It’s 2014, and we feel confident in saying that we are no longer the New Englanders that we are fabled to be.
We don’t trudge six miles uphill, both ways, to get to school during a blinding snowstorm. We don’t have blankets squirreled away in the back of the car in anticipation of spending a bone-chilling night stuck somewhere on a forlorn stretch of highway. There’s no gridlock of grimly determined commuters fighting their way along a barely plowed stretch of asphalt.
No, those days are behind us.
Instead, we’re comfortable calling in a “snow day” and working from home. We don’t get by on whatever questionable “must sniff first” leftovers the fridge may hold. We hit the supermarkets and fill our carts, and not just with way too much bread and milk. No, these days the cashiers tell us the most popular item for the pre-storm prep crowd is ice cream. If there’s more than an inch of snow on the road, we curse out the snowplow guys.
We don’t even have the mental toughness to set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. to get up and see whether school is canceled. These days, the announcements are made the previous evening, before the 11 p.m. news broadcast comes on.
Does anyone even own a fur-lined ugly green parka anymore?
Our forefathers would shake their heads in disappointment. Our famous grit is gone. We’re more like New Yorkers, except with a lot more trees and grass.
This latest snowstorm is a pretty good example. The weather forecasters had us girding for a foot of snow, and so virtually everything was shut down and the ice cream shelves took a big hit. By the time the snow finally stopped, the inch counts fell just short of that.
We’re not going to second-guess school systems for cancelling classes in a snowstorm. The safety of children must be their paramount concern. But we are noting a general change in attitude toward snow that seems unbecoming for once hardy New Englanders.
There are at least some who lament the rise of the wimpy New Englander.
“We’re wimpy,” Ray McGowan of Chelmsford told our reporter at the height of the storm. He was in Londonderry on his way to Hampstead to see his grandchildren, who were home from school because of the snowstorm.
“When I was young, we walked to school in this,” McGowan said.
Salem resident Pat Friel said she still doesn’t understand why some Southern New Hampshire residents can’t take a little snow and cold.
“This is so beautiful, it’s winter,” she said. “I laugh at people here. This is a great day to go shopping; nobody is out.”
Wayne Dumas of Hampstead said he has seen a big change in how people deal with big snowstorms.
“People used to come out in snowmobiles and sleds,” said Dumas, 63. “Now, everyone is inside. I yearn for the old days.”
Maybe it’s all for the better. We don’t take risks, and we rarely get caught in those epic five-hour commutes anymore. No one comes into work with a horror story; instead they are home safely and warmly surfing the Web, all the while telling the boss they are actually working. The kids get to sleep late and play video games. The sleds gather dust in the garage.
No, we are not our forefathers’ New Englanders.
The mantle of winter toughness has been passed to the good and hearty people of the upper Midwest, where they seem to endure 20-degree below zero days and great drifting masses of snow regularly. Some of them even enjoy it. And we bet they also still have fur-lined parkas.