14 January 2010

Snow: Atlanta and Oxford

I’m back in Oxford, and it is a winter wonderland.  Meanwhile, I cannot get "You Can Never Hold Back Spring" out of my head.  (Thanks, Amber.)  Is this delusion or optimism on the part of my subconscious?  There can be such a fine line between the two.  Or maybe a cruel joke?

Here’s a little fact that may surprise you (at least, it surprised me): people, in this part of the country at least, deal with snow accumulation with about the same amount of panic as people in the Southern United States.  Since I left Georgia just hours before some wintry weather settled in, it’s been natural to compare British and Southern reactions to snow and ice. 

Similarity #1: If there’s a chance of snow in the forecast in Atlanta, everyone immediately rushes to the supermarket to buy milk, eggs, bread, etc. – all the staples.  This week, I picked my way through the snow to the nearest grocery store and discovered that there had been a similar ‘run’ on milk, bread, and fresh vegetables. 

Here, however, is an important, yet related point of contrast.  When it snows or ices in Atlanta, chances are it’ll accumulate overnight, be extremely treacherous for the morning commute, and vanish by mid-afternoon.  If you sleep in too late, you might miss the opportunity to see white stuff.   In Oxford, the snow has been on the ground and roadways for over a week now.  I’d say the run on the grocery store here was a little more justified than the ones in ‘Hotlanta.’

Similarity #2: No one knows how to walk in the snow.  I’m picking my way over sidewalks with the same amount of caution and nervousness as a local.  There was even an article on the BBC’s website about how hospitals are swamped with cases of snow-related injuries, particularly fractures, because people are just ‘falling over.’  (Plus the requisite injuries due to reckless stupidity: Exhibit A.)  I suspect that Atlantans would have the same issue if we walked more places.

Similarity #3: As far as I can tell, people don’t really know how to drive in snow here either.  That’s just judging from news reports and driving advisories.  Aside from a sleepy bus ride from the airport, I haven’t been on the roads to test out this theory properly.  In Atlanta, there are two ways drivers navigate “Rush Hour on Ice.”  (Sounds like a spin-off of a Jackie Chan movie, doesn’t it?)  Some become slow-motion drivers, maintaining the minimum amount of speed necessary to inch forward rather than slide backward.  They start to brake approximately a quarter mile away from a green light, anticipating that it will surely turn red before they get there.  (In actuality, it will likely cycle back to green before they even reach it.)  Others pretend like nothing has changed and drive like raving maniacs who think they are immortal.  This is, of course, how most Metro Atlanta drivers get from point A to point B on a normal day, and, while it’s always risky, it is particularly perilous on ice.  Get the slow-mo drivers and demoniac drivers out on the same 6 lane freeways, and… well, you can imagine the consequences.  Maybe those runs on the grocery store are justified, if only in the interest of not being on the road with these people.   No one wants to become a traffic statistic.

Similarity #4: Abundant snow sculptures.  Because it doesn’t snow much here, when it does people rush out and create all sorts of snowpeople, igloos, epic snowball battlegrounds, etc.  I didn’t see it, but I heard there was a snowman next to a bus stop with its arm extended as if hailing the driver.  People have especially had fun supplementing Oxford’s monuments and landmarks.  Albeit, the snowpeople in Georgia tend to be smaller in stature, since we usually only get a ½ inch or so at once, but I couldn’t help but notice a similarity in enthusiastic snow creativity.  I suspect that the excitement wears thin more quickly where it snows more frequently.

Alas, I must get back to work.  Anyone else have a snow-related anecdote to share?  


Amber Joy said...

It's good to know people are the same everywhere.

(I loved the video. I cracked up! Kent came running from the other room to see what all the fuss was about.)

Kelli said...

I discovered that website a few days ago, and it's been quite the black-hole of timing wasting ever since!

dps said...

Brilliant... as always! Photos?!

Kelli said...

By the time I thought of taking photos, it was grimy, several-days-old snow. You know - the stuff that partially melts during the day, gets all kinds of road grunge in it, and then refreezes at night, trapping the dirt like a prehistoric bug in amber. Not exactly photo worthy!