Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Blizzard Humanizes All Of Us – Even Dogs

There’s nothing like a good snowstorm to literally clear the air.  When a big one like the Blizzard of 2015 hits the Northeast it doesn’t just wreak havoc and cause chaos.  It actually causes calm and quietude, albeit briefly.  It puts us on the same page, cleansing our busy lives, forcing us to pause.  For the first time in a long time I found a way to embrace, even love snow again.

As a child living in an apartment building without a car, big snows didn’t mean what they do today.  As an adult homeowner with a driveway and a busy, scheduled life. I of course worry about cleanup, andmaneuvering around piles of snow, getting to work, avoiding dangerous road conditions and hoping to avert a power outage.  But I realize none of it is in my control.  Time to just cede power to Mother Nature and embrace, rather than fight, what comes my way.

I’ll still have to shovel, clean my car, and work around the storm – but I will also allow myself to play with my kids, make a fire, and hunker down with some Netflix-presented fare.  I’ll also read a book.

Most holidays, vacations, or days off are planned for and usually involve family fun.   But snow days come randomly and force us to go nowhere but the limits of our home.  We hunker down and peer out the window, thankful we can wait it out and not have to battle the elements.

On Sunday, January 25, I became aware of the impending storm, one in which the mayor of nearby New York City predicted could unleash a record snowfall.  All of a sudden I got both anxious and excited.  I decided Id prepare for it by going food shopping – and then I'd just let the snow fall where it may.

In the early evening at around 5ish, I drove to Stop and Shop and discovered my neighbors were on the same page as me.  Luckily the store was stocked up on all essentials like milk and my real needs – chocolate and BBQ chips.  People acted sanely and decently even though a bit of fear and tension was in the air.

No one wants to come home empty-handed and everyone wants to think they’re pro-active and are doing something of importance.  We should control what we can, but never really seriously think we can control much.

While the television and radio news broadcasts feed their ratings with dire predictions and desperate pleas to stay home, people still need to lead their lives.  Still, that said, you start to get into a psychological tunnel and everything narrows through a thin ray of light.   It’s easy to group-think something bad is happening but we must counter it with reason and hope.

On Monday, January 26, my work colleagues and I made it into work, knowing we’ll leave early and possibly not meet again for a few days.  The fear of the snowfall kind of unites people.  We get focused on the same thing, at the same time– something that is rare.  But it’s moments like these that force strangers to talk to one another. It brings out the compassion in many.

By early evening, I headed home, learning that within four hours the last trains would leave Grand Central Station.  Metro North was shutting down.  You don’t see that too often.

What if the storm turns into a fraction of what the meteorologists predict?  I would never bet on what those idiots say.  Would we be disappointed if the ugly expectations aren’t realized?

What if the storm proves worse than any such prediction and ends up causing problems like roof cave-ins, car accidents, and loss of power, property, and lives?  Would we further our fear of storms?

What if it delivers as expected – and we survive as expected?  Will it make us stronger for it? Will we feel in a common bond with each other?

Whatever happens after a storm, we move on, and go back to our lives of competition, isolation, and self-obsession.  The storm’s lessons melt away with it.

But for a period of time, some 24-48 hours, we were humbled and given a chance to find ourselves on a collaborative mission.  We were all united to deal with the singular storm.

I don’t know why but I always think that a storm is the perfect time to commit a crime.  Everyone is locked away home and stores remain unguarded.  The overworked police tend to storm damage -related stuff and aren’t cruising for burglars.  Since no one is on the street, there are no witnesses to see a crime, no heroes to thwart it.  As the snow flows artfully onto the vacant streets a savvy thief could poetically commit any number of crimes without a concern for getting caught.

I remember some of the biggest snows in the area’s history, the biggest being one in 2006.  Another, in 2003, was tremendous.  I was turning 10 and 11 during the blizzards of ’77 and ’78.  I prefer snow storms to blackouts, hurricanes, and other seasonal disasters that can befall us.  When the snow comes one can only smile and think back to the glee they felt as children, for the little white powder is like candy falling from the sky.  I just want to lick it all up!

As we awoke on Tuesday, January 27, many of us found that the weatherman once again got it wrong.  Some got a foot or less – far from predictions of historic totals.  But Long Island got two feet and Boston the same.  Some parts of Connecticut hit a meter’s worth.

