Friday, January 18, 2013

Welcome to the Four Day Weekend!

How does one manage to capture the mythical unicorn known as the four day weekend? It's simple, really.

First, one must look at the calendar and choose a weekend that is already labeled a three day weekend. For example, the United States government has seen fit for a number of years to give its employees the day off on the third Monday of every January. This is in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I don't remember Dr. King's speech about dreams having anything to do with federal holidays or sleeping in on a Monday, but I'm grateful for the observance just the same.

Now that the three day weekend has been properly chosen, it helps to have working knowledge of meteorological conditions. No, you don't necessarily have to have the ability to read weather patterns, though it helps. Typically, you can just turn on your local news and, if your local weathermen/women are somewhat competent, you should get a fairly accurate prediction of what sort of weather you can expect for your upcoming three day weekend.

For the four day weekend thing to work right, you really need an accurate forecast of snow. And I'm not just talking about a light dusting that makes the trees look pretty. You need the kind of snow that grinds traffic to a halt. It has to be the kind of snow that causes employers and especially school superintendents to say, "Waitaminute! We have got to close everything down, right now!" They shout these things because they have a genuine concern for your safety and the safety of the children that attend their schools.

Now, looking at those steps, you probably need to choose MLK day as your three day weekend of choice. It's not likely that you'll see a wicked snowstorm around the time of Columbus Day. That mostly depends on where you live, though. I'm sure there are a number of localities that see snow regularly during the first half of October. Southwest Virginia isn't usually one of those localities.

If you're insistent on your four day weekend occurring in October, or some other non-wintry month, you may need to spend a great deal of time in prayer. Be prepared to present a very convincing argument for why it should snow enough to grant you a day off, 'cause the thing is, God's got a plan for these things and I'm not sure He likes it when humans try to control weather patterns.

Anyway, here we are. This perfect storm of perfect timing has hit and the four day weekend is upon us. Well, it's upon any of us that happen to work in one of any number of schools in the area where I live.

After a week of torrential downpours and some pretty severe flooding in many areas, things got really chilly and the rain turned to sleet and then into snow. Because of the exceedingly wet road conditions, the road crews were unable to pretreat the roads, making it difficult to prevent the coming snow from sticking and making things more treacherous than they already were. Thus, when the snow began to fall, it began to stick to everything. Quickly. And then it built up. Heavily.

The heavy, wet snow has a tendency to mess things up for a lot of people. It makes for a dangerous evening commute, especially for folks who are not used to maneuvering in the wintry weather. It also has a tendency to break tree branches and tear down power lines. Sadly, that very thing happened somewhere near me. Around 6:15 yesterday evening, my power went off. Thankfully, it didn't go off until after I saw the wonderful news that school had been canceled for Friday. At that point I didn't care what happened. I didn't care if the snow melted immediately. I didn't care if I didn't get power again 'til Monday. I just knew I had four days of relaxation ahead of me.

But then the reality of no power sank in. No power meant no TV and no internet. No power meant that my phone would soon be dead, with no way to recharge the battery. And, being winter, no power meant a good 12 hours of near total darkness. I wasn't so concerned about the milk going bad, I was more worried about what would happen when I inevitably had to go to the bathroom. There are no windows and we have no candles. I have a new found respect for the blind.

Then I remembered a gift that I received from my sister at Christmas. A very small, very bright flashlight. I was saved! I could get the flashlight and read to pass the time until I was tired enough to sleep through the blackout! But wait... the flashlight was in my car. Cue the "duh-duh-duh" suspenseful music. So I did what any bored, yet wired individual would do in a snowstorm induced blackout. I snowsuited up and made the long trek to my car. The huge flakes of snow fell heavy upon my brow as I trudged through the slush to the parking lot. It sounds worse than it really was.

My power outage didn't last long. I'm one of the lucky ones who only had to endure the darkness for a few hours. But my joy was short-lived as I realized that the power had somehow damaged the cable and internet being fed into my apartment. Cue the "duh-duh-duh" suspenseful music once again. This morning I called our provider and they said they would have everything working again at some point today. Since you're reading this blog, you can go ahead and assume that everything is working again, otherwise I'd have been unable to post it.

I took out the trash just before lunch. I surveyed the roads from the dumpster and decided that I could handle a trip to the store. The snowfall had already come and gone, so I knew the store would be the last place in town that would see a lot of crowds. People only show up there before the snow hits so they can raid the eggs, milk and bread. The walk from the dumpster to my car proved to be problematic. This is the part where I fall flat on my back.

I was being careful. It's not like I was looking for patches of ice so that I could tempt fate. Fate, it seems, was looking for me. There wasn't much happening at the apartment complex. There were a few of the college kids out at someone's truck, clearing it of snow. I walked up the sidewalk, my own car was in sight. I remember thinking how embarrassing it would be to fall with those kids watching me. And then it happened. I stepped on an icy patch that really just looked like a normal part of the wet sidewalk. Thankfully, my center of gravity only shifted slightly and I was able to catch myself.

But then I got cocky. "This ice won't get the best of me," I thought to myself. And it was as if the universe decided that I needed to be taken down a couple pegs. Suddenly my feet flew out from under me, my spine had cracked on the sidewalk and I was looking up at a beautiful blue sky. I lay there for a few seconds which felt like several minutes. I then hoped that the kids were not only watching when I fell, but had a camera that recorded the whole thing. It would have been YouTube gold. I imagine I looked something like Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci after walking on some strategically placed Micro Machines in the foyer on Home Alone.

Yeah, I probably looked like that...
I chose not to cancel my trip to the store and the post office. After all, I'd come this far. If I went back to my apartment now, it would have all been for nothing. I wasn't gonna go out like that!

The rest of my day was uneventful. When I got back home, the walk from the car to my front door was a lot more careful. I remember thinking, very specifically, "I don't wanna fall again!" Next time I go out, I'm tying a pillow to my back. Just in case.

I'm looking forward to another three days of relaxation. I'm probably going to need it. I have a feeling my back will be killing me when I wake up tomorrow morning.

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