Snowbound snowflakes

04Jan18

They don’t make snow days like they used to.

I don’t know when everything changed. Maybe it was the Blizzard of ’78 that traumatized us to the point where we no longer take any chances.

Way back in the 20th century, when I was a youth, we never had the luxury of knowing 24 hours ahead of time that school was cancelled. Back then, we still had to get up early for school and huddle around the wireless, listening intently through practically the entire alphabet, hoping that when they got to “W” we heard the word “Wakefield.”

I can understand some of the rationale for cancelling school earlier. With more single-parent families and many families where both parents work, it’s a lot easier if they have more notice.

When I was a kid – and granted, that was during the Stone Age – we took something called a “school bus,” or we walked (through waist-high snow, uphill both ways). Those who took the bus didn’t get picked up and dropped off at their doorstep either. We had to walk up to a quarter mile to what was known colloquially as a “bus stop.”

Today’s kids and parents would be horrified by those scenarios. These days, rain or shine, young Caitlin and Cooper are driven to and from school by mommy or daddy, right up through high school.

So, it’s no longer as simple as whisking little Johnny out the door in the morning in boots, gloves and a hat to slog through a few inches of snow to catch the school bus. It’s more complicated now. Sometimes it’s easier on everyone to just cancel school.

We also didn’t have the internet when I was a kid. We barely had television. No school meant no learning.

Today, thanks to technology, Wakefield Public Schools have something called the Learn Anywhere Project. The idea is that kids know in advance of schoolwork they are expected to do when school is cancelled due to weather. Kids access their assignments using Google Classroom or the Learn Anywhere web site.

But to be fair to students who don’t have Internet access, forgot to bring resources home or who experience a power outage, no assignment is ever due on the day they return to school. “Compliance,” the Learn Anywhere website reassures us, will never be used as a measure of learning or the success of the Learn Anywhere program.

Of course it won’t.

Something tells me there’s going to be a lot of learning today at the video game console, while the more athletic and adventurous might learn anywhere they can find a good sledding or snowboarding hill. Or maybe some will be learning how to shovel off a section of Lake Q so they can work on their figure eights.

In previous generations, we loved our snow days, but we also knew there was a price to pay. One’s delight at having those snow days off in January and February becomes a bitter cold memory on June 28 when it’s a sunny 85 degrees and you’re sitting in Spanish class. Thanks to “Learn Anywhere,” today’s kids have been liberated from having to make up days at the end of June.

Back in the olden days, a snow day was also seen by many kids as a business opportunity. Once you finished shoveling out your own house, you threw your shovel over your shoulder and went looking for houses that weren’t shoveled. You trudged up to the front door and offered to clear the driveway and walkways for a couple of bucks.

In the last 20 years, exactly one pair of youths has ever offered to shovel me out. I was grateful, as I was a little under the weather at the time, so I paid them up front and retreated back into the warm house. When I checked an hour later, they had shoveled a path exactly the width of my car from my rear bumper to the street and left everything else to me.

Fortunately, I’m still hale and hearty enough to do my own shoveling, but as I enter my dotage, I may have to consider investing in a snow blower.

Snow days aren’t what they used to be, but take heart. Climate scientists say that in a few decades there will be no more snow.

Maybe I’ll hold off on that snow blower.

[This column originally appeared in the January 4, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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2 Responses to “Snowbound snowflakes”

  1. 1 Angrybitch

    You’re literally one of the most daft, butthurt old men in this town. How you’re still writing for the paper is beyond me. God forbid times change you foreboding old wart. I look forward to reading your obituary.


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