Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 4
January 27 - February 2, 2000
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Snow Pushes a Genetic Button
by Pat Piper

I timed it. Exactly 12 minutes after the weatherman named Topper (Topper?) came on and said something to the effect of, “Folks, it’s gonna snow like it’s never snowed before,” the parking lots of Roland’s, IGA, 7-11 and probably Sunoco (though I didn’t check it) started filling with cars because people were out to buy bread and milk — even those who never use the stuff.

Within an hour of the Winter Storm Watch Announcement, the shelves were rapidly becoming empty. If Topper (what fool names a kid ‘Topper’?) could forecast snow for all of January and February, the Middle Atlantic states could become the Bread Capital of America, and consumer spending for the winter months would top (there’s that word again) all records. Think of it: a non-stop blizzard for a couple of months every year for the next 15 years, and the budget could be balanced just with the tax money from the sales of bread and milk.

Obviously, we are a paranoid people. In this era of 24-hour shopping and automatic teller machines, there still exists a fear of running out of food or, worse yet, depleting all carbohydrates while being unable to obtain more. And that’s in good weather.

Was that a rim shot I just heard, or is someone trying to tell me something?

Bring Topper and his stupid weathermap into the mix and we’re talking hysteria. Each of must carry a gene from an ancestor who spent 10 days snowed in without flour. The DNA kicks in. Every time I run out of microwave popcorn, there’s this immediate flashback to hundreds of years ago.

I wish there were a way I could sit with my ancestors — who spent their lives in a single-room shack gathered around a fire in the middle of February — and explain what we endure in blizzards with no cable or, worse yet, blizzards with cable but all 60 channels tuned to Kathy Lee and her lifeless husband telling us to take a cruise. Thanks but, given the choice, I’ll freeze to death.

Of course there’s the conspiracy theory circulating that the bread companies pay the National Weather Service to forecast as much bad weather as possible because even the mention of snow relates to a 74 percent increase in sales. However, in Minnesota, where it’s common to cancel Fourth of July fireworks for a pending blizzard, bread sales are static. There are two possible reasons for this: (1) it’s perfectly normal to buy 17 loaves of caraway seed rye with every trip to the store because every day in Minnesota is a day with a Winter Storm Watch or, (2) if you’ve ever met a Minnesotan you understand that nothing other than a Northern Pike can get these people excited.

If, as science seems to suggest, this is genetic behavior, we would do well to accept it and get on with our lives aware that a jetstream heading south and low pressure heading north means a trip to the store. As for going through life with the name ‘Topper,’ well, that’s behavior even science can’t explain.

Pat Piper is snowed in in Rosehaven.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly