Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hooray! It Stopped Snowing, Now Everybody Has the "Runs"!

You might think that sitting out here in Southern California, I would be feeling kind of smug right now about all the folks in the eastern states who are slowly digging out from the double wallop of blizzards that have smacked them the last couple of weeks.

Of course the good news is that the Federal Government has been shut down in Washington, D.C. pretty much all week. The net result has been, I would suspect, an actual increase in efficiency.

But, the weather took me back to my years of living in the Upper Midwest and all the many times I’ve had to dig out. What is a somewhat pleasant experience in November or December because it’s the first snow, is a huge pain in the keyster in February. By February you’re ready to be done with winter even though deep inside you know you’re going to get nailed at least once more.

We got talking about this recently. One of the things we were talking about was having to go on “runs” to make sure you’re stocked up before you get socked in. Carolyn has never really had to contend with blizzard induced potential shortages but, like all of us, she’s had to go on “emergency runs”. So we started a list.

I’ve only had a couple of memorable blizzard induced runs (one I made, the other by fraternity brothers in college). I recall a blizzard approaching in Bismarck, North Dakota and as a preparation I strapped on my cross-country skis and skied to a convenience store about a mile or so away to make sure that I had enough cigarettes to last several days. It was about 8 at night and was actually not bad (for one thing I was 26 and was in good shape and did a lot of cross country skiing back then) except for the wind and heavy snowfall—at least it wasn’t too cold, only about 0.

Several years before, during a blizzard which shut down the University of North Dakota for several days, 4 fraternity brothers took off pulling a toboggan behind them to bring back enough beer to last a couple of dozen thirsty guys through the storm. It took one to pull the toboggan on the way to Frenchies and all 4 to pull it on the way back. But we had cold ones to keep us warm d
uring the storm.

So what we’ve got in our lives are a series of “runs”. It seems as though we’re always dashing off for something forgotten or that we’ve run out of. There’s bread runs and bun runs, and of course hot dog runs, milk runs and egg runs.

And then there are special purpose runs. There’s pet food runs. Have you ever noticed that if you run out of dog food, you could conceivably get by until tomorrow (or even the next day) with left over pizza crusts, uneaten cereal, a can of cold soup, potato chips—just about anything. Old Fido just isn’t that picky—he’s hungry (and also that holds true for those of you who have to own those yappy, prissy, foo-foo dogs that you want to take everywhere a la Paris Hilton).

But cat owners on the other hand, if you tried to feed the cat left over pizza crust or pepperoni the cat would look at it then turn away with a WTF type of attitude. Not only do you have to make a run NOW but you have to get exactly the right food. You better go get that food or that cat is going to punish you (a dog on the other hand will just sigh and give you a guilt trip but a cat is going to be out for revenge).

Real men will go out in the middle of the night, if necessary, to pick up feminine hygiene products for their wife or their daughter. You just better know exactly and precisely which product, which brand and which level of absorbency or you’re in trouble. And do you want to know what a wife will do if you get the wrong kind? Read the paragraph above about what a cat will do if you get it wrong—same thing.

Another thing real men do—they’ll go on a diaper run. What’s even worse is when you have to go on a diaper run AND feminine hygiene product run at the same time. I fact I once had to do that even one better—take those 2 items and add Preparation H. At midnight. In a small town.

Why is it that you never get ice cream on that list? If your wife and daughter are shipping you off the grocery store at 11 p.m. for tampons someone could at least include some ice cream. We’ve done emergency ice cream runs at our place. Often! We get about 3 days out of a carton. And then if there’s nothing else around for dessert (we’ll even settle for pretzels) we make an emergency run so we can slurp it down while watching Top Chef.

I went through 2 pregnancies with my second wife. Her “Jones” was for “Hostess Ho-Hos”. It had to be Ho-Hos. Not Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Not Ding-Dongs. I would be summarily shipped off to Hy Vee at all hours although they closed at 10 in our small Iowa town. They came 10 to a box and she’d put down a box in an evening. So I was constantly off to HyVee. When I started going in for Ho-Hos during the second pregnancy, the checkers who were longtime employees knew immediately that we were expecting again. And if they were out of Ho-Hos, I was in big trouble.

And have you ever made a Home Depot or Lowe’s run to get some wood or something else for a project? You get home and get started then discover you forgot something so you have to make another trip. Then you get home again and find out you got the wrong widget and have to go back again. You make a total of 6 trips and your Saturday project has now lengthened out to a weekend project and has now increased in price for $50 to $200 but the good news is that you made some new friends who now know you by name.

So we all make runs. Many people are just now getting out and about in Philly or Baltimore or D.C. You got a ton of snow but what the hell, go out and make another snow angel anyway.

I used to be one of the first who was able to get out after the snow let up or stopped. My old 1980 Pontiac Sunbird was great in the snow. It was rear-wheel drive and heavy with a manual transmission. Plus, it was made before electronic fuel injection. What I’d do is pop the hood and set the idle on the carburetor up just a hair (so it would idle on dry pavement at about 10 mph). Then I’d let the clutch out easy and lift my foot from the gas.

That car would idle through nearly a foot of snow at 5 mph. And I’d be able to get up to about 15 in the snow and drive in 2nd gear. But at least I was moving. This was back in the day before every testosterone wannabe had to have a 4x4. So, I’d be able to get to the store for milk and cereal and dog and cat food while others were just starting to scrape the snow off the top of their cars and wonder when the snow plows would get through. Anything to keep the cat happy and to get the Ho-Hos.

And now I’ve got to go. I need a pack of cigarettes and we’re out of ice cream.

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