Last Thursday was the first day of spring. I'm hoping it was sunny, warm and vernal. The reason this is just a hope -- and an outside one at that -- is because I'm writing this column a week before it appears. Six days before the calendar says spring begins, the thermometer is struggling mightily to reach 22. Winds are blowing like the top of Mount Washington. If the calendar didn't say "March 14" -- and the sun didn't hang around until 6-ish -- you'd swear it was New Year's.
This was a long, hard winter. But like any other slog -- organic chemistry, say, or watching Justin Bieber's career implode -- there are takeaways. Thoughts to be shared. Lessons to be learned. Here are a few.
Snow days are great. Except when they're not. At Staples High School, for example -- where school cancellations piled up like snow drifts, billowing on the heels of vacations, Martin Luther King Day, midterm exams and weekends -- students realized you can only spend so much time at home. Barred from driving, either by worried parents or driveways plowed into oblivion; cut off from social lives (except for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder), and having watched every episode of "House of Cards," "Game of Thrones" and "Breaking Bad" ever filmed, Westport teenagers actually began praying to hear Elliott Landon's unique voice say, "Today is (insert date here), and the Westport public schools are ... open!"
Snow drifts are not great. Well, for the first day and a half, yeah. We marvel at that mother of all piles at the center of the Post Road and Main Street, which disappears somehow as quickly as it is made. There are so many others, too -- man-made and natural -- all looking massive and white and beautiful. But eventually they coalesce into an immovable, unmeltable mass of jagged ice. They block parking spots and impede sight lines. Worst of all, all those piles on sides of roads turn a gruesome shade of brown. It's scary to realize, but the reason is clear: This is our car exhaust. It's the stuff we breathe every day. Yikes.
When it comes to weather forecasting, the go-to guys are Jacob Meisel and Scott Pecoriello. Jacob is a Harvard freshman; Scott is a Staples junior. Both consistently beat Weather.com, WeatherUnderground and the National Weather Service, in terms of accuracy and providing background information. You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows; just click on swctweather.com or wildaboutweather.com.
For every weather loser, there's a winner. Well, maybe not "every" one, but some businesses make hay when the sun doesn't shine. Hardware stores sell salt, shovels and snow rakes by the pallet; car washes can scarcely keep up with the grime. And it goes without saying that on the day before Jacob Meisel and Scott Pecoriello predict a snowstorm -- of any amount beyond one inch -- Stop & Shop, Fresh Market and Stew's sell every loaf of bread, gallon of milk and carton of eggs on their shelves.
I would not want to be a restaurant owner in Westport during the winter. There are many purchases that can be put off until later: cameras, clothes, cars. A meal unserved, though, will never be made up.
I would, on the other hand, not mind owning a cruise ship, beach resort or ski mountain. Despite one of our many snowstorms a couple of days before February vacation, on the first morning of break Westport seemed as empty as Citi Field during every World Series since it opened.
Sledding is one of those old-time pleasures that never loses its appeal. Generations of Westporters have enjoyed the hills at Birchwood Country Club and Green's Farms Elementary School; now (ever since the town bought it) Winslow Park has joined the list. Thankfully, sleds (and toboggans and coasters) are one item of childhood that has not gone high-tech.
Despite the frequent storms and high winds all winter, we escaped widespread power outages. They would have been particularly unwelcome this year, when the temperature seemed stuck for long stretches between 0 and 1 degrees. It seems the tree-trimming efforts of many homeowners -- plus CL&P -- paid off. Knock on wood. (Pun intended.)
Whenever there is the slightest break in the weather, Westporters head to Compo Beach. It's human nature, I guess, but in February a stroll along the shore in 35-degree weather seems balmy. If it drops to 70 in August, we make soup.
As Annie said, "The sun will come out tomorrow." Unfortunately, she sang that every night on Broadway. All winter long -- except for one fleeting 60-degree day -- we were all waiting.