Kenneth L. Hardin: No, don’t let it snow

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 23, 2022

By Kenneth L. Hardin

I have a love-hate relationship with winter. If I had my choice, I would rather live in colder climates, but when you have adult responsibilities it’s not that much fun.

I can recall my first introduction to real winter weather as an 18-year-old military recruit fresh out of basic training. My first choice of duty stations was Hawaii, but instead my Uncle Sam felt I would be better suited to be situated in Omaha, Nebraska. When it was time to ask for another place to hang my military beret, I selected Japan. But again, my uncle thought Alaska would be a better place for me. So, I countered and told him I was just going back home to Salisbury instead.

That first year in the Military in Omaha, I was assigned to base entry control. I was responsible for monitoring vehicles and activity to ensure safety and security coming onto the installation. It was great for about a month or so as the weather was pleasant and the people I met were equally so. Things were golden until old man winter woke up.

I worked first shift and had to be at the armory to pick up my side arm and M-16 weapons early in the wee hours. One November morning, the temperature with the wind chill fell well below zero, down into the negative numbers. The snow was coming down sideways because of the intense winds and it narrowed your field of vision to pretty much what was right in front of your face. The snow you had to trudge through to get to the armory was up to your knees. Having to endure this everyday just to get to my duty location made me angry at whoever picked where you were assigned and wondering why I wasn’t assigned to Hawaii.

But you eventually found a routine and adjusted to the fierce winter weather. You even got to a point of enjoying it when you weren’t working. I can recall playing football in the snow using the thick depth as a cushion when you were tackled. We did the obligatory drunken snow angels and wrote our names in the snow. All that was fun into your 20s, but when you hit your 50s things change dramatically.

We don’t get snow that often here, but the TV carnival guessers looked into their crystal balls recently and got it right. Last weekend and the entire week leading up to it, they sounded the alarm of an impending snow armageddon. My military preparedness kicked in and I started doing batteries and flashlight inventory. There was no time to think of snow angels. I used that time to make sure the gutters were clear, debris wasn’t clogging the downspouts and there were no tree limbs that could pose a potential hazard to the roof. I did think of Hawaii for a brief second, but I recalled they had snow recently on one of their islands, so I flipped back to planning mode. My mental checklist was complete as I went to the grocery store before the panic of the last-minute shoppers. As I pulled our vehicles into the garage, I sat down and exhaled feeling good about my preparation efforts.

The storm came, but about six hours after the professional guessers said it would arrive. I know because I was up at 3 a.m. looking out various window vantage points. Fortunately, we didn’t lose power or more importantly, my satellite TV service. All was well and I was pretty proud of my medal-worthy preparation until it started feeling a bit cool in the crib. I checked the thermostat, and it was showing 65 degrees. This was far below the Hawaii-like 77 degrees setting I had it set for. After questioning everyone in the house with an accusatory tone of sabotage, I found the one-year-old heating and air system had malfunctioned.

This undermined all my preparation efforts, and I wasn’t happy it was occurring in heavy snow and low 20-degree weather. I called the after-hours service, and the tech diagnosed the issue before I could fully explain. What made it worse was he was snowed in and wouldn’t be able to come out.

We eventually engaged in a Facetime call — where he walked me through draining a tube on the furnace system that restored the heat immediately. The next day, all the shoveling began. Even with all the adult responsibilities, I was able to grab some enjoyment with the snow. My 2-and-a-half-year-old grandson was here and this was the first time he had seen snow. I didn’t do 18-year-old things and honestly, playing with him was more fun anyway.

Kenneth L.(Kenny) Hardin is a former City Councilman and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.