Handling the Blizzard

The Blizzard of '17 is now upon us.

Winter seems to wait longer every year, but it finally comes. It's notable enough to be in the newspapers. Since I grew up in New York, where snow usually starts in November, I suppose I should make some comparisons between there and here.

1. Rock salt. This is ubiquitous in the US anywhere it snows. Some vehicle just drives over the affected roads and spreads the stuff down so that ice doesn't even form on the roads, let alone build up on it. They don't do this in Japan, presumably because it would rust the chassis. Americans don't generally care that the undercarriages of their cars get rusted, and a great many don't care about rust on the visible body of the car, either. In Japan they tend to throw the cars away and get new ones before this happens.

2. Ploughs. Japan has ploughs, but they don't seem to work very well. In fact, from what I've observed, they're only slightly better than useless. The road is just as dangerous after they go over than before. American ploughs clear all that junk out, down to the visible asphalt--and then they pile it so high on either side of the road that anyone who parks on the street has to spend more than an hour digging their car out. (This is a very popular morning ritual in New York.)

3. Vehicle engines. This may be a more of a generational thing than a regional thing--and technology may have improved since I was coming up--but in New York it often got so cold that people couldn't start their cars. You just turn the key in the ignition and the engine coughs and groans with annoyance but does not ignite. The cars here in Japan start right away. Maybe it's because their undercarriages aren't all rusted.

Between the aforementioned, driving in winter is quite a different experience. Here in Tottori, giant clusters and hills of snow and ice are built up and misshapen by passing traffic all throughout main thoroughfares, so it's quite the adventure. Going over it rocks your body up and down to such and extent that even if you're not prone to motion sickness you'll feel at least slightly nauseous by the time you reach your destination. But there really isn't any other option, since the trains refuse to run, buses are nearly an hour behind schedule, and, since few people shovel the walkways in front of their homes, the sidewalks are impassable for bicycle or foot traffic; and workplaces won't close just because it's dangerous to go to them.

(This is a cultural characteristic Japan and the US share. I think the US might be a little worse, actually, depending on the job. When I was young and working a particular dead-end job, I once telephoned to say I wouldn't be in because my car's brakes had broken. It happened to be raining quite heavily that day, but my boss's response was 'Well, try, because we do need you'. In the end, I decided against driving 28 miles in the rain with no brakes, and that's why I'm still alive to type this right now.)

I predict that in time, it will be easier and more acceptable to work from home on days like this. They might have a shifting duty system in offices where by lottery some poor individual has to be the one to brave the weather and man the company while the others tele-commute.

Or they might develop better ways to beat the snow.