Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Winter That Wasn't

I may be eating my words, but I'll chance it: Welcome to The Winter That Wasn't!

With just over a month and a half remaining in the season, those of us living in northeastern Massachusetts could still get clobbered by multiple snowstorms and/or repeated spells of bone-chilling cold. However, neither weather event has occurred thus far. And seeing as it is now the tail end of January, I feel comfortable enough at this point making my declaration.

In this part of the country, I expect every day of the winter (as well as many days in the late fall and early spring) to be cold, often bitter cold. The reality is usually not that bad as there can be many 40-something-degree days scattered about the calendar this time of year and even one or two unseasonably warm days thrown in for good measure. I expect there to be a few big snowstorms delivering six inches or more and/or many days and nights of frozen precipitation, resulting in at least a couple of inches on the ground. Typically, a winter here brings both.

Now don't get me wrong: I do not hate winter. I live here by choice. I don't mind the cold. Heck, I'd take a sunny, freezing day in the Boston area over a gray, drizzly mild day in Seattle any day. And I love the snow. Downhill skiing has always been my favorite sport. I also enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, skating, and winter hiking. If I had the time, I'd take up ice hockey and join a team. Natural snow is preferable to manmade snow, and pond skating is preferable to rink skating.

New England winters are wonderful.

As for the cold, I measure it by how many days I need to wear my warmest, heaviest down jacket -- the one with the working zipper and the one not purchased in desperation in a Beijing department store. So far this winter, I can count on two hands the number of days I've had to reach for the giant light blue monster. Many more days a black down vest, usually unzipped (as was the case today), has been sufficient. Or I have comfortably thrown on my raspberry-colored fleece jacket that usually only gets outside time in the fall or spring. Two days I even happily walked the boys to school at 8:25 a.m. and back wearing only a fleece-lined flannel shirt from L.L. Bean. Gosh, I love that cozy purple, navy, and white plaid shirt I bought myself for my last birthday!

Living on a private cul-de-sac, I have to chip in whenever the street needs to be plowed by a hired contractor. You see, the town will only clear snow from public roads. The contractor charges $90 each time he plows the circle and the three driveways shooting out from it. That amount is split $30 a piece between the three homeowners, only one of whom actually lives on the street. That would be me. Keep in mind, the $90 is not per snowstorm; it is per plow. So, on average, the contractor makes $180 per large storm because he generally comes up the street twice during the snowfall. I've even seen him plow three times during a multi-day event, socking me hard in the wallet to the tune of $90 total for one damn storm.

I can easily tell what kind of a winter we are having by studying my checkbook. Two years ago, we had an average winter. I paid $210 for the season for seven plow visits. Last year? Holy Abominable Snowman! I spent exactly twice that amount -- $420 -- on 14 visits. Coming in at 80.1 inches of fluffy stuff, the season ranked eighth-snowiest in Boston history.

But that's not all. With roof collapses becoming a regular item on the local news, I began to consider what was over my head . . . and it didn't look pretty. From the street, it appeared that three feet of snow would not budge from my roof. Driving around town, I noticed every other house has a much steeper-pitched roof, and one made of shingles. My roof more closely resembles those of schools. I was alarmed to discover that the rooves collapsing or being deemed unsafe around the region were, just like mine, nearly or completely flat as well as made of rubber.

Calling Harvey Firestone!

MY roof might collapse. I worried for five sleepless nights, listening intently in the darkness of my bedroom for any sounds resembling cracking walls, etc. Next I knew parts of the ceiling in my living room, dining room, and kitchen began leaking. This development further convinced me that my shoddy roof was on the verge of caving in or, at least, needing to be replaced -- at how much of an exorbitant cost I could not imagine.

By then obsessed with news coverage of roof failures, I found the names of snow-removal companies in the vicinity and called them. The three feet of snow overhead was not moving or melting, and I had to do something about it pronto. Through a process that took less than two hours, my roof was cleared for a whopping $800. It was declared safe and, incidentally, not leaking. The dripping inside my home, as it turned out, was caused by a previously unknown chimney-sealing issue.

Long story short, the amount I coughed up on snow plowing plus roof clearing for the winter of 2010-2011 totaled $1,220 -- more than $1,000 higher than the previous year. Given this fact, you can only imagine how ecstatic I am not to have forked over so much as $1 for snow removal thus far this winter. Yippee! Thank you, thank you, Mother Nature.

Old Man Winter has been replaced by Young Girl Winter. And I like her very much.

How do you feel about The Winter That Wasn't? Do you love it or hate it?

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