The cleanup and recovery period was up and running.  Kids take to nearby hills with plastic discs to go to make-shift tubing runs.  Adults get their shovels out and survey for property damage.

After digging my car and house out for a solid hour, I did the next most important thing, with my wife: We took our dog to the dog run, where fresh sheets of snow awaited her.  This five-year-old English Bulldog loves to romp in the snow.  It’s her beach, her Paris.

The roads were cleared in exceptionally good fashion and speed.  We drove about two or three miles to Ward Acres in New Rochelle.  As we pulled up to the front entrance, we didn’t see any cars and wondered if it was closed.  Upon further inspection we noticed a sign indicated we were in a snow emergency route spot.  We parked across the street at a closed neighborhood elementary school.

Daisy couldn’t wait to get to the park.  I could feel her tugging me forward as she snarled with snorty anticipation.  So many wonderful sounds come out of a creature that can’t talk.  But she can communicate her wishes.

She took off once we got to the gate, having labored through a football-field size lead-up of untouched, deep snow.  We spotted a pair of snow-shoers and their dog, and gravitated towards them.  One other guy with his dog was there.  It’s as if we were the only survivors of a post-apocalyptic scene.  But then a handful of other hound-lovers joined in and it was party time for these hearty dogs that were in lockdown until the storm passed.

After about 20 minutes of continuous, unrelenting dog-chasing, butt-sniffing, snow-eating, and pooping, Daisy was still going strong.  The squatty little girl was shorter than the ones who braved it at the park and her pushed-in nose causes heavy breathing from the slightest bit of movement.  Her tongue dangles outside of her fat-folded face and drags along the surface of snow drifts.  She was happy.

My wife spotted a video camera on a tripod and suggested it could be a news crew. I thought it was just a random stranger filming a winter scene.

As we walked slowly towards the trio we didn’t think much of them.  Nothing was happening.  But then a few minutes later a tall man lumbered towards us wearing a CBS news jacket and hat, microphone in gloved hand.  We made small talk and found out the reporter, Tony Aiello, actually lives nearby. It looks like he drew the soft story stick for the day.

As our banter continued on he suddenly put his microphone in front of my wife and started asking her to say and spell her name.  He then asked her questions about our dog.  As she spoke I started to think about what I might say but nothing in particular came to mind.

As she finished talking he moved on to me, asking me if I looked forward to coming to the dog park and if Daisy enjoys the weather.  I delivered a good line in one take about how she loves the snow and that it’s her doughnut.

I knew we would make the cut, even as he interviewed others.  We had Daisy going for us.  The brindle dog looks like a small pig.  How could you not put her on TV?  She sewed the deal when she ran up to him, all snow-covered, trying to eat his microphone.

After telling friends and family to watch Channel 2 News, WCBS at five o’clock, I felt disappointed when the hour-long show didn’t feature the story. I feared we’d been replaced by another story the reporter had done in the town next to us, showing kids tubing down a neighborhood hill.

How embarrassing and frustrating it would be if we were denied our 15 seconds of fame!  I started getting emails from people saying they didn’t see us on TV.  I told them we might make it on at 11:00 pm, but I had my doubts.

The higher-rated, but shortened 6 o’clock news came on and I let it be my background noise while I tended to other things.  Then, suddenly, at 6:15, I heard an introduction to a story that sounded like it could be mine.

I quickly yelled to my kids, wife, and dog to come to the TV and listen up.  The Feinblums were getting some screen time!

The minute and ten piece was great.  It opened with a scene of Daisy chasing a dog through the snow.  Then my wife, Laura, was featured, and then I spoke for a few seconds.  It closed with Daisy munching on the microphone, her scrunched face filled with snowflakes.

Not that long after I found the clip and started sending it to everyone, even our local mayor, who wrote back with appreciation.

I know in the scheme of things that this public airing won’t change the world or contribute to anything significant, but for a few moments we were able to celebrate the things that matter most to us – enjoying a day out with our family and loyal pet.  The snow day may have forced us to slow down and take a break from our busy lives, and though some were understandably frustrated by it, it was exactly what we needed.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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