On Monday, I did what most of you probably did: I skipped work because of the snow. Oh, there's little doubt I could have made it in to the office. I would have had to drive slower, but a little dusting of snow and sleet doesn't stop the rest of the civilized world from going about its business. But no one would have been in the office, so why bother?
Don't get me wrong. As I sat by a blazing fire, book on my lap, coffee at my side, I was grateful for the gift of a day off. But it felt like more than that. It felt like a holiday.
And in fact, a snow day in Memphis has all the trappings of a traditional holiday. It begins, like Christmas, with a shopping frenzy, as we scurry to grocery stores to stock up on our traditional Snow Day foods: bread and milk. The Snow Day spirit abounds as we wait in long lines, smiling and laughing in anticipation of the excitement to come. "They're saying we might get six inches," the cashier says. "Oooh, goody," we say, shivering in anticipation.
And when Snow Day comes, as with all holidays, we get a day off to spend with friends and family. We make Snow Day lawn decorations — creative snow creatures and forts. We have snowball fights. And we somehow manage to overcome our deathly fear of driving in the snow to drive all over town to our few meager hills, where we spend hours sliding on homely little sleds of cardboard and plastic. It's so cheery!
The streets are mostly clear, but the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians enjoying the snow-dusted magnolias and monkey grass and watching their dogs make yellow snow. Another tradition!
I say it's high time we recognize that we in the South do snow differently. Up North, they see it as weather, as extra work — shoveling, scraping, etc. In the South, the snow melts before we have to deal with any of that tedious stuff, so we see the snow as a rare gift, a welcome change in our routine. And, let's be honest. We see it as a paid holiday.
So why not formalize it? The mayor and city council could strike a blow for the city's often-beleaguered image by declaring the first significant snowfall of the year an official Memphis holiday. Imagine the happy PR we'd get from all over. We'd be seen as a quirky and fun town. Forbes magazine would be hard-pressed to call us "miserable," for sure. It's just crazy enough to work.
So, come on, Mayor Wharton. Run with it. A grateful citizenry awaits. Oh, and happy belated Snow Day.
Editor's note: This column first appeared in the January 13, 2011, issue, but I thought it might be time to rerun it. Especially, since we were all off Monday, due to the ... snow.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...