," and we declared it "my baby does the hanky panky" day and turned up Tommy James real loud.

cynseattle said...

okay, I don't really wok. Well, only at home. Here, I work.

Barry Johnson said...

My dogs LOVE the snow. They lean over and run their muzzles through it at a high rate of speed.

Now, I have Tommy James running through my head -- "Mony, Mony, ride your pony..." They just don't write 'em like that anymore! And I'm sure my productivity will rise, now that part of my rain is parallel processing the Shondells' catalog. I think I'm going to start a "Wok to Work" program...

MightyToyCannon said...

Have technological improvements in weather forecasting over the past two decades made predictions of "weather events" any more accurate? Or are we too focused on what the Doppler3000MicroViewAccuWeatherPredictoScopeRadar satellite says?

Barry Johnson said...

MTC, Good question! Are we so focused on our new instruments that we've forgotten that weather forecasting is a form of connoissership? Personally, I believe Gorge Effects render useless much of what you learn in Weatherhuman School. The "artist weatherhuman" would always factor in that miraculous funnel...

Anonymous said...

We have an employee who did not make it in to work today. She lives in Beaverton and drives a 4X4 (like every other suburbanite, she probably doesnt realize that 4X4 means something besides "my car has 4 wheels.") We also have an employee who lives in London. He made it to work today and she did not.

Bob said...

Little wisp of white stuff in the air again! Quick! Let's cancel school for tomorrow, too!

Barry Johnson said...

Bob, I think tomorrow's excuse will be "black ice." Everything LOOKS OK, but treacherous conditions may yet abide.

Barry Johnson said...

Anon, 4X4 IS a little confusing. Where are the other 12 wheels, for example? And why not just 4-squared? The character from London hasn't yet learned how we play it here!

Rebecca Martinez said...

Oh, I miss Portland! I want to be where the city shuts down with just the threat of bad weather! I want to be where people, who dare not travel because of the roads, find refuge in coffee shops and journaling and poetry! After living on the east coast for the last 4 months, I long to be in Portland, where people have their priorities straight.

Diane said...

Piffle. You don't have snow. You want snow? YOU WANT SNOW????? Ok... sorry... it's been a bad winter back east...