Polar Eclipse

Jeff Kramer

A primer for Atlantans on surviving a dusting of snow

As the unofficial Ambassador of Goodwill for Syracuse, I’d like to be among those offering my sympathies for the hardship Atlantans endured during last week’s monstrous blizzard. Almost 3 inches of snow fell on their wonderful airport-city, and what a nightmare it was. Probably the last thing they needed was our Syracuse University football coach, Scott Shafer, who was in the area at the time, tweeting exactly what many of us up here were thinking.

“2 inches of snow,” he tweeted. “City and airport shut down. ATL #softnosed”

Coach Shafer has apologized for the insensitive tweet, and I can say with some confidence that he will from now on be sticking to the topic he knows best: Keeping a marginal football program afloat through a series of not-completely-horrible seasons that end in bowl games with names like the West Virginia/Oral-B Don’t Forget to Floss Bowl.

OK, now that we have that cleared up, I’d like to reach out to the people of Atlanta in a more practical way. In light of the North’s long history of meddling in the South’s business, here’s an A-to-Z winter weather glossary to help Atlantans bear up better the next time they feel Mother Nature’s fury:

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT. Snow is white and slippery. It often sticks to roadways and other surfaces. If you drive too fast in snow and try to stop suddenly, there is a serious possibility that your vehicle will collide with a vehicle driven by another NRA member or even a stationary object such as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Go slow.

BLACK ICE. Nope, it’s not a rap star. It’s a thin layer of nearly transparent ice. If you are on private property and lucky enough to be on foot, black ice represents your best bet to get rich the old-fashioned way: a lawsuit. Here in Syracuse we are blessed with many excellent personal injury attorneys who advertise on TV. They can help you get started.

CALCIUM CHLORIDE. Sprinkle some of this on an icy road, walkway or porch and watch the ice magically melt away. But it’s not magic. The effectiveness of the substance is rooted in proven scientific principles that hold up regardless of your religious beliefs. Do you believe that humanity is only 5,000 years old and that we did not evolve from primates? Not a problem. Calcium chloride will work just as well for you as it does for the most godless Yankee liberal atheists. Not for use as a dietary supplement.

DEFROSTER. There should be a small button or switch in your car with a diagram of a windshield. That’s important. Turn it on and also turn on the fan–and presto!–your windshield will warm up, making it easier see. Some vehicles even have a rear windshield defroster, so you see yourself getting rear-ended by some moron who did not defrost his windshield.

EARFLAPS. Many of us here in Syracuse, including myself, wear special hats with extensions that cover our ears to protect them from the cold. (Cold means the opposite of warm.) It’s not an elegant look, but earflaps can be effective, particularly against piercing winds. They really don’t look that bad. The ones I wore on my wedding day, which was on a September afternoon sometime in the 1990s (I think), were barely noticeable in the pictures.

FROSTBITE. If any part of your body is exposed to cold temperatures for too long, the skin and underlying tissue can become damaged. Frostbite is easily cured by removing the affected body part. The procedure should be performed by a licensed medical person who does not have a hyphenated first name such as “Ray-Bob.”

GOP. An American political party that believes that if you want snow cleared from your streets and highways, you should grab a shovel and do it yourself without government involvement or expense.

HIBERNATE. Even in Syracuse, there are times when it snows so hard and so long that the plows (see accompanying definition) can’t keep up with it. What’s our special secret for surviving these events? Unless there’s an emergency–like an important basketball game in the Carrier Dome–we stay in our homes and eat foods whose primary function is to deliver melted cheese to our arteries. Hey, it’s safer than sliding into a school bus.

