January 28, 2011
"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
– Thomas Alva Edison
I arrived at my office this morning by 8:00 a.m., per usual. Only 3 other people from my division made it to work, due to the meteorological event that transpired over the previous 24 hours: snow mixed with rain, or as it is becoming more commonly referred to as, wintry mix.
I drove into work faster than the norm, even though it took longer to reach the entrance to the highway. While the roads in my immediate neighborhood were not plowed, the main thoroughfares were more than drivable. Virtually empty of commuters, I was able to coast unimpeded during my morning rush hour, except for avoiding the horizontal spray of a lone salt spreader. I relish days like this, being from Chicago.
I am not longer surprised at the number of schools that were closed due to "conditions." The result is that employees who are parents, who must now stay home with their children; won't make it into work. In addition, there are many who are just too uncomfortable and/or ill equipped to make the drive in these "conditions."
I'm amazed at the radio personalities' reactions to the "snowstorm." This is a big deal around here. What would be a normal seasonal occurrence in Chicago is some kind of natural disaster. We are being told not to drive if we aren't required to be anywhere. We're told that there are many abandoned cars lining the highways. We're told that there are some patches of snow and ice on the roads and to beware.
The only trouble I encounter takes place after I've left the parking garage, during my four block walk to my building. The sidewalks are coated with dirty, slushy, icy snow and the curbs are surrounded by water filled moats. I anticipated that the pavement would not have not been shoveled or salted. I tread very carefully in my Harley Davidson boots (the best investment I ever made in foot ware). I have come to realize they work better than snow boots. My feet are dry and warm.
Since we arrived here, on the east coast of Maryland between Baltimore and Annapolis, I've come to appreciate the services that I took for granted in the Chicago area. The city "that works" would never shut down because of a snow. There would be an army of public works employees laboring all night to make sure that the rush hour commuters would make it to their places of employment.
In many of the Chicago suburbs, power lines are buried. Out here, near the water, the power was compromised for many customers who were left without electricity due to the wet snow on the lines. There would appear to be no alternatives to the unsightly above ground conduits of electricity.
Contemplating the actual cost of shutting down schools and businesses, I imagine money would be saved if more salt trucks were purchased and funds were allocated for employees to work them. I'm wondering what electricity outages actually cost our economy, in terms of productivity, spoiled food, and time lost. With the president talking about advancing technology, can't our greatest inventors come up with a solution to downed power lines? I'm thinking that this is the kind of infrastructure research and development I could get behind. Now this would generate jobs, preferably by contracting with private firms to perform these services.
I am frustrated that people are so willing to accept the normalcy of a city coming to a standstill because of a seasonal occurrence. This kind of mentality sanctions government officials to schedule brownouts permits police officers to put up flares and close off entire intersections, instead of flagging cars through when a traffic light is not working, and contributes to my feeling of uneasiness about the general state of affairs. Is this the beginning of our country's downfall?
Our country was founded by those with the spirit and drives to persevere under conditions that most of us will never experience and should never have to worry about in the 21st century. Yet out here in one of the 13 original colonies, we haven't the necessary capacity to keep the schools open and the sidewalks cleared. I wonder.