When I am asked what Economics is, I sometimes answer that it is the study of how we make decisions under constraints. How much to buy with a limited budget and how to use our limited time are two examples of such decisions that come to mind immediately. Calculus and Statistics are central to how such decisions are studied, and so have become the second language through which I communicate.
We are quickly heading towards experiencing such a constraint in the part of Ohio where we live, as we have already experienced so many snow days that are actually in danger of running out of them . The number available to us is set by the legislature that meets several hours to the South of us, where snow if fairly rare. We, however, live only a few miles from Lake Erie, which dumps snow on us in what is known as the “lake effect.” Because of that effect, we have almost a constant sprinkling of snow beginning in November and ending, if we are lucky, in April (there is some talk of snow in June one year, but that may be a tall tale told by old timers who are proud of their hearty past.) In the mean time, we try to stay warm and safe. I recall one comment my daughter made when she was about three, which rings so true this time of the year. She said “A long time ago, it was summer.”
Since it is often cold and snowing out in the early morning as she waits for the bus at the bus stop, I often let her sit in the car with me as we wait for the bus to arrive. I am amused at what she notices about the process. In the dark, one morning, she told me “there goes that car, and then the neighbor’s car will go, and then there will be Mr. Jones, and after that, the bus will come” as she correctly remembered each detail of the process by which the neighborhood wakes up and gets going each morning. I became once again amazed at the perceptiveness of this little girl who shares my days, as I didn’t realize the degree to which her mind recalls so many of the details that the rest of us usually ignore. As much as the snow can be a challenge, I love to sit in that car as we wait, with the snow falling softly around us, talking to her about her life and her interests. Those are precious times.
About a week ago, I had a snow day off of work the same day my daughter did, so I was able to stay home with her. It was the kind of day that makes me remember how cool she is and how glad I am to have her in my life. Together we watched PBS kids and played games and practiced math facts. By the time the evening rolled around, she was ready to leave the house, if only, as she proposed, to pick up dinner at one of her favorite sandwich shops. She called my husband to ask him what we should pick up for him, and he told her something, which she wrote down. I had to call him back a few minutes later to clarify his order once I read what she had written. While he had asked us to pick up a sandwich known as “Chicken and Bacon Bravo”, I found myself laughing as I asked him about what she had written. “Honey, I don’t think you meant for us to get you a “Chicken and Bacon Birdle!”
This time of year, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live somewhere warmer, where snow was more of a rarity and where one could really get by on only three snow days for the entire winter. However, sitting in the car waiting for the bus to pick up my daughter makes me savor these times, even if they are often slushy and chillingly cold.