Once upon a time there were special gifts called “snow days.” On these special days no one was required to report to school or work. It was a caesura to late capitalism, albeit a brief one, in which the forces of nature triumphed over making everyone “go out” to work or school. The pandemic has, of course, eliminated snow days. Never again will there be the excuse of “I left my laptop at the office,” or “the roads are unsafe.” The evil monster that enslaved all mortals of a certain class had won. No brave knight, wearing mittens or not, dared face this great beast, and so nobody lived happily ever after.
There is a moral to this story. Well, not so much a moral as an addendum. During snow days we had time for our civic duty of clearing sidewalks of snow. I begin work before the sun comes up, and consequently I don’t stay awake very late. Over the past few days we’ve had several inches of snow. It began falling Sunday morning, and it fell through Tuesday morning. I had to take time out of my usual work schedule to shovel in the morning. By that point it was already six inches at least of the kind of snow that’s so heavy that it starts to turn blue beneath the surface. I hurried back to work since I had a couple morning meetings. The snow continued to fall. I normally don’t take a lunch break, but I had to on Monday, just to stay ahead of the snow. After work, just before dark, I was out in it again.
The snow day, in other words, isn’t just about time off from work. It’s also about taking care of things that need to be done in a weather emergency. The idea of remote work being work without ceasing has really caught on during the pandemic. Without office walls to constrain it, capitalism is free to take over our private spaces—and our civic duties—as well. The dearly departed snow day was more than just a lark. For younger couples it meant being home to take care of the kids when school was cancelled. In other words, it was a day to acknowledge that weather is still in control. We do need that reminder once in a while. The snow out there is pretty. It’s also deep. More than that, it is even a symbol.