Sunday, February 1, 2009

Snow Days

I dislike D.C. weather. It's no secret. Whenever I'm engaged in the quintessential D.C. small-talk conversation and someone asks me the obligatory question about how I like the area, I answer, "I love how it draws interesting, ambitious, and informed people. I like the city. I hate the weather." It must be admitted that April can be lovely: a good day can have a fresh coolness and a perfect blue sky, and cherry blossom season is a tourist trap in D.C. for a reason. October can also be pleasant--cool and crisp but filled with sunny days--and I admit that this year's fall colors seemed even more breathtaking than usual.

Unfortunately, the other months--and that means January, February, March, May, June, July, August, September, November, and December--are either hot and humid and sticky, rainy, or cold and damp. D.C. temperatures don't dip dangerously low compared to some other cities, but the swampy dampness that makes the summer so intolerable sends a chill to your spine in winter (I know that's a cliche, but it is so descriptively accurate--it actually does make your spine ache as you feel an instinctive urge to hunch over into a ball), and a brittle wind can make the temperature feel much colder than or my car's thermometer will admit.

D.C.'s unique blend of temperatures hovering near freezing and dampness cause another phenomenon--ice storms. This past week, we got a few inches of snow on Tuesday. For an area composed of people from all over the United States, that's enough to snarl traffic. What happened later that night was that temperatures rose slightly and the snow turned to freezing rain. In the morning, as it got cold again, there now was a thin layer of shimmering, glassy ice on top of all the snow, the cars, the parking lots, and the roads. What does this mean? Snow day for us teachers!

Much as I hate winter, I am very appreciative of the ice and it's resulting unexpected holiday. First, I should explain that my school district schedules 183 school days per year under the assumption that we may waste three of them on snow days. So if we DON'T get our snow days, we're working an extra three days for free. I should also explain that, while teachers get a larger than average chunk of time off, they have no control of the dates. Sick days are a joke: they take more work than skulking into work and giving the kids busy work yourself. And there is something so psychologically rewarding about waking up for work, planning to be at it 10 hours, and then checking the district website to read the message, "All Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today." It is a gift! Suddenly, the hours stretch before you, rife with possibilities: sleep, reading, watching a movie, making pancakes in your pajamas, catching up on bills, going out to lunch with your teacher buddies . . . whatever it is, it wasn't there moments before when you thought you would have to work. Wasting time is not an issue, because the time simply wasn't there before. You can slack guilt-free!

Wednesday was the year's first snow day. After checking the website, I gleefully got back into bed. I slept until 9:30! I'm not really sure how I did it. If that doesn't seem ridiculously late, I should add that that's four hours after I normally wake up. I did work for a few hours on catching up on some grading. I watched a few episodes of "Veronica Mars" on DVD, my newest guilty pleasure. I read. I emailed. I went to the gym. It was a beautiful day!

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