The Legend of milk, bread and snow storms
And so another year of my love/hate relationship with snow begins.
I do love the first snow of the season, especially when it happens overnight. You wake up to a world of beauty; everything white and sparkling and quiet. There's something about snow that hushes the world up. All you can hear is the soft sound of the swirling flakes on the window.
Unless, of course, the snow is mixed with ice. Like today. Then it's a whole other world. The sparkling that looks so pretty when it's from powdery flakes now looks like shards of glass have covered your lawn. You hear the organ music of horror movies in your head, bursting out a staccato, ominous tune. You hold your hands to your face Macaulay style and scream. AAAUUUGHHH!
Well, that's what I did today. Because I know my fellow Long Islanders well enough to know what I'm in for this morning, traffic wise.
I'm sure their panic went into full attack mode yesterday afternoon, when it was announced that - hold onto your hats, now - we would get one to two inches of snow! Gather the children! Man your posts! DEFCON ONE! And, like a sea of panicky lemmings, they drive en masse to their local delis and supermarkets and Dairy Barns, stocking up on milk and bread. Yes, milk and bread. It's an interesting phenomenon and I'm not sure if it's indegenous to Long Island, but it's been around for as long as I can remember.There must be some forgotten urban legend that wove its way around the Island decades ago. A suburban family wakes one morning to find that it has snowed. The patriarch of the family cautiously goes into the kitchen only to find that there is only a half quart of milk and two slices of bread left! The horror! The family screams in unison, the children start crying, the mother frantically tries to pump milk out of her breasts even though she weaned the youngest eight years ago. And oh, irony of ironies, the deli just two blocks away has one gallon of fresh, whole milk left and one loaf of white bread on the shelf. If only there were some way to get two blocks away with having to trudge through the monster snow storm that dumped two inches of the white stuff all over town!
That would explain the way people head out in droves to the store when a storm warning hits. Innate fear, left over from the telling and retelling of the fate of the poor Levittown family who had to eat each other's flesh and drink each other's blood to stay alive during the great snow dusting of 1931.
I'm not trying to disparage those who feel the need to prepare for a snow storm. If the weather channel says we're going to get eight inches of the white stuff, it's a good idea to have the things you need in the house. It's just the whole milk and bread thing that's perplexing. I worked at my uncle's deli for about seven years and every winter, it was the same thing. Snow alert equals run on milk and bread. No one bought anything to go with the items. No cheese or ham for the bread. No boxes of hot chocolate or cereal to go with the milk. No one bought toilet paper or soda or cans of soup. Just milk and bread. It would get to the point where a line would snake around the deli and I'd be ringing the customers up as fast as I could, to get them in and out before a fight broke out over the last loaf of Wonder bread. He's buying a gallon of milk and he lives by himself! Lynch him, that selfish pig! Flaming torches and pitchforks ensue.
As I look up and down my street, I notice that every house has at least one SUV parked in the driveway. Here are all these people with four wheel drive on their behemoth mountain vehicles (disclaimer, I have an Explorer), yet they are afraid to go out the door as soon as the first flake hits the street. And those who eventually do venture out fall into two categories; the overly safe driver, who clutches the steering wheel in a death grip and takes each turn as if she were navigating Mt. Washington, and the No Fear guy, who does 90 on an icy road just to prove he's a man. Meanwhile, all the other people are ensconced in their homes, rationing out the milk and bread. They eye each other suspiciously and the oldest sibling, who has been designated family captain by the father, has to escort each family member to the bathroom, making sure that no one is trying to make a break for the kitchen try and steal someone else's ration.
Never mind that there's six pounds of chicken in the freezer, two dozen eggs in the fridge and a Poland Springs cooler that offers hot or cold water in the kitchen. We're talking milk and bread here. No one wants to end up like that long ago family, turning into cannibals and then possibly zombies because they were unprepared for the storm at hand.
Two inches, baby. A little ice, a little snow, which will all disappear by noon today. Still, I'll stop at 7-11 on my way to work, as I do every Monday, to get a quart of milk and a can of coffee. There will be no milk. And then I will have to inch my way to work as a thousand drivers in their Navigators and Expeditions make the treacherous drive through some dirty slush, everyone riding their brakes and fighting off panic attacks as the sprinkling of leftover snow hits their windshields.
Go ahead and laugh at us, Buffalo and Syracuse. Smirk at us, Montana and Minnesota. We deserve it.