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During a recent snowstorm I did what most well-informed people do in these media-centric times – I sat and watched television.
On this particular morning the news anchor went from one snowbound reporter to another. The reporters were standing at strategic places in the station’s viewing area all bundled up in the latest, brightly-colored, Thinsulated, Gore-texed outerwear as the snowstorm swirled around them.
Despite the clarity of the picture, the news anchor – who sat all sweatered and cozy under hot studio lights – still felt the need to ask each reporter: “So what’s it doing out there?”
Each reporter dutifully answered, telling the news anchor that it was indeed snowing where he or she was: “As you and our viewers can probably see, I’m standing in the middle of the swirling snow storm as we speak.”
Every reporter went on to say that if we were planning to venture out into the raging snowstorm, we should “be careful” and give ourselves “extra time” because – listen carefully – snow can sometimes be slippery and that characteristic alone has been known to cause accidents.
While these informative exchanges were going on, the lower part of my television screen flashed school cancellations and other predictable disruptions that the storm had caused.
Since I already knew what falling and blowing snow looked like and I also knew many of the characteristics of snow – it having been an important part of my life experiences from an early age – I turned the television off.
Before long, I began remembering some of the great storms we had back home when I was a kid. In those days we never thought of turning on the television during a storm. It was from the radio that we’d get the “no school” announcement we wanted to hear on those snowy mornings when snowstorm reporting was in its infancy.
Back then the guys at the radio station would just say, “Hey, folks, it’s snowing outside.” They never sent anyone out in the snow to report on what it was doing outside. They figured we KNEW what it was doing – SNOWING! They also figured if we wanted to know any more about what it was doing outside, we’d go outside and see for ourselves.
Oh sure, radio guys would send someone out in an emergency, like if they ran out of doughnuts or non-dairy creamer for the coffee, but that’s about it.
I know what some of you are thinking: Media people were so unenlightened in those days. How did people manage?
Back then television people couldn’t do much no matter how enlightened they were. Their equipment was too heavy and bulky to take outside in the snow so – during snowstorms – television people were pretty much prisoners of their windowless studios. Viewers in those days were deprived of hearing conversations like:
“So, what’s it doing where you are, Mitch?”
“Well, Lance, it’s snowing here where I am, as you can probably see, and, as you just finished telling our viewers not three seconds ago, it’s been snowing for some time here in Maine.”
“Thanks for that informative report, Mitch. You’re right, we can see it’s snowing there as it is here, and, in fact, we do know it’s been snowing everywhere for some time. Regardless of that, we’ll check back with you later, Mitch, and we’ll continue to check back with you so you can tell us essentially the same thing over and over again for the next several hours, or until our sponsors finally figure out that we’re just picking their pockets this morning with these repetitious reports.”
As kids we were spared such exchanges. Once we knew school was closed, we’d encase ourselves in several layers of scratchy wool – socks, pants, shirts, sweaters, coat, scarf, earmuffs and hat – and go outside to play.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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