Nothing stirs up breathless anticipation here in New England like a coming storm. It all starts with the weatherman [ahem, I mean weather-person… this is still the northeast], that fore-runner and prophet of a time which shall bring “glad tidings of great joy to all the people.” He proclaims, “For unto us is born this day, in the northern Atlantic Ocean, a Nor’easter which will save us from our schedule addiction. And this will be a sign for you. Every usually crabby person you meet will suddenly turn jovial, optimistic, and downright neighborly…” (that is, until everyone starts fighting over shoveled parking spaces).
Upon the first proclamation, gentle folks start making their plans. Shoppers rush home with their grocery treasures ransacked from the local supermarket, a hedge against the possibility of extended isolation (but really an excuse to indulge the appetite). School children procrastinate long and laborious assignments in favor of the more gross motor activity of snowballs, sleds, and hot cocoa. Employees plan for an absence of unknown duration, and the general mood in the air is a feeling of unrestrained euphoria.
This current Blizzard of 2013 has all the characteristics just described and more. Of course, there are the tragic stories which remind us that just as in the birth of Emmanuel, with great peace and joy also often comes great sorrow and danger. But the benefits of the unexpected cessation of commerce and worldly pursuits far outweighs the liabilities, I would argue.
For starters, all of us uptight north-easterners get to rediscover our homes as someplace more than just a landing pad or a source of power to recharge all of our electronic devices. We are forced to actually interact and converse with the people that live with us, those of our immediate household and even our proximate neighbors who instead of passing us hurriedly on to their next appointment are outside of their homes shoveling the walk or digging out the car. Nothing unites a people like a common enemy, as everyone shares the secrets of snow removal and commiserates upon the loss of the perfect parking space.
None of us knows what will come of all those important activities we had planned or when we will return to a ‘normal’ schedule. But in this brief redemption of time, the storm will at least remind us of the need for community and human interaction that we cold Bostonians desperately crave.