Snow days

I came to Philadelphia to visit my daughter Emily and see the opening reception of her senior jewelry show at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. When the plane was leaving Chicago, Southwest warned us that weather conditions on the East Coast meant our flight could be canceled or diverted, but we took off OK, landed under overcast skies and the flight continued to Orlando.

I had checked the weather forecast before leaving, and it said there was a high chance of snow, but that’s not the same thing as a high chance of a whole lot of snow. So when I arrived and heard that anywhere from one to two feet was expected, I changed my return reservation — Southwest had already canceled its Saturday flights in anticipation of the bad weather — to Sunday. As I chatted with the reservations agent, I could see a few flakes in the air outside the hotel window, but nothing threatening. I walked the short distance to the new Tyler School of Art building and looked at the displays — a really impressive show, beautifully done jewelry and some very creative CAD-CAM work with the special printer the school has.

Two hours later, as the reception began, it was snowing heavily, but not sticking. So the reception got a very good turnout. But the post-reception reception, hosted by another student’s parents at a Mexican restaurant not far away, was pretty well socked in. The streets were becoming slick and hard to drive, the winds were strong, the snow heavy. We managed to flag down a cab, whose driver didn’t want to drive down my daughter’s street, fearing he might get stuck. A second cab driver (after a fruitless wait for the Temple Owl Loop bus) took his chances and managed to get there. En route we saw a car on our right make a U-turn across several lanes of traffic, and later saw an SUV take a right-hand turn too fast and skid sideways down the street.

Saturday morning it was still snowing hard and it was obvious that the Winter Powerhouse the Weather Channel kept excitedly detailing was not just TV hype. By midafternoon the snow had virtually ended, so Emily and I met and had lunch at a Center City brewpub, Nodding Head Brewery: their Snow Day menu, reduced from what they usually serve thanks to the weather. Good beer, though, including a Belgian Chocolate Stout that was very tasty. Several rather drunk Temple students entertained subway riders on our way back by leaping off at stations and trying to complete passes to one another with a rugby ball.

Southwest, meanwhile, entertained travelers like me by canceling all its Sunday flights out of Philadelphia, so I spent an hour (and $17) on the phone (mostly on hold) to get my flight changed again. My Philadelphia-Manchester, New Hampshire-Chicago trip was out, and I would have to wait till late Monday afternoon to leave. If I’d felt like paying $600 or so I could have flown out of Philadelphia on United, or USAirways, but the trip is getting expensive enough as it is. I’d feel more like wandering around and sightseeing if I’d brought boots, but my loafers are pretty ineffective in the drifts and the big pools of slop that are forming at most intersections.

So I’ve been able to see the second-biggest storm on record for Philadelphia, and while the crews cleaning the sidewalks around Temple have made it seem a deceptively easy storm to handle, walking a block away reminds me how much snow 28 inches is. It’s a lot, and you can only shovel or plow so much of the stuff before you run out of places to put it. I’ll post some photos after I get home.

One highlight was watching the local NBC news at 10 o’clock Saturday night. Although most of the coverage dealt with the storm, they managed to do the whole newscast without mentioning public transportation (hint: it was largely shut down) or the airport (hint: it was completely shut down). But if you wanted to see video of kids frolicking in the snow, there was plenty of that, as well as assurances from public officials that roads were being plowed.

There’s a campus bar steps from my hotel where I could watch the Super Bowl, but Emily warned me it would probably be crowded, and after the rugby-playing crowd on the subway I’m not sure I’d have the patience. Too much like my old DePaul neighborhood. So it’s beer and cheese and crackers in my room, lunch with Emily tomorrow between classes and then with luck a flight home.

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