Column, 569 words

World Capital of Weather Wimps

When the going gets cold, make the most of it.

What’s wrong with Washington?

I’m not talking about goofy political antics, like James Inhofe’s latest bid to disprove climate change.

In case you missed it, the chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee gave a mind-numbing speech a few weeks ago in which he muttered about February’s “unseasonal” weather, ice ages, polar bears, and terrorism.

At the start of the Oklahoma Republican’s 22-minute ramble, he slipped a snowball from a Ziploc bag and tossed it from his Senate floor perch. Mashing together weather and climate, Inhofe said the Earth can’t possibly be getting any warmer if it still snows in our nation’s capital.

Even Fox News Radio taunted the nation’s most prominent climate denier about this stunt, quoting from one of his books and running the headline “James Inhofe: There Is No Global Warming Because God.”

Photo by Tommy Greco

Photo by Tommy Greco

Money, actually, powers this delusion. Fat contributions from oil, gas, coal, and utility companies explain why politicians like Inhofe are still ignoring the overwhelming consensus among scientists that makes addressing climate change a top priority.

What I don’t get is why the 6 million people who make their homes in the District of Columbia and its suburbs cower whenever winter does its thing. No lobby fuels that.

Entire school systems in the nation’s seventh-biggest metropolitan region may open late or close altogether because of botched snow forecasts followed by slushy streets. The Metro system slows down and trains can’t service all stations when rail lines ice over. Garbage piles up and accidents clog the roads when it snows.

After living here for nearly 20 years, I’m never surprised when temperatures dip below the freezing point between the months of November and March. Or when snowflakes flutter from the sky. I realize that snowdrifts bury cars and skim the bottoms of stop signs once every five years or so.

That’s why the whimpers irk me as much as the area’s systemic failure to hack winter weather. On crowded elevators, I struggle not to blurt “This isn’t Florida: Bundle up or shut up” at complainers who won’t wear a hat, a scarf, gloves, or a good pair of boots.

If they would just stop whining, these folks might take advantage of the freedom cold bouts bestow upon you to sleep in, cradle a good book, or cook up a storm.

I live in Arlington, Virginia. It’s the nation’s most-educated county, but lately my second-grader and third-grader haven’t spent much time with their teachers. During the first week of March, the local authorities shut schools on a snowy Monday, whittling a three-day week to just two days of instruction.

You see, the school system had already canceled all Thursday and Friday classes to give the parents of kids in elementary school time to meet with teachers. When it snowed again, Arlington Public Schools locked us out, too.

My family made the most of winter’s final blast by heading to Davis, West Virginia, for two days. We cross-country skied, slid down North America’s longest sled run, and stomped around in the sparkling snow.

Spring snuck into town before we returned.

The cherry blossoms will bloom soon. All that pink will cheer up Washington’s wimps for a while. Then they’ll start fretting about the summer heat.

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Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org.