ICE SCRAPER. My wife, Leigh, likes to tell a story from when she lived in New Orleans and windshields iced up overnight. Her neighbors were using spatulas and other makeshift implements to clear their windshields. Not Leigh. A native Syracusan, she removed from her car’s trunk a remarkable little device called—and you’ll want to jot down this term for future reference–an “ice scraper.” The inexpensive tool features plastic teeth on the business end and a long, easy-grip handle. The sight of it caused quite a stir at Leigh’s apartment complex. Her neighbors were initially so suspicious of the mysterious appendage that they feared she was an alien from another planet, which, in a sense, she was. Others speculated that she was a voodoo priestess. But soon they were all marveling at the ice scraper’s efficiency and asking where they could get one. Your best bet is to check your local auto parts store or go to, which is an actual Web site for those of you who doubt that America is back. If you really want to blow away your friends and neighbors, buy an ice scraper with a built-in snow brush. It’s crazy awesome.

JUSTIN BIEBER. The international criminal defendant and widely despised teen pop loser has no connection to this column. I just wanted to get his name in here to maximize Web hits.

KEYSTONE LIGHT. Maybe it’s not the best-tasting beer, but we’re talking survival. Throw a case or two in your basement just in case you run out of real beer in a snow emergency.

LAYERS. Don’t let our strange accent confuse you. When we say “layers,” we’re not talking about the hidden dens of wild animals. We’re talking about dressing in multiple levels of clothing that can be shed as conditions moderate. Your outermost layer should be wing sauce repellant.

MARKERS. These are poles, sometimes reflectorized, that are pounded into the ground to designate the boundary of an area to be plowed. Typically in the Syracuse area, driveway markers are about four feet tall. No need to go overboard with this, Atlanta. Barring more serious climate change, you can probably get by using Popsicle sticks. Tip: Install the markers before the ground freezes.

NUMBNESS. You should be able to feel your fingers, toes and face at all times. If not, it might be time to swap out the kidskin debutante gloves for a pair of Windstopper mittens. Consider a face covering ski mask or balaclava, as well. Personally, I prefer a knit mask given to me years ago by my sister in-law Amy. It has creepy rectangular eyebrows, a faux beard and a red pompom on top. My face feels warm and cozy even in extreme conditions, such as when the SWAT team commander orders me to lay face down in the snow.

OUTDOOR AMPHITHEATER. What vindictive governors propose to improve the economic fortunes of cities that have nine months of bad weather.

POLAR VORTEX. Look it up. I don’t even want to talk about it.

QUEASY. A bad feeling when driving in whiteout conditions and realizing that you just ran out of windshield washer fluid.

RADIOACTIVITY. Found under such brand names as HotHands and UltraWarmers, these heat-producing packets fit inside your gloves and boots and radiate extra heat for cold weather comfort. No one knows how they work, and no one cares. When you’re feet are so cold that your toes feel like they’re about to shatter into thousands of ice crystals, affixing pouches of possibly fissionable material to your socks seems like a pretty good idea.

SKIDS. A skid is bad news because it suggests your insurance premiums are about to go up. To stop a skid, pick out an object in the distance that you want to drive toward, such as a meteor or a Chuck E. Cheese, and scream out a profanity. The number for AAA in Atlanta is (404) 843-4500.

TELEVISION. Many excellent TV shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “The Bachelor” appear on television. As an alternative to spinning out on the Interstate, why not snuggle up in a comforter and destroy your brain instead.

UNHEATED GARAGE. The kind of garage you don’t want to have, but much better than no garage.

VISIBILITY. Blowing and falling snow can make it hard to see the road. If you find yourself driving in these conditions, immediately start texting your friends so they know what you’re up against. Suggested text sequence: 1. “Dude, I can barely see.” 2. “Dude, I’m in a ditch.”

WINTRY MIX. Pint of Guinness. Shot of Jameson.

XYLOPHONE. An uplifting, easy-to-play musical instrument that helps fend off wintertime blues. Everyone in Syracuse has at least one. (I have three.)

YABBA. Large Jamaican earthenware or wooden vessel. Get off my back. I’m pretty much done here.

ZAMBONI. Your vehicle of choice next time it snows in Atlanta.

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