Bill's Blog


Posted on January 28th, 2016

Last Friday my office was closed for a snow day.  And it hardly even snowed. 

The closing of my office on a non-snow snow day was in keeping with a long Memphis winter tradition of shutting the city down upon the mere forecast of snow and, more often than not, a forecast that is flat wrong. I know this sounds flakey, but it’s true. 

“Memphis” is the ancient Chickasaw Indian word for “no accumulation.” 

We Memphians see a significant snow fall about as often as we see Haley’s Comet. Nevertheless, this does not stop the city from shutting down at least once a year because the TV weather people appear on our TV screens to breathtakingly announce that Snowmageddon is about to hit River City. 

When this announcement is broadcast, the entire city is shut down with one major exception. The grocery stores stay open so that thousands of Memphians can line up to get (I’m not making this up ...) bread and milk. 

You read that right, Frosty the Snowman breath! For some unexplainable reason, when Memphians believe that it is about to snow (in a city where it hardly ever does), we decide that we need lots of bread and milk to survive the blizzard. Now if we were really going to experience Snowmageddon, you would think we would want to stock up on blankets, candles, matches, and whiskey. But no, the two big survival items are milk and bread. Go figure. 

I personally believe that snow day is actually the result of a conspiracy between local TV stations and grocery stores.  Back in the 1950s, radio announcers got in trouble for something called “payola,” an illegal scheme in which record companies bribed disc jockeys to play particular songs.  While I can’t prove this, I suspect there is similar payola (Snow-yola), with local TV meteorologists being paid by grocery stores to scare the heck out of people so that we’ll all run to the Piggly Wiggly to buy Wonder Bread and Happy Cow Farm Fresh Milk! 

And here’s another funny thing about snow days.  Even on those rare occasions when snow days are actually accompanied by snow, it does not keep people from getting in their cars and driving all over town.  In fact, the only place people can’t go during a snow day is the office. If you don’t believe me, just drive by the closest multiplex cinema on a snow day. The parking lot will be full of cars owned by folks who firmly believe the best place to survive Snowmageddon is in a movie theatre, where they are no doubt munching on popcorn, Raisinettes, and, of course, bread and milk. 

Well, I would like to share many more thoughts about snow day. However, the word is quickly circulating around the office that TV forecasters are saying there is a 100% chance that we may get an inch of snow tonight. 

It’s not going to happen, but we’re taking no chances. The office is closing, and I’m headed to the grocery store to stock up on milk and bread. 

I hope to see you again next Spring.


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Jill Piper: My other favorite Snowmageddon tradition is the "live report" from Collins Street, the city's sand/gravel storage, where reporters try to fill two minutes about a truck pulling out of the gate.

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