Leo was just waking up. He could hear the horribly familiar sound of rain tapping on his windowsill. He stumbled out of bed and turned on his computer to check his mail. There was none, and he was disappointed until he remembered that it was Saturday, and most people only seemed to message him during the week. His stomach felt like a Captain Beefheart album, and he slowly remembered the half-pizza he had consumed the night before.
Bored, and in doubt that anyone would be calling, he stayed online and checked some Philadelphia websites. He reminded himself how much he disliked the City Paper, then, checking another page, wondered how the Flyers would embarrass themselves against the slumping Chicago Blackhawks.
Eventually, he was bored enough to check the weather, partially hoping that the East Coast was entrenched in the eternal rain he had come to expect every day. Instead, he saw that there was a chance of snow. Instantly, he started to think about winter in Philadelphia, and how much he hated it. But he also remembered some beautiful things. He saw himself Christmas shopping four years ago, trudging faithfully through the slush, arms full of shopping bags.
He remembered how he decided to take a well-deserved break from shopping by stopping into Tiffany’s Cabaret, and how he ended up staying there for five hours talking with some blonde dancer named Christina. He remembered the last blizzard that hit the East Coast, and how he and his neighbor Jim spent the entire day shoveling out their entire street by themselves, and when he was finished and went inside, he was glad he was in Seattle, his beloved town.
Jo had hot cocoa and lunch and warm clothes waiting for him inside. He remembered playing with his friends during the same blizzard, just drunk and silly jumping up and down in the huge snowdrifts, and how he had forgotten that somebody had made a huge ice sculpture that got covered in snow. Then he smashed his head against it.
All these wonderful winter thoughts were going through his head as he listened to the Hot Buttered Elves “Plowed” tape and felt warm, Christmassy thoughts. In time, however, he realized that he had drunk too much coffee and that he was going to be late for work. He quickly cleaned himself up and started to get dressed. Then the coffee hit. When he emerged from the bathroom, he decided to check outside to see if he could make it to work without his umbrella.
He had, after all, gotten used to minor soakings. It was only the full-out drenchings that really annoyed him. When he opened his blinds, he thought at first that he must have been dreaming. He almost convinced himself that it was only one of his squatter neighbors with a really bad case of dandruff. But, as he stared out onto Olive Way, he realized that it was true – that it actually was snowing.
A strange joy filled Leo’s heart, a joy so strange that he was immediately inspired to turn off the Elves and play “Winter Wonderland” at a volume that he knew all of his neighbors would despise. It didn’t matter to him. Suddenly, it was Christmas. “Winter Wonderland” ended and now he really was very late for work. He hurried down the apartment ramp to the door, stopping quickly to check his mail. His heart leaped as he found a Christmas greeting from his friend and fellow elf Gerry, cursing him jokingly about leaving everyone with nowhere to go on Christmas night.
He was even more excited to find a package from Holly, complete with pictures from her visit to Seattle and a brief apology for not talking to him since. Leo’s heart was strong. Sure, he was alone and 3,000 miles away from anyone he loved, but here was proof that he was loved and missed. He walked brazenly through the light snowfall, ignoring all those around him who were bundled from head to toe, or desperately trying to get cabs to stop for them. He just walked on through the snow, alternately staring at the postcard-picture of the Hot Buttered Elves, and admiring a picture of Holly looking happy and beautiful and obviously taken before Leo’s minor nervous breakdown.
Then a thought struck him. He remembered the weather report for Philadelphia. Suddenly, he wondered if it was more than just a coincidence that it was snowing in Seattle. He wondered to himself if perhaps it was the same snowfall. That maybe it had carried over from Philly to Seattle, as some kind of natural Christmas card from everyone he missed, and wouldn’t get to see. Leo danced through the streets. He forgot that he was on his way to the busiest day of the year at work. He forgot that everyone was looking at him funny. He forgot that his coat was open and that he was freezing his balls off.
