Just this once, I wanted a snow day. After more than twenty years of dispensing medication to cats at a Cincinnati animal shelter, I was overdue. The animals need care, regardless of the weather. But we’re an all-volunteer organization, and some people won’t volunteer when it snows. That puts additional responsibility on the ones who live near the shelter. Like me.

Cincinnatians do not care for snow. They call it “The White Death,” and only some of them are joking. You may think of Cincinnati as a Midwestern city, but we’re just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, which gives us a Southern sensibility. Most years it doesn’t snow a lot here, but it always snows at least once. The locals invariably regard this phenomenon with amazement. They fret over the extended forecast, mumble about black ice, and run to the Kroger to buy milk and bread ahead of the event.

Having grown up in Wisconsin, I laughed at my neighbors until I realized something. Eastern Wisconsin may have regular snowfalls, but what it doesn’t have is hills. If I have to, I can drive in a foot of snow on the flat, but hills are a different story. One of Cincinnati’s nicknames is “The City of Seven Hills,” with few if any apologies to Rome. I live on Turpin Hills Drive. Guess what its major feature is. I’m not afraid of snow, but I’m terrified of hills. I don’t even particularly like them in good weather.

Schools close readily around here when The White Death is imminent. I was tired of watching students and teachers celebrate their impromptu vacations, knowing the weather meant a long day for me. I needed a snow day.

When it snows on my shelter day, I normally do my best to get there. I keep a shovel and a bag of kitty litter in my trunk. I missed one day a couple of years ago, when we got a foot of snow followed by an inch of ice, and my husband and I couldn’t clear the driveway till afternoon. (Fortunately someone else was able to open up.) But generally I arrive in time to take all the calls from volunteers begging off.

If I’m not scheduled to work on a snowy day, I don’t sleep well the night before. I keep listening for a phone call, a summons, the news that somebody can’t make it. Sometimes I head over on general principles. There’ll be work for me to do. Sometimes I wait. But by the time I confirm I’m not needed, I’m as limp as if I’d made the drive in the elements.

I had surgery last Wednesday—necessary, but not an emergency. I scheduled it for January because January is not part of kitten season. I knew the cat population at the shelter would be down and the medicating load lighter than in summer or fall. Of course, I realized there might be White Death. Sure enough, the forecast for Friday was snow, possibly four inches. I felt a twinge of guilt, but mostly delight that I was going to skip this one as I recuperated at home.

It was lovely to lie in bed with the flakes falling past my window. I read novels and snacked, secure in the knowledge that nobody expected me to do a thing. Luckily, the predicted storm fizzled. We had only an inch at my house, and it was done by early afternoon. If anyone had trouble getting to the shelter, I didn’t hear about it. That was a relief.

Okay, I needed a snow day and I got one. I’ll be ready to work the next time it snows.


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