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Let it snow
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Let it snow

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Bill Perkins

In her novel, “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man,” Fannie Flagg puts some characters in a situation involving the protaganists’ work doing the weather on television. After a huge flood missed by the station’s weather reporters, the boss calls in the daytime and evening weather readers, and soon discovers that neither knew what they were doing, and each was simply moving the other’s arrangement on the weather map over a few inches. It’s a hilarious scene that underscores the potential folly of weather prognostication.

The other day, a weather reporter on television suggested there may be snow sometime this weekend. I don’t pay much attention to the weather reports. Many weather reporters spend years in school learning the intricacies of climate and how different components of weather interact, and even the most knowledgeable and well-versed of them can be wrong – not because they’re incompetent, but because weather conditions are fickle. All the weather science in the world and the best meteorologists ever may determine rain this afternoon, and by suppertime it can be dry as a bone, and nobody’s going to get mad about it. Everyone understands it’s the nature of the beast.

But in these parts, if you mention snow, you’d better be right on the money. Schools are going to close. It’ll be like Black Friday in the bread and milk aisles at Publix, and probably by the toilet paper shelves, too. Everybody will be hunkered down, and kids will be glued to the windows, searching the skies for a snowflake.

I remember a time in the early 1970s when we got enough snow from a freakish storm to bury the ground with a couple of inches of fluff. We had the opportunity to make a snowman, an anomaly for a kid in the South, but we managed to cobble one together by gathering most of the snow from the front yard. Instead of a top hat, our snow man had an old gold-colored bucket hat on which I had written in blocky black Magic-Marker letters, “YOUNG,” for Young Junior High School. A couple of reporters for the Dothan Eagle lived in the neighborhood, and one of them stopped by with a camera, and the next day, my sisters, our friend Vangie, and I flanked the ersatz snowman in the afternoon edition.

However, I discovered first-hand that snow isn’t exactly the pleasant experience some would have you believe. For instance, if one has dogs – and we had two, Pucci and Geoff, that had the run of the estate, along with neighborhood dogs like Daffodil from a couple of houses away – then one would be wise to recognize that an inviting pristine blanket belies a field of canine fecal-mines, and that rolling around in the snow can quickly turn into a horror show of dead grass and foul-smeared denim.

I’d forgotten the downside of snowfall by the time I traveled to College Park, Maryland, one December to attend a three-day conference on immigration issues at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland. Sometime in the night, it began to snow, and it didn’t stop for a long time. When I stepped out of the hotel to find a cup of coffee, Terrapin land had been transformed.

I thought it was pretty cool, but when I joined the group a little while later, it was clear that no one else shared my enthusiasm.

“We booked a bus for the trip to the Press Club downtown,” one of the organizers said, “but the driver said he wouldn’t get out in this.

“So I’ve been on the phone trying to get us some cabs. It wasn’t easy, but I had a few say they’d come.”

Now that’s something I hadn’t considered. I can understand how snowfall would paralyze a city in the Deep South. But the D.C. area? Isn’t that “north?”

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As the first cab pulled up, the dozen or so of us preparing to leave huddled by the door.

“By the way,” the organizer said. “When you tell the driver your destination, if he hesitates for even a second, don’t get in the car. If he’s not confident, you don’t want to ride with him.”

The first couple of groups ahead of me let a couple of cars leave without them. When the sixth cab pulled up, it was my turn. It was only a 9-mile trip, but we’d been warned some cabbies might act like it was the far side of the moon.

I hopped in the car, and the driver offered a cheery “Good morning!” When I told him we were going to the Press Club, he said, “No problem!”

It didn’t take long to determine that this guy knew what he was doing. He skillfully negotiated turns, accounting for the inevitable drift of the large, heavy sedan, and navigated the streets like life-long Washingtonian. However, his accent suggested he was not.

“You’re good at this,” I told him.

“Thank you,” he said, and then offered, “I have been here six weeks.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Nigeria,” he answered.

It seemed strange to me that the sub-Saharan guy would have no hesitation about driving the streets of Washington, D.C., after a heavy snowfall. So I told him as much.

“I’ve driven a boat,” he said. “Almost the same.”

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at bperkins@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at bperkins@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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