John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow day

We have coffee and bourbon. The snow shovels are propped by the door, and J.P. is poised to spell me with them. I have picked up Alice and her cat, Diana, from Garrison Forest School. Scout and Graymalkin are dozing as the barometer falls. Kathleen is out picking up whatever last-minute things are on her list as we await THE WHITE DEATH FROM THE SKY. When she returns, the whole family will be here to ride out the storm.

Snow hysteria is evident. As I was driving to pick up Alice and Diana, I saw a multi-car pileup on the inner loop of the Beltway at Perring Parkway — a multi-car pileup in daylight on a dry road. So the people who are rushing to escape the storm or make the last-minute trip to strip the grocery stores are getting edgy.

The predicted twenty to twenty-eight inches could maroon us on Plymouth Road for days. So be assured, you clients who are expecting me to complete freelance projects for you, I will have little else to do.


  1. As a former resident of upstate New York (really, just the central part), the panic amazes me.
    What I do understand, though, is the apprehension about the governments' ability to clear roads and the possibility of being wrecked/run over by the area's panicky drivers.
    Both are sorely lacking compared to up north, or even New Jersey. Now, there's an insult.

  2. I'm sitting here in Chicago - we're going to get less than an inch (stifling a smirk).

  3. Rawlings-Blake takes the reigns

    Isn't this twice on the WaPo Maryland politics blog?

    "Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake was sworn in Thursday afternoon as the city's 49th mayor, pledging to 'build a better, safer, stronger Baltimore,'"

  4. Snow, schmoe. I've lived in Boston; Chicago.
    And western Mass to boot, you know.

    signed: Dr. Seuss

  5. Remember that Maryland was just 15,000 Federal troops away from joining the Confederacy; can we expect latent Southerners to handle snow like that? Of course not.

    Reporting from Hoosierstan,

    MichiganCityDDS (twitterID)

  6. I worked many years in wintry Iowa. People from such snowy climes boast of their indifference to storms and of their ability to cope with them, but what they really know is that snow, coupled with cold, will kill you and not give a damn, not even notice. But it's pretty. Happy copy editing.

  7. Being snowed in for a few days when you are well supplied is one of the pleasures of winter. But those editing jobs are unfortunate. Conditions for reading Russian literature under the conditions in which much of it was written are perfect.

    With luck, the roads be passable just as you are all starting to get on each other's nerves and your supply of scotch is low. Enjoy yourselves.

  8. There's a kind of cheeky energy around a huge snowfall. Believe me, I know. I lived most of my life is what was called "the snow belt" in Upstate NY. The romantic elements (bourbon, fireplace, good books and isolated family togetherness) are real and provide for great writing moments. What always gets to me in a big storm is that the snow doesn't go away right away. A normal snowfall melts away in a few days. Huge storms hang around until they become nasty, brown, sloppy, ruts, and impudent hangers-on. What was beautiful for a few days becomes ugly. And so does my personality. Good luck in Baltimore.

  9. Holy crap! I had to shovel a path so our two dogs could make it to an evergreen tree, under which the snow is shallow enough that they can do their business. I can't recall a single storm dropping this much snow during my 14 years in Iowa. And it's still snowing. My single-sentence poem to celebrate this storm: "It's snowing; won't be mowing." Did you ever wonder on a morning like this how many words rhyme with snow. Can't find my trusted rhyming dictionary. A person with such a book could compose a snow poem with the rhyme scheme AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. There's ample stuff to describe. My trash cans appear to have been lit on by towering white domes, presumably from space. The snow did an astounding job of balancing atop wood fences. My body and dog Oscar yearn to run, as usual, but the snow says no, so we won't go. Nonetheless, must force myself to stop babbling. There's no cause for hysteria. Though the snow continues, it's not yet over our heads. Actually our glass is half full. We in Pikesville missed the winds, and someone, a long time ago, harnessed electricity. If only babbling paid, and by the word. Wish snow paid by the inch, or in the case of this storm, by the foot. One question for Jed Waverly from upstate NY. Are snow forecasts there ever given not in inches or feet but in yards? I'd hate to hear the words, "Expect up to a yard of snow."

  10. Darn it, Patrick, you got me started and I can't stop:

    It's snowing;
    won't be mowing.
    With all this powder blowing,
    my comfort is in knowing
    my unraked leaves aren't showing.
    As for running? Owing
    to the depth I can't be going.

    Help me!