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Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should | It's Thursday morning as I write and five inches of snow have already fallen in Washington, D.C. with no signs of letting up. And I love it.

I grew up in hilly Western Pennsylvania where heavy snowfalls are common. There was nothing better than a school cancellation when I was a kid. We'd grab our sleds and go whipping down the steep backyards. Then we'd make some pizza and listen to Bill Cosby albums. Life was good.

Adults enjoy heavy snowfalls in Pittsburgh, too. They are forced to abandon their routines to shovel driveways and sidewalks. They are invigorated by the crisp air and a good sweat. They are able to catch up with neighbors while sipping hot coffee out in the cold. Life is good.

But that's not how folks see the snow in Washington. These people are terrified of the snow. It only takes one snowflake to set the wheels of panic in motion. Powerful people instantly shut down schools, cancel flights and tell all "non-essential" government employees to stay home. (And "non-essential" in this town covers just about everybody.)

And people should stay home. When it snows in Pittsburgh, cranky old guys in big trucks - guys chomping cigars and cussing at you to move your car out of the way - plow and salt every inch of roadway with the skill and speed of an Army attack. But the government is clueless when it comes to clearing the roadways here.

This is because Pittsburgh, and most other places in America, is a practical town, whereas Washington is a town of great seriousness and self-importance. If you need someone to create a nationalized health care system or initiate dozens of new government programs that use our money to tell the rest of us how to live, there are thousands of competent individuals you can turn to. But ask these same folks to shovel the sidewalk so the mailman won't fall, and they'll look at you like a dog trying to understand quantum physics.

Well, as a Pittsburgher, I am something of an expert on snowstorms. They are a gift from Heaven intended to puncture our seriousness and self-importance. So let me share some advice with the people of Washington on how to make the best of this weather.

Democrats, I know you're in a back room scheming right now. I know you're looking for a way to blame this snowstorm on the Bush Administration. And I know you're considering legislation that will put a snow blower in every garage. But will you please relax.

Look, you folks are so lost in political maneuvering that you're missing the point of the snow. Instead of worrying about politics, I suggest you vent your angst by going outside and whipping snowballs at Republicans. Republicans tend to be portly and slow moving; they make fine targets.

Al Gore and Tipper, hopefully you're relaxing inside your Arlington, VA home. You've been hitting the television and radio shows kind of hard lately, and you - WE - need a break. Why not make some hot chocolate and throw some logs onto the fireplace. I know it's bad to cut down innocent trees, Al, but there's nothing more calming than a couple of logs burning hot on a snowy winter day.

And I hope Alan Greenspan and his newscaster wife do some tobogganing. A toboggan is much like the economy, sir. For the most part, all you can do is point it in the right direction and hope you don't run into any Oak trees at the bottom of the hill.

As for our President, I don't think he needs advice on how to enjoy a snowstorm. This fellow has connected with the American public on a very human level. He's a genuine person who takes his responsibility seriously but not himself. You get the feeling he's out on the South lawn laughing hard as he tosses snowballs for the dogs to chase. He seems to understand how insignificant he really is in relation to the universe.

Such days as this don't come along very often and folks here in Washington need to learn how to take advantage of them. The fact is that despite our wealth, technology and sophisticated ways, it still only takes some white flakes from the sky to completely disrupt our little world.

We might as well enjoy it.

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04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell