Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow days and generation"me"

The people in Southeastern Michigan woke up to 4 inches of new snow this morning. It was blowing and drifting in spots, so there was a 1-3 inch variation of depth in some areas. My neighbor and I laughed as we met in the street and briefly discussed what was on the ground versus how bad the conditions were supposed to be based on the hype from the local news stations. The Storm Team 2007-Blizzard-Tracking-Panic Propagators were not as accurate as their doom and gloom predictions--- again.

As a kid on a day like today we'd still have to get up and get ready for school, fully expecting to go until we heard otherwise. The Royal Oak School District was known for rarely permitting a day off because of inclement weather. This was true even when surrounding districts closed with a lesser accumulation of snow.

In my youth, the minute we'd hear the voice on the WJR school closing update say "Royal Oak Public Schools, closed," you could almost hear a collective "waaa-hoo" in my neighborhood. We'd rush to get into our winter weather gear and head outside.

Snowballs flew randomly at first, at trees, houses or into nothingness as we'd quickly see if the snow was the wet kind that packed well or the kind you had to work on for a few minutes before your snowball took shape. As more kids came outside, the battle was on and lasted until the youngest kid on either side would get hit in the face and go home crying or until we decided bombing cars would be a more enjoyable activity.

Next, we'd build a snowman or attempt to build a snow fort, though nobody really seemed to know what a snow fort actually was. We'd attempt to pack snow into the shape of an igloo or around the base of a picnic table depending on the depth. Usually after about an hour of this activity, kids from the neighborhood would work their way down and tell mythical stories about some kid 5 blocks over who built a mammoth snow fort, toboggan run and Olympic sized ice rink in his back yard.

As I got older the focus turned into making money on snow days. In high school my adolescent ambition made me hit the streets to look for work. It was tempting to stay home and goof off, but as I walked down the street and saw my buddy working the other side suddenly the focus of the day was back to the potential money to be earned. The competition started. What inspired me was seeing a buddy reach into his pocket and pull out a handful of singles or a fiver. Suddenly shoveling snow sounded like a great idea again and it became a spirited competitive survival of the fittest.

After a few jobs were complete the adrenalin pumped and I'd feel like I could shovel all day. Then inevitably, hunger would set in and I'd go home to thaw out with a warm, Mom-cooked meal. It was amazing how much energy a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup would give me.

After I'd see a neighborhood chum and we'd compare how much we'd made. Grandiose ideas of pooling our money together to buy a snowplow would hit us and suddenly, instead of competing against each other for work, we'd form a team. This enabled us to get each house done twice as fast as we enthusiastically talked about the snowplow we'd buy with the money we earned. We'd think up names to call our company, what color the plows would be and how we'd rule the neighborhood and become rich before we'd do a few more houses and finally go home for some hot chocolate.

Long gone are those days.

Today, in an age of "Generation-Me," everything has changed--- even snow days. Now most kids stay inside with their I-Pods, computers and camera phones. I'm not saying all kids are lazy, no-good, selfish or un-ambitious. All I'm saying is in the houses I passed on my drive home all had a whole lot of sidewalks and driveways that had yet to be shoveled. Today, every school district in the area was closed but I'll bet you my pocket full of singles, including the fiver, that the on-line teen chat-rooms were full.

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