Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snow Sabbath

After a brief hiatus, during which time he has returned to his home in the United States, married off his eldest progeny, and endured caustic demands for creative output from the editor, the Professor returns to these pages to grace us with his wit and wisdom once again. 

One of the chief pleasures of being a Geezer is that you can cast negative judgment with almost complete impunity.  "What’s he complaining for," people with ask themselves, and then quickly and easily move on to an answer to their self-directed rhetorical question: “Because he is a old geezer, of course.”  But if a Geezer is to be true to his calling rather than merely playing a simple cliché version of an old Geezer, he must question himself even more rigorously than others do.  (Mostly because he views himself more seriously than others do.)  The true Geezer must look deeply into the great “whys” of existence, chief among them being the always important: “Why don’t I like this?”  

Today’s “why don’t I like this” is of seasonal significance: snow days. Specifically, why I don't like them.  (A "snow day," for the edification of our southern readers, is a term used in the northern climates to signify a day where routine social or civic activities are cancelled due the presence of heavy snowfall). 

As I turn on a morning news program here in the northeast U.S. and hear all of the closures due to snow, I cannot help but think
In our day, the kids were so hearty that we
even held ORGIES in the snow!
that this wholesale cancellation of activities due to mere snow has done got out of hand.  Part of my bemusement with this trend is due, I would think, to my upbringing in Minnesota. 

Minnesotans make little of a foot or two of snow, and Minnesota PAPER BOYS know there is no such thing as a snow day!  As a boy, the closest I recall to getting a "snow day" from the paper route was when our city manager/coordinator
As a paperboy, the Professor was a
joy to all he encountered. 
couldn't get up College hill to drop off my copies of the St Paul Pioneer Press for me to deliver.  Not to worry: he called nice and early at 5:30 a.m. to let me know that the papers could be found on the curb two blocks down the hill and were in a plastic bag so the still-falling snow wouldn't make them soggy before I got there to pick them up for subsequent delivery.  Snow cancellation?  Fat chance.

And my parents weren't really fans of the idea of snow cancellations either.  (I can't blame them: if I had eight kids running around a house with three bedrooms and one bath,  I would want to trundle them off to school—or ANY open building for that matter—that would take them for the day.)  I remember my own surprise one morning when the temperature was 35 degrees below zero and my mother opined that the nuns should consider a school cancellation because of cold. I articulated my surprise, given her history of skeptical attitude toward snow cancellation.  The logic of her reply made sense: "cold weather can kill you, but I can't remember anyone getting killed by deep snow (except your great-uncle Alphonse who shouldn't have decided to shovel both his and his neighbors snow in one go...he was just showing off)." Nonetheless, we were sent off to school that morning in the 35 below temps with the sensible advice to keep our tongues off of any and all iron pump handles.

And among the most irritating of all snow cancellations to a Geezer is the cancellations of CHURCH SERVICES.  What in God's name is the good of being a devout Christian if your pastor doesn't even have the confidence (in you, God, or both?) to conduct services, out of fear that members will come to ill trying to get to church.  

But underneath all of my inflated concern about the knee-jerk cancellation of everything in sight after merely the FORECAST of snow, there is a larger concern about what these cancellations say about society.  Today's fondness for the snow days is a symptom of a larger, more concerning development. Put briefly: people declare snow days because we are DESPERATE for snow days—we're desperate for any excuse at all to truly, actually give ourselves a BREAK (or should I say "brake?")  

For thousands of years, cultures have followed broadly-held rationales that allowed hard-working, driven people to take a break without thinking of themselves as slackers (to use today's terminology).  This was a variation of the "Sabbath" practice, where a day of idleness was usually (but not always) woven into religious observations.  The same impulse is what prompted numerous state-sanctioned  "blue laws" forbidding shopping and other commercial activities on designated days— laws that were in effect up to recent memory, but which are now gone everywhere.  

