January 12, 2011

Winter Advice For My Southern Friends

I've seen stories on the news and pictures from blog-land about the amount of snow that's been getting dumped on the south and I figured my southern friends could probably use a little advice on how to deal with snow or winter anthrax as I like to call it. Why winter anthrax, you wonder? Because it's a white powder that will kill you(r soul over the course of a few months). As a born and bred Chicagoan I think I'm uniquely qualified to offer up my friendly advice to those who aren't exactly familiar with getting large quantities of snow dumped on them.

Chicago's snow credentials:

Without question Chicago deals with snow better than any other American city. When was the last time you heard the phrase "Chicago crippled by huge blizzard"? I can tell you actually, 1979. Then Mayor Bilandic didn't deal well with the 88 inches of snow we got that winter. As a result, he was only mayor for a few months after that. Even the kids in Chicago know how to tough it out. Despite averaging three feet of snow a year, Chicago public schools haven't had a snow day since 1999 and it took 22 inches of snow in 24 hours to get that day off.

With that out of the way, here is my guide to braving a winter storm:

Find your (large) crock-pot. If this is one of those rare blizzards in which you are confident you are going to get time off from work (or if it happens during the weekend) you are going to want to prepare enough food to last you a few days. Why so much you ask? Because you are going to be way too damned lazy to prepare three square meals a day and having some leftover Italian beef, soup, BBQ pork, pozole, or stew is going to be a lifesaver. I know it seems counter-intuitive that you wouldn't want to cook with so much free time on your hands but I know from experience. You'll be lucky if your motivated enough to wipe that chunk of potato off of your pajama pants.

Stock up on booze. I'm not talking about wine or beer here, either. By all means, get those too. However, there will come a point when the wine and beer is all gone and then you're going to stand at your window looking out at three feet of snow contemplating whether or not you want to make a run to the liquor store. You aren't going to want to, but you'll go anyway. At this point you're going to be thinking to yourself "damn, I should have listened to Christopher because a cocktail would be damn good right about now". A good rule of thumb is to get one fifth for every adult member of the household. Better safe than sorry.

Prepare the entertainment. Head to the video store and rent a few movies and a TV series that you've been wanting to watch but haven't gotten around to yet. I'd suggest Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, and, I hate to admit it, Lost. I used to make fun of the "Losties" too, but I gave it a shot when I saw it streaming on Netflix during a snowed-in weekend last winter and that shit is addictive. Speaking of Netflix, if you have Netflix and a Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3 you are golden. Set it up to stream and you will have all the entertainment you need.

Shovel. Get out there early and often. I know it sucks but if you don't get out there every few hours you are going to regret it. 15 inches in 24 hours comes out to whatever 24 divided by 15 is, per hour. I'm no mathematician or anything but I can still tell it adds up quick. Last thing you want on your day off of work is to be in horrible pain from throwing out your back. If you have kids even better. Bundle them up like the kid from A Christmas Story and send them out there with shovels. When I was a kid my mom would make a game of it to help motivate us. If I remember correctly it was called "shovel the damn walk if you want dinner".

Dibs. This actually could be folded into shoveling but I think it merits special attention. To my knowledge, the practice of "Dibs" doesn't happen in any municipality outside of Chicago, but I think it should. You know how when you've got your car parked on the street and you need to shovel it out but the plow has already been by a few times so the snow is hard as a rock? It's a pain in the ass digging your car out so you can leave. Then, you get home and some jackass has the spot that you spent an hour cleaning out and you have to dig yourself a new spot. How we handle this in Chicago is by putting a couple lawn chairs or other outdoor furniture in the spot you just cleared out and then when you return your spot will be there waiting for you. It's part of the unspoken social contract among Chicagoans  that your community should consider taking up.

Do nothing. If you've followed the instructions above you're golden. Just sit on the couch, get fat and watch TV.

Side Jobs (optional). If you're out of work or could just use some extra cash call up your uncle Donnie, cousin Lou or even your brother-in-law Enrique with the plow and get out there and start clearing out that white gold for local businesses. You'll make a killing.

Images taken from here, here, here, here, here, here and here. 


