Preface: Over the past month or so, New England was hammered by a series of snowstorms, which resulted in more than a few snow days. My high school had at least five (honestly, I lost count); my niece's school had maybe eight-- three of which were just for "snow removal."
In the midst of what I started to call "January vacation", something truly bizarre happened: students and teachers started to get sick of all the time off. They actually wanted to go back to school.
So, during one of my snow days, I sat down to write an article about "Anti-Snow Day Rituals"-- a sequel of sorts to a piece I wrote in 2008. Convinced I hit a home-run, I sent the piece into my contact at the Hartford Courant-- who eventually declined it.
I guess I can't blame him. By the time I sent it in, the worst of the snow had passed, which made the piece much less topical. (Or maybe he just thought it was lame. Who can say?)
But, hey, I wrote it, and I think I have some good zingers in here, so I figured I'll put it on the ol' blog. Who knows? Maybe we'll have a freak blizzard in March, and this will suddenly become The Most Relevant Artcle Ever. With the winter we've had so far, it's anyone's guess.
Anyway, here's the Anti-Snow Day piece...
An urgent plea to school children everywhere: Put the spoons back in the drawer. Now.
It started innocently enough. Just a few weeks ago, on the eve of the first major snowstorm of the year, students of all ages were snug in their beds, sleeping in their inside-out pajamas with spoons under their pillows.
Maybe, earlier in the evening, they had thrown some ice cubes in the toilet. Maybe they ran five times around their kitchen table. The rituals vary, but the goal remains constant: to conjure up a glorious—and gloriously elusive—snow day.
Well, it worked—all too well. We got our snow day. And another. And another. We got so many snow days, in fact, that we actually started to get sick of them.
It seems as the snow piles up, snow-day enthusiasm goes down, for two main reasons. The first is purely practical: teachers and students alike are seeing how all these days off are eating into their summer vacations, and they don’t like it one bit. They want it to stop.
The second, more metaphysical reason has to do with preserving the sanctity of the snow-day phenomenon itself. Over the past month, we’ve watched our precious snow days degenerate into something commonplace, ordinary. What was once an unexpected break from routine has become the routine. The magic, the “will it or won’t it?” giddiness associated with snow days, is gone.
Once upon a time, you would wake up the morning of a potential snow day, look out your window, and dash downstairs, to the computer or TV, to check the school cancellation listings. And when your school’s name came up, you would thank God or your superintendent for this amazing gift.
All that’s changed. Now, when teachers and students see their school’s name on that listing, they don’t feel that sense of dizzying rapture. Instead, they feel apathetic, or worse: vaguely disappointed.
Thus, we now find ourselves in this Bizarro Winter, when students and teachers are clamoring to go to school. And so, we must act. We must re-set the universe. We must engage in Anti-Snow Day Rituals.
Never heard of Anti-Snow Day Rituals? Not surprising, because they don’t exist (for obvious reasons). But I’m sure we can come up with something.
The obvious route is take every activity you’ve been doing to encourage the snow, and do the opposite. Flush boiling water down the toilet rather than ice cubes. Instead of running around your kitchen table, walk around the same table, only backwards. (I don’t, however, recommend putting a fork under your pillow; this isn’t worth losing an eye over.)
Or perhaps we could borrow some of the techniques used by brides to ensure a sunny day for their wedding, such as boiling rocks or hanging rosary beads out windows.
Or maybe we just try something completely random: lining a window pane with rock salt, putting a black crayon in the freezer, eating Bit-o-Honey with toothpicks while wearing one red mitten. Silly and non-sensical, yes… but so is hiding a spoon under your bed while earing inside-out PJs.
Or maybe we forget all the ritualistic bombast and appeal directly to the Snow Miser himself, the wizard responsible for all this crazy weather. We could humbly apologize for all our past Snow Day Ritual transgressions. We could swear we’ve learned whatever lesson he was trying to teach us—about delaying gratification, about “how too much of a good thing is not a good thing.” And we could promise that we will never, ever put spoons under our pillows again.
Well… at least, not until next year.