Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oh, Sh*t Moment: S.N.O.W. (Seldom Nice, Only Wet)

I met a fellow Cal grad last night who moved to Zurich in July. "The food is worse, but the trams and buses are better," she summarized, "it's not that different than home. I haven't had one of those 'oh, sh*t I'm living in another country' moments. Have you?" While brushing ice off my coat I replied, "I think it was just now. This is my first experience with snowy weather."

Okay, I haven't been completely deprived (or spoiled, depending on how you look at it). I've been to places where there was snow on the ground; I attempted snowboarding recently and even have vague memories of sledding in Big Bear as a kid. But this is something different and painfully new. I'm not vacationing in a winter wonderland, snow stings my face as I walk out my front door. I live in a place where it snows.

To be completely honest, I do remember snow falling once in Scotland. I was entranced by the sight of it and unnerved by its lack of sound. The snow in Edinburgh didn't accumulate, though, and even if it had, I wouldn't have had to deal with it. My responsibilities as a university exchange student were so limited that I barely had to leave the dorm and get out from under the duvet.

I can't hide under the covers here, though. Remember my last post, the one glorifying my commute? That was pre-snow. Add downy flake to that pretty little picture and the reality of my commute becomes much icier and less serene. How can I gaze at the Alps and listen for farm animals when I'm struggling not to slide face first down the road? I slipped and fell to my knees once today and had two other close calls. The perks of being a live-in au pair are few, but I'll add waking up at work to the list.

The danger inherent in leaving the house now summons a lot of questions for me that are probably no-brainers for those who grew up with snow. How are you supposed to walk in this stuff? I am asking this in all seriousness. Are you supposed to adapt your gait to the slippery conditions or do you just hover over a handrail? Are you supposed to slow down or am I just wearing the wrong shoes? How did my mom deal with mountains of this stuff as a kid in Buffalo in the pre-polartech days? What did Mickey think when he first moved from India? Does Holly still wear heels in the slush?

I wouldn't be surprised if people continued to wear weather inappropriate clothing despite the recent snow fall. Yesterday evening, when Zurich got its first taste of snow for the year, I looked around to see how people would react. I wanted to approach people, shake them and say 'it's snowing! Can you believe this?! What are we supposed to do?' But the people on the streets didn't seem to even notice the falling powder. They walked around with their heads uncovered and carried on as if ice in your face is normal. I never really understood what it meant when people said that California didn't have seasons until now. It blows my mind that I will walk these presently icy streets in flip flops come July.

If you have experience with the white stuff and can offer some helpful tips, please leave a comment. Also comment if you have a better acronym for S.N.O.W.


Jul said...

Wear your shoes with the best tred, and walk as slowly as you need to to feel in control.

So Nifty, Oh Wow!

AllisonDacia said...

Get some Uggs, or equivalent boots, something that keeps your feet warm and dry, with good traction on the bottoms. My friends here still wear their sexy heels, whereas I feel I am much more practical in my flats or boots. Walking in the snow isn’t so bad, but watch out for the ice. The other day I walked to Campbell and Thayden’s because I didn’t feel like deicing a half an inch of ice off my car. It was very slippery, but I managed without falling. The whole time I was walking I was looking at my feet.

I remember the first winter I was here in DC, I fell really hard on ice after having a few drinks, which was the last time I wore “cute” shoes out in the winter. My wrist still hurts sometimes from that fall in Georgetown.

The snow is fun to watch and I love how it land on tree branches. The silence is amazing. Commuting in it sucks. I guess be glad you don’t have to drive in it.

I miss you!

Amy said...

Buy boots without heels that go at least half-way up your calf, so in deep snow your feet will stay dry. I also recomend mittens or gloves so when you do have a fall your hands won't suffer so much, and you won't be afraid to catch yourself on the closest icy item in reach.

MAX said...

This cracks me up! Funny to read about the reverse experience. I don't watch American News here in California, because the news people get me so worked up with their drama around the weather. (grim, serious, dramatic voice: "LOOKS LIKE WE'RE IN FOR MORE RAIN (RAIN!!!!!) IN THE NEXT DAYS * STAY TUNED * WE'LL KEEP YOU COVERED" as if it's a national crisis. I miss the snow! Enjoy it for us. Boots, scarf, mittens! And you need to befriend the elements. How about stopping on your way to work and making a nice snow angel in a suburban front yard? (Watch out for Gartenzwerge!) :-)

Leah said...

Sounds like NJ! The boots thing is the way to go, then you can put sexy shoes in your bag for when you get there. Also, a scarf is a big help because you can wrap most of your face and head when it is snowing.

Miss you lots. Hope all is well.

Dawn said...

I remember waking up one morning in Lund with a couple feet of snow on the ground and thinking that surely all classes would be cancelled. I was wrong, however, and tried my best to copy my Swedish compatriots by biking to class. Crazy!

It sounds like you're having fun. That's wonderful!