Our "go-go" scheduling leaves us with feeling that should  we knock off for an entire day  there must something wrong with our work ethic; and if a gap in our schedules does present itself, we immediately and nervously schedule some activity or another.  Children's activities—formerly exempt from weekends (or at minimum, from Sunday)—now seem to be mandated 7 days a week.  

Social history shows us that we need a regular break, both physically and emotionally; we need to change our regular pattern of doing and being; we need a sabbath, or at least the equivalent.  Why won't we give ourselves a break?  I wonder if it is because of an unconscious fear that we won't be able to hold ourselves up as paragons of industry when talking critically about others who are less fortunate and to whom we are so anxious to affix the label "lazy" because we don't want to provide adequate social support.  

For whatever reason, we are are desperate for a break, and when  an excuse like bad weather (or even the possibility of bad weather) presents itself, we seize the moment.  I guess it's better than having no break at all, but surely this isn't the way to nurture a sane, healthy culture. Lord knows we can't call it a "Sabbath" but can't we figure out a way to carve out some time for rejuvination?  The appalling encroachment of commerce into our most recent Thanksgiving is only the most recent evidence that we are not headed in the right direction. Could we not all just agree that on occasion it's all right to stop?   

Maybe that's why snow cancellations make me grumpy...after all, there must be SOME reason, mustn't there?


  1. That's an interesting conjecture as to the reason for our workaholic culture, Professor. It seems to me to be largely retail driven, as businesses desperate to make profits see no other way to do it than to stay open weekends, evenings, holidays....basic greed, in other words. We've convinced ourselves we need so much stuff, the only way to get it is to work like robots.

    And given that we now work and shop 24-7, we also of course figure our kids have to be just as driven as we are.

    I fully agree, though, that it's time to become Paddy Chayefsky characters and begin saying we're "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!"

  2. Reminds me of my grandson's short driving career.(I am his guardian; he lives with me.) In Ohio you must be insured to obtain a driver's license. I saw no reason why my grandson needed a license; there was no extra car for him to drive. But my brother in law, deeming a license the key to manhood, sponsored him and put my grandson on his and my sister's insurance. But, my grandson had to pay for the insurance. He got a job at McDonald's. He turned every check from the sporadic hours he got over to my sister to pay for car insurance. The only place he had to drive to was McDonalds. At the end of the summer I could no longer tolerate the lunacy and arranged for him to turn in his driver's license so he didn't have to be insured to drive to a job to pay for insurance. Only in America...

  3. I agree with what has been said, including the two preceding comments....except for one thing. I fear it isn't only in America. Besides the drive to earn ever extra money, to but all those not-needed extra goods, there is another factor that bothers me. It is the apparent need to make 'noise', whether through work or any other means. The 'noise' is an inefficient, even perhaps desperate, method of stilling the quiet, protesting voice inside. Silence and inactivity can be frightening for some people, including those whose calling is to make us spend, spend, spend. Heck, whole economies are built on the spend principle.

  4. In line with what you're saying, I am amazed at the extent of house and yard decorating that goes on . . . for HALLOWEEN! What the heck started that trend? And why? I have no answer.

  5. As a kid in the mid-west we just carried on, despite the snow. The only nod to bad weather came later when as a 6th grade safety patrol boy we got hot chocolate and a late excuse to our class if the the temperature got below 15 degrees while on duty. I have no idea why 15 was chosen as the hazardous duty threshold. And so we just carried on, until television news became a reality. Back in the days of radio news we just carried on, occasionally hearing that new index to inclement weather, the Wind Chill Factor. But as TV news gained a foothold we began hearing about the mayhem that was coming from the sky. Even later, when I worked in TV news and we assembled "team coverage" and "continuing coverage" and even branded one snow storm from another, we referred to it as "white death."
    So maybe the more we are stuck inside, watching Godless TV, having our souls sucked away and replaced by voracious habits and needs to be "consumers" we became so weakened as to be made vulnerable to snow days.
    So again, television has it's fingerprints on the arcane menace of the coming zombie apocalypse and consumerpalooza. What's a little frozen water to real people? Us geezers can just carry on. And so we do, carry on.