He forgot that snow sticks to glasses like a son of a bitch. None of it mattered. It was Christmas time, and it was snowing, and his friends and family were sharing the same snowfall with him. He outstretched his arms in the middle of the street and shouted out to the clouds his love for everyone he left behind. Upon arriving at work, everyone wanted to know what it was like outside. Leo happily described to them all the beautiful, light flurry of snow that was blessing the Puget Sound. Oddly, no one else seemed to share his joy in the holiday weather. Some even acted pissed off, which Leo couldn’t understand at all.
He decided to ignore them all and quietly hummed “Patent Leather Christmas Pageant” to himself as he headed up to the concierge desk. He knew something was wrong as soon as he walked out into the lobby. There was something strange going on. He had expected it to be busy, but this was more than that. He looked around himself for a moment, trying to figure out just what was happening. Finally, he understood what the odd feeling was that hung in the air. It was panic. The highways were a mess. There were accidents everywhere. Cars were sliding into each other at every intersection.
Calling for a cab involved a two to three-hour wait. Guests were wondering how and if they would ever get home. Leo walked over to the PBX office and looked out of the window. Out in the street, there was a beautiful flurry of small snowflakes. On the ground was just the slightest dusting of snow. He went back to the desk. “What’s going on?” He asked his manager, who managed to answer him despite the two phones she had held up to each ear. “Everything’s turned to ice. Traffic is backed up everywhere. The airport is closed and they may close the 520 bridge.” Leo was stumped. “Why don’t they just salt the roads?”
At some point in the history of the human race, there have been countless varieties of competition. If there is an activity, it has been celebrated by the art of competition. Yet there is no recorded blank stare competition. If there ever has been one, the blank stare that Leo received would certainly get at least an honorable mention. “What?” Leo looked around. He hoped to see a naked man in a Santa hat, figuring that to be the only logical explanation for the blank stare he was getting. “You know, throw salt on the roads. It melts the ice.”
Fortunately, the moment of silence only lasted thirty seconds. “We don’t do that”. “What, hasn’t it snowed before?” “Sure it has.” “Well, what did you do then?” “What do you mean?” “How did you handle the snow?” “We waited for it to melt. Traffic was awful. The whole city shut down.” “But it never occurs to anyone to prepare for the appearance of another snowstorm?” “We don’t get that many.” “But you do get them?” “Well, yes, every now and then.” “So, why don’t they salt the roads?” This time the painful silence lasted a bit longer. “Well, it doesn’t usually snow.”
Leo turned and looked around himself. Everywhere he looked there was a phone ringing, a person screaming, or some small child crying. All of it was somehow related to the snow. He decided to ignore the angry woman in front of him and instead walked into the back office. Then he kicked a shelf off of its hinges. Satisfied, he walked back out to the lobby. He turned to his manager. “So let me get this straight. It has snowed in the past?” “Yes.” “Often.” “Well, now and then.” “And nothing has ever been done about the snow?” “Well, it melts eventually.” “Right. And it’s snowing now.” “That would be the case, yes.” “And the city isn’t doing anything about it.” “That’s not true, they’ve shut down the bus system, and they might close the 520 bridge.” “Aside from panicking, they’re not doing anything about it. right?” “Sort of.” “Out of curiosity, has it ever occurred to anyone at any point during any of these snowstorms that there is a distinct possibility that it might someday actually snow again?”
When Ceasar was killed by Brutus, many scholars found “Et tu, Brute?” to be a fairly pathetic response when compared to some obvious alternatives, such as “you double-crossing bastard”, or even just “bastard!”, and perhaps more appropriately, “Stinky, rotten, double-faced, lying bastard!”. Similarly, some think that “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was rather pathetic when compared to the alternative “Goddamn, I’m on the fucking moon!”. Nonetheless, Leo was convinced that none of these statements were anywhere near as pathetic as the one he received in this moment of city-wide panic over a slight dusting of snow. “But, it doesn’t usually snow here.”