Page 13 Cartoons

D.C. vs. Chi-town: vying for Obama’s affection

February 5, 2009

Early in my freshman year, my friends and I concocted a game called “Fun Facts about my Hometown.” What began as an innocuous exchange of trivia about our home states and individual points of origin soon transformed into a heated competition, renamed “Whose Hometown Is Best?” Naturally, an important facet of this more confrontational stage was tearing down one another’s places of residence. (We repeatedly introduced our Maryland friend as having crabs.)
These topics of contention were interesting and fun, but one argument has been the perennial favorite: Snow—good or bad? And the corollary: How funny is D.C.’s panic about snow (on a scale from “Waiting ‘til it melts is absolutely the right decision” to “I wear flip flops in this weather”)?
While this is an entirely normal and friendly dispute among college students, apparently it is unbecoming in a president.
In response to our newest neighbor’s criticism of D.C. school closings—“[F]olks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things. … [I]n Chicago, school is never cancelled. In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out, you’d go outside for recess in weather like this”—The Washington Post took the defensive, condemning Obama’s disparaging comments in an opinion piece, an article in Metro, and an editorial. The paper’s official stance on the president’s remarks seemed to be, “that was cold,” the headline of the editorial.
Jeanne McManus took a stronger stance in her op-ed, challenging critical out-of-towners such as Obama to “flawlessly get around any traffic circle in Washington at rush hour” among other driving miracles, ending her tirade with gleeful anticipation for the president’s first D.C. summer. She seemed to take more offense at Obama’s right to criticize her hometown than at the criticism itself.
Several area residents agreed with her in Daniel de Vise and Michael Birmbaum’s article; one even suggested that the president “resign and run for the School Board” if the issue is so important to him. Even Ellis Turner, an administrator at Sidwell Friends, the focus of the president’s scorn, joined in defending the District, inviting Obama to help make the call in the future to keep schools open since his input would help in explaining to the “students why they won’t be able to spend the day sleeping and sledding.” Turner then went further, referring to Obama’s Hawaii childhood, where snow days were certainly not a problem.
A flinty Chicagoan myself, I tend to agree with Obama’s perception of the wimpy Washingtonian attitude toward snow, ice, and winter in general. I scoff at my Arizona-bred roommate, who can smell the cold coming in early October, and my Oklahoma-based roommate, who saw the weather forecast of snow as license not to do any of her reading. It was four degrees at home over break; this is balmy.
And then I remembered how I felt about that four-degree weather. “Can’t feel my legs,” I texted the Maryland friend. “This is why I don’t live here anymore,” I told my mother. “I miss fake winter,” I whined to my brother.
So, Mr. President, I recommend you embrace your new home. The local fear of inclement weather—forecasts of two to 12 inches of snow (what does it matter? It’s snowing!), school cancelled because it might snow later, stocking up on canned goods to last until it melts—is hilarious, but it absolutely beats thinking a day is warm simply because the temperature is in double digits. And snow is much more fun when there are hills for sledding.

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I really enjoyed your essay. It is a great piece of writing. Having been in DC just before or after snow all Washingtonians seem wimpy. Not brave and adventurous like Pennsylvanians.


See my comment above.