My Sophomore year of college, my friend Audrey and I took a road trip for Spring Break. We took my car down to her parents’ house in the Bay Area and spent a few days in the sun, then drove to central Oregon to meet some friends of ours that were spending the week at a cabin there. Somewhere in central Oregon, about 2 hours from our final destination, we got a little bit lost on back roads and it started to snow. It was already dark and we’d been in the car for so long we were more than a little loopy. I was driving when Audrey said, “How come whichever way we turn, the snow is still coming RIGHT AT US?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or not. She had to be joking. Everyone knew that snow always looks like it’s coming at you when you’re driving, but it’s clearly not possible. I reasoned with myself that Audrey was, by far, one of my most sarcastic friends and that she couldn’t be serious about this. I mean, she was born and raised in the Bay Area, but she’d seen snow before. She had to have driven to the mountain to ski at some point, right?
I responded, half joking, half serious, and totally confused: “What, have you never driven in snow before?”
When she replied that she hadn’t, I didn’t know what to say. I can’t really explain how I felt except to say it was probably the same way she felt the previous year when I asked her why people in movies always went to doorways in earthquakes.
Why did I tell you this story, you might ask? Because it was one of the first times I realized that not everyone understood winter. And I was reminded of this revelation again last Sunday when it began snowing in Portland for the first time this year. I’ve seen Portland drivers try to deal with a few inches of snow before, but their inability to do so never ceases to amaze me. I met a guy from Wisconsin last weekend who described Portlanders (and specifically their reaction to snow and ice on their roads) as adorable.
In the spirit of the season, here are my Top Five Favorite Things About Snow in Portland:
1. The obsession Portlanders have with chains. See here. This is not a joke. Chains were required earlier this week on any road anywhere in the Portland Metro area, due to roughly 1-4 inches of snow. And no, studded snow tires don’t count.
2. The 2008 edition of “Portland-drivers-on-snow-and-ice” video. Hard to believe no one was hurt in the making of this video.
3. Arctic Blast 2008. That’s what the news networks are calling it. It’s just a few inches of snow. Accompanied by something called “Arctic air.”
4. My need to defend myself for complaining about this weather, while still feeling superior to everyone around me. The bottom line is that I know how to deal with snow, ice, and cold. The problem is that the city of Portland doesn’t. They don’t have any plows, they don’t salt the roads, and I actually saw a Tri-Met employee downtown yesterday breaking the ice in the MAX tracks with an iron rod and then blowing out the chunks with a leaf-blower. Yes, I may complain that it’s cold and difficult to drive on certain roads. This is not because I learned nothing in my 18 years in Montana. It is because I am always cold and because Portlanders would rather cancel work and stay home safe than take the actions necessary to operate business as usual. I don’t blame them. I just think I’m better than they are.
5. Snow days. In the 13 years I went to school in Montana, I had one day off because of weather. And it was because the roads were so icy the superintendent was worried about school buses driving on them. This week in Portland, schools were closed just about every day. Most people didn’t go to work (except at my office, where we think that because the doctors have to go to work every day, we should, too. Thank goodness there were fundraisers available to the citizens of Portland this week!)
They really are adorable.