  1. This is seriously PERFECT advice. You actually make snow days seem really cozy. It snowed bad here in MO, but not Chicago-bad. But I would love nothing more than to lay on the couch in my robe, drinking milk & brandy, while watching Matlock reruns, with the mouth-watering scent of homemade chili wafting through the air from the crockpot in the kitchen...

    I wish I had taken your shoveling advice yesterday though. My car got stuck in the snow in the parking lot and it ruined my entire day. :(

  2. MAN! The snow we're getting in MA right now would be considered a light sprinkle up in Quebec where I'm from.

    Fantastic guide though. Being from the True North String and Free, I can appreciate what you talkin' bout here. Except for DIBS. Dibs indeed does happen outside of Chicago... but we all f'ing hate it!!!!! So you shoveled your car out... WE ALL DID, that doesn't give you the right to BLABLABLBLA and so on and so forth...

    But, on a more serious note, why wait for snow to use all of these fantastic tactics? I generally do as described here most weekends and holidays.

    Guide for snowstorms? Nay, more like, Guide for Life.

  3. Jennifer: Yea, there is nothing that is more of a pain in the ass than a digging out your car. And they should be cozy, make a day (or couple), out of it. Mostly I just get to do this on weekends though because we really never ever get out of stuff because of snow here.

    Traveler: Glad you agree!

    Kev: Ha! I bet. That's why I made it clear that it was American cities. I'd probably feel like a wus up in Canada. Dibs has actually come under fire here too lately but I think it's a good system. I don't think people should use it with only a couple inches of snow but I think 10 inches or more is reasonable. And yea, everyone needs a lazy weekend sometimes, snow or not.

  4. We do dibs in Philly, too! In fact, we stick our milk crates and lawn chairs to save our parking spots in the summer too, when it's not snowing.

  5. Hey, I need to cut your post and send it to my local newspaper, Dundee Evening Telegraph! That kind of advice we need over here! ... We are having freak winter weather and it's been snowing here since November (I just looked outside it still is.)

    Thanks Christopher, you made me laugh and I needed that!!! Believe me ... as soul being killed off slowly and for some really freaky reason (I worry about myself sometimes), it never occurred to me to stock up on alcohol.

    Empathise with the bit about the snow plough ... :)

  6. Tsarista: Ha! That's funny. I'm pretty sure people would just move those crates around here. I think there has to be at least 10 inches of snow on the ground to make it work.

    Sharon: Ha, spread the advice all you want I'm glad to help! Alcohol makes everything better in my opinion, I always stay stocked up.

  7. and i thought the snow i got here was bad.
    thank you though, could come in handy.

  8. This is great advice! I hate it when people get all scared of snow--snow storms are awesome, and I look forward to them every year. It's nice for an anti-social person like me to have an excuse to stay home and drink and eat. :)

  9. Haha - my favourite is the booze tip. (And I bet that doesn't surprise you at all...)

  10. unreal re the schools. There were snow flakes on a couple of blades of grass Tuesday and my daughter's school had a two hour delay.

  11. helen: just trying to help!

    TB: I don't know if I'd say they were awesome. At least not when you've got stuff to do. It is a great excuse to do nothing though so there is that silver lining.

    P: Ha, not at all. Glad you enjoyed it.

    David: Yea that's pretty insane.

  12. great advice... escially for the un-prepared!

  13. Well, Houston hasn't gotten any snow yet this year, but if we do, I'll be sure to pass this advice on. Me, I'll be out playing in the snow reminiscing times in North Dakota.

    Happy Winter! :-)

  14. Sound advice from a veteran of Chicago winters, although I would have had booze at the top of the list.

  15. I live in Southern California, so we don't get snow...yet.(Who knows with all this crazy weather.) But, we don't cope at all with rain, so I can apply some of your advice.

  16. Mikey: Glad you think so.

    Ashley: North Dakota? Yea you can handle it. Brrrrrrrr.

    Ryan: You know I thought about that but I was too lazy to switch them around.

    Missed Periods: Rain works! Make a weekend of it!

  17. LOL! Oh, how I hate winter anthrax!

    Great advice from a converted Lostie. :D Everything except for the chairs in the street. In the street. If someone tried that in Baltimore, they'd lose not only their parking spot, but someone would run off with their lawn chairs too!

  18. Tracy: You and me both! Ha, I will admit to having actually stolen a few chairs in my youth. Not sure why.


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