Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 3, 2013

Garret Leiva: Snow: pretty? Or pretty annoying?


---- — There was a time when snow wasn't a four-letter word.

It's hard to retain childlike exuberance when you're cursing a clogged snowblower or a snowbank that just inhaled your car. My thoughts are not always pure when it comes to the white stuff.

So far this winter is more bipolar than arctic polar: Frigid and flurries one day; 50 and foggy the next.

I like snow — to a point. Snow is a godsend for ski bums, towing companies and school kids.

After all, the right mix of stellar dendrite ice crystals can lead to a snow day. Squalls, showers, lake effect — the meteorological term doesn't matter to a kid if the end result is no school.

Snow days once offered a reprieve from math pop quizzes and slimy cafeteria meatloaf. Today a weather-closed school means hastily rearranging work schedules or hitting up friends for child care.

Adulthood has a way of sucking all the fun out of blowing-and-drifting blizzard conditions.

Even as a kid, however, I'd reach a snow saturation point. Not surprisingly, it coincided with soggy Moon Boots and ice-caked Toughskin jeans.

I would come in from the cold and spill wet clothes and hot cocoa across the kitchen floor. Within five minutes I'd utter the inevitable words every snowed-in parent dreads: "I'm bored."

Boredom is not an option when it comes to white-knuckle driving. Navigating miles of black ice or wind-whipped whiteouts can cause thankless Thanksgiving drives and Christmas road trips neither holly nor jolly.

No matter the calendar date, winter driving is a season few celebrate.

White-knuckle driving is an exhausting mode of transportation. Neck muscles tense as arms flail back and forth in a struggle to steer through icy ruts; all the while your right foot leaps from go to whoa pedal.

You slip, slide and sweat profusely — all before leaving your driveway.

Now comes the hard part — sharing the road with winter's offensive drivers. It seems that many think four-wheel drive makes you impervious to slippery roads. You see these drivers dashing through the snow — and into an embankment when their brakes fail to compensate for overenthusiastic acceleration.

At the other end of the speed spectrum is the snow pile putt-putt. Every year you see this guy coming from a mile away — after all, it's hard to miss the four-foot high snowdrift on top of his car. Unfortunately, he might not miss you since he doesn't bother to clear his windshield.

For some, five months of snow is a blessing. I'm more apt to call it a four-letter curse.

Garret Leiva lives in Traverse City. He can be reached at