It was fun watching the weather channel gremlins disport themselves, gesture at the marauding snowflakes and make the most of their moment. Their warnings were ominous. “Three feet of snow.” “Hurricane winds.” “Historic Winter Storm!”
It was just as much fun watching Cuomo and de Blasio huffing and puffing, running about pointing fingers and issuing orders with a gruff “we’re in charge here” glee. At times, they appeared to be trying to outdo each other, harsher and sterner with each passing hour. As long as the cameras were rolling, so were they.
Understandably, the folks in New York City became peevish when the promised avalanche failed to materialize. The mayor and the governor were accused of overreacting in closing public transit and banning all vehicular traffic. The mayor and the governor in turn became peevish, sternly reminding us that it is far better to err on the side of caution than “risk lives.”
And they are right about that, at least. The forecasts were actually remarkably accurate, and failed only in the sense that New York City remained safely outside the really heavy band of snowfall — by only a few miles at most — that blanketed Long Island, Connecticut and points north with anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet of snow.
What our leaders don’t seem to understand, surprisingly, is the nature of their game. When you promise people a winter carnival, you’d better deliver. They predicted a “blizzard.” And that’s what we expected.
Blizzard! Who is not thrilled? The prospect of winds howling and mountains of snow drifting across deserted streets exerts a strange attraction to those assured of spending the interval safe and cozy inside their warm homes, perhaps by a crackling fire, sipping warm beverages and gazing out triple-thermopane windows at nature’s might. Or better still, slipping under the covers for the night, maybe with an extra blanket or two, drifting off to sleep while outside, the dunes of snow pile up until they could smother a wolf, and no early-morning wake-up to spoil the luxury of safe harbor in the storm.
In the city, power lines do not go down, and watermains don’t freeze. The risk of any real discomfort is small, and then, a winter fantasy — sparkling white streets, fluffy sidewalks and beautiful frosty arabesques swirling around brownstone stairways — awaits. Dogs leap. Children cavort. All, for a brief time, is strangely clean, quiet and very, very pretty.
But we didn’t get it. In spite of our dutiful trips to the stores to stock up on staples, waiting in line, cancelling dinner plans, postponing errands and hunkering down for the blow, the blow never came. Sure, we got some respectable snow. But it was no blizzard.
I don’t blame the citizens for their petulance, and I admit to enjoying the discomfiture of the politicos. Perhaps our leaders should learn to issue their ukases without such battlefield stridency, with less arm-waving — and when they decide to put on a show, understand better how badly their public reacts to a such dismal flop.