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As Long as We Remember...

January 31, 2011

An Unexpected Response

Michael Kurtianyk

Well, it’s been a fine week here in Frederick County. We had a bit of snow fall down on us. Some reports were of snowfalls somewhere north of nine inches. You never really know for sure.


Some people go out with their yardstick, stick it in the ground, and take a look. Others, like my friend Farmer Pete, picked up his cup of coffee, walked over to his window, and eyeballs how much of his woodpile is covered. Then, he curses his luck for not planning well enough and bringing in more firewood.


For some of us from up north of the Mason-Dixon Line, nine inches of snow isn’t all that much. Pretty average, actually. For April.


But this is January, and we should expect snow this time of year. “’Tis the season,” some would say; yet, many still go out, unprepared, for the road conditions. Maybe unprepared is too harsh a word. Maybe the truck drivers underestimated the road conditions as they went up South Mountain and didn’t make it over. There were a few of them who, try as they might, didn’t have engines that could make it up the mountain.


Traffic stopped and the State Highway Department closed I-70 westbound. The cars couldn’t get around them, and some were stuck there for hours, through the night, while the authorities backed each of the trucks down the mountain one at a time. Imagine that: moving each of the rigs down one at time. My friend Earl, like others, just abandoned his car on the side of the road, figuring he’d just come back to it the next day, or the day after. No way he was going to make it to work anyway, so why not? He wasn’t ready, either.


A road near our house closed for a bit – South Clifton Road. It was shuttered for a while the other day because one of the big oak trees was leaning over a bit and hit a power line. Some were worried that things could get worse.


I called my friend Hazel over there. She said that that big old oak tree was about one red-tailed hawk away from completely falling over. It may have done more damage, she said, but all the hawks were inside her barn playing hide-and-seek with the field mice.


She had power, but many others didn’t. My friend Jane, who lives near the Mountain Laurel area, one of the highest points in this county, lost power at her house for a number of hours. But what she posted on her Facebook page was that what she lost in power she gained in seeing the thunder snow. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an actual meteorological event. It does thunder, and there is lightning, but its snow that falls, rather than rain. “It was like having fireworks in January,” she wrote, “only without the smell of sulfur.”


Without power, and the poor road conditions, there were, of course, school closings. We didn’t have school for two days, and on Friday, there was a two-hour delay. With the advent of modern technology, we get our news in different ways. Some of us get text messages with school closing updates. This is helpful when there’s no power in the house. Others wake up early and turn to Channel 18, Frederick County Public Schools’ channel on Comcast.


Some school districts try to stay ahead of the technological curve by using technology to touch everyone in their school through robo-calls. You know what they are from the political season: automatic phone calls to people about a candidate. But in this case, the automatic phone calls are about school closings.


This is where the phrase “unintended consequences” comes in appropriately. In Prince George’s County, robo-call recipients’ phones rang with the news that schools were closed. However, it was more of a wake-up call, since the phones started ringing at 4:30 A.M. Well, this didn’t sit too well with the recipients, especially one Aaron Titus, a father of five. He decided to do something about it.


This is where the phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold” comes in handy. Mr. Titus created a robo-call of his own. It was sent out to the county superintendent and members of the school board the next morning. At 4:30 A.M. It said: "This is a Prince George's County School District parent – calling to thank you for the robo-call yesterday at 4:30 in the morning. I decided to return the favor."


We sometimes wish we could come up with responses like the one by Mr. Titus. We are sometimes unprepared for things that come at us: a snowfall, the loss of electrical power, or even annoying phone calls. We end up like the truck drivers who can’t quite make it up and over a mountain.


We do what we can, and try again the next day.



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