Saturday, August 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Sochi? Philly's having its own Winter Olympics

Ama Liew and Vivian Le, students at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, enjoy sledding at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass. on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.  They initially came to the hill with cardboard and garbage bags; they left and returned with these real sledding saucers.  (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Christine Peterson)
Ama Liew and Vivian Le, students at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, enjoy sledding at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass. on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. They initially came to the hill with cardboard and garbage bags; they left and returned with these real sledding saucers. (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Christine Peterson)

FOR MUCH of the past month, I've felt like a man trapped in a snowy nightmare. The historic winter-storm season was so utterly overwhelming, I thought a woolly mammoth would come traipsing down Market Street. Of course, the mammoth never arrived, sort of like the snowplow that was supposed to clear the side streets in my neighborhood.

The snow came, though. It came so many times I thought we'd all won starring roles in an Ice Age version of the movie, "Groundhog Day." Perhaps that's why I haven't watched even one second of the Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia. I felt like we were already living through our own Winter Games here in Philly.

Our games didn't come with soundtracks, comebacks and online extras, however. Instead, they came with power outages and potholes the size of moon craters. Still, we did what we could to make the most of it, right down to inventing our own list of competitive events. Forget bobsledding and curling. Philly has its own brand of winter fun, and I'm here to walk you through the top three events.

The Car Dig: To the Philly snowstorm novice, this backbreaking event looks simple: Wait all day for a snowplow that isn't coming, then spend two hours freeing your car by shoveling snow boulders the size of small children.

It really should be that simple, shouldn't it? Well, it's not, because this is Philly, and we wouldn't dare include such an easy event in our Winter Games.

In order to fully carry out the Car Dig, you have to go well beyond shoveling through frozen tundra. You must also watch helplessly as the snowplow you swore would never arrive comes barreling down your street and blocks you in again.

Whoever can spend the next hour reshoveling the same space without losing his mind wins the gold medal. Pull out only half your hair and you win the silver. Get down on all fours and bark at the moon, and you win the bronze, along with a lifetime supply of Prozac.

The Supermarket Sprint: Thanks to advances in meteorology, we know three or four days in advance that it's going to snow. Though we've had ample opportunity to go to the market, there's something about the day before the storm that brings out the competitor in us.

It was in that spirit that we invented the Supermarket Sprint. This cutthroat event takes place in three aisles of your local supermarket: the bread aisle, the dairy aisle and the toilet-paper aisle.

We trust that you'll do what you have to do to get the bread and milk, but I have to warn you about that third event.

If you can't fight off an old lady for a roll of Charmin, then sit this one out, because if grandma hits you square with the aluminum handle of her walker, she's gonna knock you out cold, and that's gonna be really embarrassing for all of us.

The Space Preserver: After you have cleared your sidewalk, shoveled out your car and battled Miss Sadie for that last roll of toilet paper, you're plum tuckered out. But you still have to go to work, so you do what you must.

With bleary-eyed determination, you stumble from your home. The first thing you see are the places where your kids have knocked snowdrifts right back onto the sidewalk you just shoveled.

You're much too tired to yell at them, though. The Car Dig has left your back feeling as if 1,000 tiny seamstresses are sticking you with sewing needles. You want nothing more than to go back to bed, but you can't because the snow has stopped and someone has to make the doughnuts.

That's when you start your car and pull out the space preserver - a chair, trash can, popcorn maker or Crock-Pot that you use to tell the world, "I just spent three hours digging out this space. Park here, and you die."

To make sure they know you mean business, you put your address on your space preserver. There's just one catch. Space preservers are illegal, and there's a new young cop in your neighborhood trying to make a name for himself.

So, after 24 hours of digging, fighting, preserving and digging some more, you come home from work to find a $200 ticket in your door. If you can look at that ticket without hurling yourself from the roof of City Hall, you win the gold medal, my friend, because you are, without a doubt, the all-time best player in the Philly Winter Games.

 


Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.

Solomon Jones
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