Very well. Since you're all out of perspective and no one else seems to have it in this bloody town, I'll make you a deal. You provide the food, I'll provide the perspective, which would go nicely with a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947."
--Anton Ego, Ratatouille
Early on January 22, it started snowing. In the short time it took me to shower and find khakis and a sweater, the world had turned white, and by the time I was ready to leave, the roads, well, they were not ready. At all. Thursday, there was a lull, but that turned out to be the literal calm before the storm. Friday, the snow resumed, pausing only to make room for half an inch of ice. It stopped sometime on Saturday, but not before it had closed schools and roads, and, in much of our area, turned out the lights.
We were among the lucky ones. We lost power for maybe six hours on Friday and again on Sunday. In between it would flicker, but never went away entirely. Still, it was cold outside. Three degrees, to be exact, when I woke up Sunday to the utter silence of unpowered appliances. I spent most of the morning trying not to move, thereby transforming myself a sandwich made up of blankets for filling, the cats and me for bread.
Usually when bad things happen, I can quell my whines and worries by remembering all the ways in which others are worse off than me and directing compassion toward them. So I began to consider those whose power hadn't been on since Friday, then those who don't even have the option of indoor electricity and water. I stretched my imagination to all the displaced people in the world, victims of other people's wars, who have no shelter at all. My three-bedroom ranch almost seemed nice, electricity or no. But I guess the cold had frozen my empathy muscle, because that didn't work for long.
So, I decided to read. I donned gloves and a hat and went for something short, using a bit of precious mobile battery to check the New York Times. I clicked on "We Asked, You Answered: Your Favorite Blizzard Things." Epic fail. While I can play the part of spoiled urbanite as well as the next girl, it took very few gushing evocations of the glories of sea salt and gourmandise for my iPhone to find itself very nearly hurled into the nearest snowbank. Said snowbank being dangerously close to the house, I instead put the phone on airplane mode, and, for good measure, in another room, then settled fully into my sulk.
One can only sulk for so long, however, even in three degrees, so I decided to try reading again. I mean, reading IS one of my great loves, and seriously, what else did I have to do? So I pulled out my Kindle and plunged head-first into a thriller. I was soon so absorbed that I actually failed to see the faint glow of the bedside lamp or hear the hum of the appliances as they came back to life. You have to admit...that's some book! It was creepy, it was just-real-enough-but-not-too-real... and it was exactly what I needed. Maybe I was being a wimp, but the fact was, I'd had as much "real" as I could handle. What I needed was fiction. And so this time, as so many times before, it was the world of imagination that gave me a generous serving of perspective. (I'll let you decide what went in the glass.)
p.s. I am not the only one for whom the wintry weather has led to questions of perspective. For another take, read Omid Safi's excellent On Being post, "The Slush Puddles of Life."