Radically Centered: Adults Need a Snow Day, Too.

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Hearing the words snow day brings joy to children all over the north, but it may be a way to reduce a prolonged problem with adults, too.

By Justin Shimko

Snow days for a child in Chicago must be an adventurous good time. I could imagine kids getting giddy at sleeping in, bundling up to go outside and build snowmen for a couple of hours before heading indoors for lunch and hot chocolate. Afterwards, they’d stay warm while playing some video game on XBox or Wii or whatever they play these day.

Extreme cold and snow leads to snow days for kidsFor me, growing up in Oklahoma City, the snow days were more the days off on the school calendar scheduled for April than they were actual days off because of weather. There were the occasional days when school was out because it was too icy, but my first “ice day” taught me very quickly that playing outside wasn’t going to happen on those days. My bike didn’t fare well that day, either. In fairness, I had just moved from San Diego so anything below 50 degrees was completely foreign to me.

Snow wasn’t much of a reality, either. We’d mockingly song of having a white George Washington’s Birthday or celebrate MLK Day with a dusting, but we’d wake up to a blanket only to have it become a wash cloth by noon and a rag by sunset. There was one snowy morning that lasted all day, but the ground was brown and muddy before the weekend arrived.

Fast forward to today and snow days aren’t much better as an adult in Chicago. Instead of going out to play and build snowmen - and after this weeks’ snow, the snowmen could have snow forts along with snow Jeeps - I’m spending three hours digging my car out and clearing the alley way to drive to work the next day. By the time the front walk is finished, the day is half over and your too tired to do anything else but massage your soon-to-be sore muscles from all the work earlier that day.

But living in Chicago has introduced me to some quirky aspects of this town when the snow falls. One of the more annoying ones is Dibs.

Snow Day in Chicago means DibsFor the non-Chicagoans, Dibs is where you shovel your car out from the two feet of snow, drive out into the street, and then put a couple of chairs or buckets or ladders in the spot you just shoveled to let people know that you’re coming back and that space is yours. If someone else parks, it becomes a virtual free-reign to punish the offender for your hard work, which has grown to include burying the guilty’s car with the plowed and shoveled snow, which has basically become ice chunks mixed with black snow.

Another joy is the requirement to shovel snow in the alleys while the city’s plows take care of the main arteries and side streets over the course of the week. Your job, even if you rent the location, is to make sure the snow is cleared in the alley way for the garbage trucks to maneuver through the area. You cannot just pile the snow up against your garage since you need to drive your car (although there are many who basically abandon their cars during these times and resort to walking, taking the L, or calling a cab or Uber to get them wherever needed. This leaves many Chicagoans to turn their back yards into miniature snow mountains, piled high with the alley snow, sometimes taller than the fences and garages. Little flags tend to appear after a few days, with paw marks on the banner declaring each snow mountain for cat-kind or squirrel-kind.

One of these two concepts make sense. The other is just plain silly. Why would anyone think it’s okay to resort to juvenile standards just to prevent someone else to take advantage of your work? You can’t claim Dibs on a parking spot when it rains, so why worry about it when it snows? Yes, it takes extra work to dig out your car in another spot, but is it really worth lashing out at other cars, especially those who come from out of town and are visiting elderly parents? It is better to just find another open spot to park, especially since most parking spaces are occupied by some vehicle overnight. It is rare to find an open space hanging out in the areas where Dibs is popular. And considering how long it takes for the plows to make it to the side streets after a major snow storm, the bigger problem is usually in trying to park at the end of the day, with the mounds of snow left over from the dugout cars barricading these golden spaces.

Snow Day CreativityMaybe a solution to keep the big kids from fighting is to call a city-wide snow day when blizzards run through town. No one is required to go to work, but everyone must still keep their sidewalks and alleys clean. Add the addendum that their section of the street should also be cleared and institute a snow-clearing day based upon street sweeping schedules for the week. Build those mountains in your yards! Let the snow climb high to the sky along the road.

You’re basically building a snow fort for your home now, so play like your 10 again, enjoying every moment of Snow Day and lay claim to your domain before the squirrels and cats take over. Get some environmentally-friendly spray paint and decorate your mountain as you like. Paint your Mt. Bear or Cubs Peak. Let your neighbor know your loyalty to Manchester United (because that’s original) or declare your affinity for Disney’s Frozen. It’s your canvas and it won’t last forever. Take the day and have fun.

For the sake of all of us who have been short changed out of snow days as a child, enjoy your time off while making the neighborhood safer to travel through the next day.


Justin Shimko

Justin Shimko is an award-winning writer and political analyst. He began as a reporter in his college days at the University of Oklahoma, writing for The Oklahoma Daily (rated as one of the best collegiate newspapers in the nation) and The Oklahoman, the statewide newspaper, winning awards from the CSPA and the Society of Professional Journalists. He later moved on to research and writing work for a number of political campaigns. His email is [email protected]