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Losing Ourselves in Snow & Cold
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Let’s keep it together, people.
I speak of the way we are responding to record snow and cold sweeping across vast regions of the country.
People are cussing at snowplow drivers and each other. Panicked shoppers are fighting over toilet paper and milk. Americans are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder in unprecedented numbers.
For goodness’ sake, my fellow Americans, what kind of weak, chaotic image are we portraying to the rest of the world?
Worst of all is the way our nation’s capital is responding to the weather. As soon as forecasters predict an inch of snow there, bureaucrats shut down schools, cancel flights and order “non-essential” government employees - and that covers a lot of people - to stay home.
That is something I still find odd about our government. I remember when I was a kid listening to Jack Bogut on KDKA and praying school would be called off or delayed, but when did the federal government start doing this?
In December, I needed assistance processing my passport in D.C. but could get no help - because that day has been declared a snow day and the government, and all embassies, were shut down.
The next few days, the government issued two-hour delays because of the cold - even though it wasn’t cold. It was almost 35 degrees.
I have trouble pitying the folks in D.C. because I’m a Pittsburgher.
When it snows in Pittsburgh, salt trucks are generally dispatched with order and efficiency. Cranky old guys in big trucks - guys chomping cigars and cussing at you to move your damn car out of their path - plow and salt every inch of road with skill and speed.
And Pittsburghers make the best of snow. We know we can’t control the cold and snow, but we can control how we respond to them.
Our kids immediately appear atop the steepest hills with a variety of sledding devices, then spend many hours letting nature whip them downhill.
Our grownups happily abandon their typical routines to shovel driveways and sidewalks. We are invigorated by the crisp air and a good sweat. We use this time to catch up with neighbors while sipping hot coffee out in the cold.
The fact is, snow and cold are gifts from the heavens. They are intended to puncture our seriousness and self-importance - not encourage them.
Look, my fellow Americans, we have to get ahold of ourselves. It’s just a little snow, for criminy’s sake.
If your car slides to one side, turn into the slide.
There’s no need to fight over toilet paper and milk. They will make more.
And rather than complain about the weather, use that energy to reach out to elderly neighbors or family members who need help shoveling or some supplies from the store.
The fact is that despite our wealth, technology and sophisticated ways, it still only takes some white flakes from the sky to disrupt our little world. Roll with it.
That is what Americans have always done. Remember rugged individualism? Remember Yankee ingenuity?
We don’t whine, argue and complain, people. We deal with whatever challenge is before us and use our native wits to address it.
So rather than carry on like the end times are just ahead, here’s something more positive you can do: Borrow somebody’s sled and hit the slopes for a few hours. Few things will improve your spirits more than being a kid again.
And isn’t that a much better impression of America to share with the rest of the world?
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at