Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snow Day!

A snow day is the greatest kind of boon --
An unexpected chance to sleep 'till noon.

Only in academe, right? (Actually, where I live many businesses are closed today as well -- it's pretty hazardous out there.) Plenty has been written about the snow day as true holiday -- that is, a day free from work and free from the usual holiday obligations of presents, visiting, cooking, etc. A gift in and of itself -- twenty-four free hours.

And all the university students undoubtedly slept, as I did too.

It does beg some deconstruction, though. For example, my university's website states that the entire campus is closed, although "emergency personnel are still expected to report to work." Who are those emergency personnel? I'm guessing groundskeepers/maintenance workers, to check for frozen pipes and to start the digging-out process (though, with the snow still coming down, digging out is pretty futile).

I wonder about cafeteria workers. We have a couple thousand students living in our residence halls who are fairly dependent on the cafeterias for food. So... are food service workers considered "emergency" personnel? And if not, are the students going to bundle up and walk the three blocks through the driving snow to the McDonalds?

And, of course, what does this say about the McDonalds workers, who are not among the businesses who are closed today? Office parks close, the university closes, the elementary and high schools close... but the fast food restaurants and Wal-Marts and even the mall remains open. So the people who are driving to work in cars of the poorest condition, who might not have adequate health care or be able to afford repairs to either their auto or person should they have one of the accidents that the middle-class businesses and schools are trying to avoid by closing up shop -- these people are expected to make their way through the unplowed roads and report for duty.

(Lest I am accused of romanticizing the concerns of low-wage workers, during our last major snowstorm, on a day where nearly everything but the fast-food places were closed, I had to drive my roommate downtown on an urgent errand. I skidded into a curb, got my front bumper stuck on some giant ice-rocks buried beneath the snow, and ended up pulling it off of my car when I tried to back out of the skid. Fixing it was an expense I could ill afford. So I can only imagine that similar things are happening to workers all over the city -- maybe not all of them, surely some of them are better drivers than I am, but still -- and that service workers are running up unneeded and unsafe expense today while the rest of us look out from our windows and watch.)

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