It was supposed to snow in Jerusalem.
You can imagine the excitement!
And by “excitement” I mean that all the good and honest people of Jerusalem were practically working themselves into a frenzy.
I even received a text message telling me that because of the impending “storm” my newspaper would not be delivered. Three days away!
“Oh, they get crazy here when it snows,” an Israeli told me. She was standing in my kitchen with one hand on her hip and the other pantomiming the universal sign for cuckoo.
I didn’t follow. What did they do that was so crazy?
“To begin with, they buy so much food and supplies you wouldn’t believe.”
I thought back to my first exposure to the phenomenon called the “Israeli grocery store experience,” which happened right before Pesach, and I couldn’t imagine anyone buying any more food than that. I didn’t even know the carts could carry so much weight.
“You mean like they stock up on canned foods and batteries?” I asked, thinking not of war or even power outages so much as of this guy I once dated whose family was briefly in a cult that believed that the end of the world was near. To ready themselves for the apocalypse, they had to sleep in sleeping bags. And possibly also stock up on canned goods.
“Totally,” she said.
This was hard for me to grasp, considering I, like Augie March, am Chicago born, by which I mean, snowfall is my middle name. As are all the things that come with it, namely, ice and slush and spending a million freezing minutes with the defroster on inside your car while you brush and scrape the heavy sheet of snow and ice off your windshield and windows before being able to drive off.
Every Chicagoan loves to talk about something big that happened during one of the big blizzards. There was even a big blizzard last year where over 20 inches of snow fell (I know, I know, the East Coast got slapped with snow, too), but since I missed it, all I can think about is the blizzard of ’79 that won Jane Byrne the mayorship since her predecessor didn’t plow the streets.
I’ve been away from Chicago for three years now, and in all that time, I have not see one fat, white flake.
But all this anticipation for snowfall here in Jerusalem, even though I had my doubts, brought me back to the Chicago winters I know so well and that feeling of slipping around on the highway just as the first flakes began to fall and the salt trucks came out in full force. Or the way people in the city use lawn chairs to save the parking spots they dug out on the street and how they guard those spots with their lives. (And sometimes even their fists.)
If you ask my family, all during my childhood, when everyone else was out in the driveway shoveling snow, I was inside “finding my boots.”
In case you’re wondering what this story means, allow me. (If you hear a noise, that’s the sound of me getting comfortable on the analyst’s couch.) So what this story tells us, boys and girls, is that I’m a selfish, no good lazy pants who gets out of work while everyone else has to bear the burden.
If you ask me, it just means that I was looking for my boots. I still am, actually. (Have you ever shoveled snow? It’s no fun.)
I’d like to pause here to acknowledge that it’s very boring to talk about the weather, which hasn’t stopped me from doing so for about 15 minutes straight. If I were standing next to myself at a party right about now, I’d move away, the way the various pervs, in “Alice’s Restaurant,” all inched away from Arlo Guthrie on the bench when they found out he got arrested for littering.
In fact, all this blabbering about precipitation brings me back to how my mom used to call me all the time at work in Chicago to tell me how “beautiful” it was outside.
Beautiful, by the way, is code for 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which in Israel would be considered an Arctic chill.
So to save you the agony of having to hear any more weather talk, let’s just cut to the denouement: it never snowed in Jerusalem. Surprise, surprise, huh?
For while snow did fall in the north of the country, in Jerusalem it only rained and rained and rained until the sun came out.
I wonder what all those people are going to do with their leftover canned goods.
Abigail Pickus’ column appears the first week of the month.