I have a love-hate relationship with Washington, DC. I guess you could say we are frenemies. I appreciate that DC is a unique city. There are no skyscrapers, an abundance of free museums and monuments, and the few friends I have here are really great people. However, there are a large number of people in this town that have a way of annoying me to no end. DC is filled with young and naïve Hill staffers with inflated senses of self-importance, lawyers who are by nature extremely competitive and obsessed with their work, lobbyists who will promote anything as long as they are being paid, and crusaders who infest the downtown sidewalks to solicit for their causes. The city and federal government are dysfunctional at best and filled with highly partisan and hypocritical politicians. There are days when I wish all of them would be swept into the Potomac River. Sometimes I just want this city to stop. That is why I was so happy to see the record amount of snow come down last month in the “Snowmageddon.”
DC’s reaction to the impending blizzard was typical for a region that panics at the threat of their normal routine being interrupted. Schools in the area shut down at the chance of any kind of snowfall, which is appalling to someone that grew up having to walk and eventually drive through snow and ice to get to school. DC area residents also engage in panic buying of food and other necessities. I made the mistake on the night before the blizzard of going to my local grocery store to pick up a few provisions. The shoppers in the store were buying enough food to last for weeks and waiting in lines that were nearly an hour long. I wondered whether these people really thought they would be stuck in their homes for weeks or if they thought panic buying was the “it” thing to do. My guess is the latter.
I was determined to not be one of those people. I wasn’t going to let the blizzard shut me down. The night the storm started a group of friends and I ventured out to have dinner and drinks at a couple of our favorite neighborhood joints. Despite the strong winds and snow that was coming down heavy, fast, and sideways, we went out and had a great time with each other and found places filled with people that felt the same way. These were not the panic buyers of the previous day, but people that were not going to let a historic snowstorm get in the way of having fun and being with each other. My faith that there are cool and decent people in this city was restored that night. I went to bed thoroughly buzzed and curious as to what DC would look like the next day.
I have always loved the impact of a good snowfall. Everything slows down and gets quiet. I remember as a kid going out to play after a snowstorm and just being in awe of how everything is so bright, silent, and desolate. I had the same feeling when I took my dog out early in the morning after the storm started. There was a wonderful silence due to the lack of cars and buses on the usually busy streets. The streetlights were reflecting off the waving mounds of perfect white snow. It was so bright I almost thought the sun had come up early. The trees were drooping under the weight of the snow that had gathered on its branches. I had three thoughts as I ventured into the winter wonderland. First, is this what it will feel and sound like when there are no more people on this planet? Second, is it wrong to love that feeling so much? Third, where the hell is my dog with his short legs going to find a spot to do his business?
As the day progressed and the snow kept falling, more and more people came out from their homes. The main roads had been plowed enough to provide snowy paths and pedestrians, dogs, and cross country skiers had taken over. There were makeshift sleds going down the newly formed hills of snow that used to be numbered streets. Mass snowball fights were started in the parks. There was even a snowball fight organized at Dupont Circle that was visited and sanctioned by the Mayor! It finally felt like DC was a real community. The same people I find utterly annoying on a daily basis were having fun instead of obsessing about careers and status. It was like everyone was taking one giant breath and slowing down.
DC received around 30 inches of snow during Snowmageddon, enough to push the total for the winter to a record setting 75 inches. Work was shut down for nearly a week for most people. It was a great week of relaxation, movie watching, and going out with friends. While I was happy to go back to work, there was also a bit of sadness knowing that a return of the normal routine also meant a return of the things about DC I don’t like. The stillness, quiet, and sense of community were gone and the annoying people and their habits were back. I can only hope Snowmageddon comes again next year.