When teaching Microeconomics, especially when teaching it to my Math students, I sometimes write the constraint a decision maker faces as one not of purchasing goods with a set amount of money, but of making choices of what to do with a set amount of time. For, in the end, it is time that is our ultimate constraint in life, and one that we need to take into account when making decisions. I found myself thinking of this recently when it seemed that the younger generation was receiving a constant flow of windfalls of extra time, windfalls that came in the form of “snow days.” But that is the result of living in what many call the “snow belt.”
The “snow belt” in my corner of Ohio exists because Lake Erie tends to be rather warm in the winters. When cold air comes South from Canada and crosses the lake to get here, it picks up water that has evaporated and eventually dumps it, in the form of snow, on my neighborhood and several other portions of the state. Known as the “lake effect,” this led one local high school to use the existence of many snow days to try to convince students to enroll there. From the point of view of a parent, it seems that students in my area get more snow days than I ever remembered.
I also grew up in a part of the country where such things as “snow days” existed. Indeed, after several years of living in Washington, D.C., upon returning to a cooler climate, I actually expected one the first time I saw just another real New England snowstorm. My colleagues in graduate school laughed at me when they heard that I had called the main desk at the university to inquire as to whether the campus had been closed due to about two inches of snow. Of course, it had not, even though that amount of snow would probably have closed “the center of the free world.”
Growing up, a snow day for us meant that my mother drove my sister and me to my grandparent’s home, where we spent the day. While we sometimes made snow men, I usually used that time to read or to study. Indeed, I remember one year where my final exams in high school kept getting delayed by snow days, and so I kept on studying for them. I am sure that was the semester that I did my best in all of the four years that I was there.
Today, snow days are quite different. My daughter often spends that day on some sort of electronic device, talking and laughing with her friends who are also stuck in their homes. I strongly doubt that any of them give a second thought to the idea of using the day to study.
I remember recent years when I was one of the only parents who was home on our street during a snow day, and so some of the neighborhood children gathered at our home. Again, I doubt that any of them gave a second thought to studying, as they delved into a game of “hide and seek.” It was very different from the quiet days at Grandma’s that I remembered, but actually fun to watch.
And so, with all due respect to (and a lot of jealousy towards) my readers who live in warmer climates that do not have snow days, what do those kind of days turn into for you, and how do they differ from your memories growing up?
… Wishing my readers a very Happy New Year…
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