With the threat of a few inches of snow coming our way, everything in D.C. is closed — the schools, the federal and local government, and many downtown offices that follow the lead of the government. This give me both the time and the excuse to address something that has been bothering me.
During the last snow storm there was an interesting backlash on twitter from some DCers who claimed to be sick of hearing other DCers bash D.C. about the incredibly wussified panic DCers have in response to snow. Got that?
Whether you do or not, I reject such rationalizations, categorically. D.C. has a culture and it has improved since I moved here (I’m talking correlation, not causation), but it’s culture is like a thin atmosphere in a science fiction movie; capable of sustaining life, but not too much of it. And the deeper you breathe it in, the more obvious that becomes. But one of the few honest-to-goodness traditions we have here is this town (other than calling it “this town) is this pathetic pas de deux where everyone freaks out over the snow and then complains about how everyone else is freaking out about the snow.
There’s a tragedy of the commons aspect to the freak out. I may drive fine in the snow (though I often give the wheel to my lovely Alaskan bride, whose contempt for D.C. “winter” is considerable), but I know for a fact that many DCers drive in the snow like they’re trying to escape the city after a zombie breakout. Similarly, I don’t run to the supermarket to buy canned goods and bottled water when the weatherman predicts snow. I run to the supermarket because I know everyone else is going to run to the supermarket. If you don’t get to the good stuff early, you’re going to be eating gluten-free egg noodles with unsalted butter for a week.
Let me also add that there’s something dismaying about D.C. conservatives insisting that DCers stop complaining about D.C.’s snow panic attacks. To me, it’s a bit like complaining about there being too much money in politics or the prevalence of attack ads on TV. The mockery is merely epiphenomenal to the underlying phenomena. D.C.’s response to snow is eminently mockworthy. Clamping down on the mockery as if it is the problem, rather than the behavior that elicits it, strikes me as somewhere between campus whinery (“Don’t be a hater!”) and Sunday show tut-tutery (“Let’s get past the name-calling!”).
My apologies to outsiders who find this whole topic either pathetic or impenetrable. But maybe this will help. Here is a video explaining how DCers react to snow. Please mentally replace “snow” with “Rock and Roll” and “DCer” with “mouse.”