When I made a business call to Chicago a few hours ago, I was told that the man I was trying to reach wasn't in the office.
"He couldn't get in because of the snow," the receptionist explained.
"Oh, I know, it's awful, isn't it?" I replied sympthatetically. My sympathy wasn't for the Chicagoans, but for my fellow residents in Britain. Yet it was real all the same.
Yes, Chicago, we in Nottingham are experiencing your fate. We've had less snow than you, perhaps (well, OK, much less, at least up here in the East Midlands), but as you've lived through your own travel and school closure nightmare, so have we.
Great Britain is in the grip of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent history. Check out this photo and article here.
School holidays ostensibly ended a few days ago but most children (and lucky teachers, such as my new British fiance) are getting an extended vacation. Even in Nottinghamshire where we've only had a few inches, head teachers are calling snow day after snow day because the English roads just aren't fit for driving. This is a land without round-the-clock streets and sanitation workers, without many snowplows, and with rapidly dwindling supplies of grit (the English equivalent of salt for gritting down roads and paths).
Simply put, England just isn't used to handling real winter. And, to make matters worse, most Brits have little experience driving in snow. It's not their fault but, as one exasperated American friend living in London put it, "Snow in England seems to be the cue to drive stupid." I do feel the need to point out that many Americans drive stupidly in snow, as well, but they certainly get very little practice here at stopping on ice and driving cautiously down a snowy highway.
I'm not blaming the British government for the way the transportation system has ground to a halt, thereby affecting schools and businesses. It doesn't make sense to invest in heavy winter infrastructure for the occasional tough winter. But it does make winter seem like much more of an imposition, rather than just another season to live through. It's still another reminder that, as much as we humans like to be in control, sometimes we simply aren't.