Snow, of course, is a trap

By Alan S. Chartock | January 26, 2023

Snow, of course, is a trap. We all know that as we enter a winter with little or no signs of the frozen white stuff. Sometimes we will wait for most of the season, thinking that we will escape unharmed by the snow, but inevitably we are fooled. It’s as if a heavenly hand is rolling the dice in its own favor. That hand makes decisions for us about whether we will survive or not. I am not kidding about that. Think about all the people you know who assumed that when they left the comfort of their houses, they would come home unscathed. They didn’t. They fell, they broke a leg, they reached out with their hand and broke it. They crossed against a red light and paid the consequences. Life, as they say, is uncertain.

There are a lot of things that can happen to you because of snow. It can melt and refreeze, turning to ice, and you can trip and fall on your face. Snow and ice, of course, are first (or frost) cousins. They can really trip you up. Just when you think that you have made it through a winter, it turns out that you really haven’t. It’s no secret that ice can put your life in danger. One wrong step and you will know that maybe you shouldn’t have taken that step.

Sometimes, of course, you can’t think out each and every move you make. Much as we’d like to, we just can’t. Remember when your mother cautioned you to look both ways before crossing the street? What gave you the arrogance to believe that you knew better than mothers everywhere with their heartfelt warnings? Think about all the stupid things you’ve done that cause you to say to yourself, “I’ll never do THAT again!”

I have a friend who crossed a particular side street each and every day until one day she got hit by a speeding car and was transported to the emergency room. The problem, is that we really can’t anticipate life’s treats and downturns. The mathematicians may tell you that each moment in our lives is a matter of odds. Look at it this way: if you cross in the middle of the street without looking both ways, your survival odds decrease. Cross the street in the middle and only look one way, the odds grow longer. Wait for the traffic light and you may live to see a grandchild or a great grandchild.

If you were in Las Vegas, you might make note of the odds in a particular situation. If you don’t look both ways when crossing the street or if you don’t wait for the light to change, you might end up, well, dead. We really don’t think that way. That’s because we really don’t stop to assess the odds. You might read this and say that life is too short and if you consider the odds before making any kind of move, you will drive yourself even more nuts than you are.

This is tough stuff and you really ought to listen to me. Your mother probably told you about crossing in the middle of the street so the state legislature doesn’t have to. Now I’m reminding you, but since you got away with crossing in the middle most of your life, you still do it. As I was crossing in the wrong place the other day, I thought about just why the law can’t make me stop. Most of the time, our laws do not protect us, so a bunch of legislators sit up in Albany and pass more laws, some of which might partially protect us but will certainly not go all the way. That’s where common sense comes in. That, and your mother.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].