First Person: It’s Snowing in Berkeley By WINSTON BURTON

Tuesday February 28, 2006

Two weeks ago the temperatures fell, and there was snow on Mt. Diablo and at other higher elevations. Also there was lots of TV coverage of snow storms on the East Coast and Midwest. I must admit that during the recently passed holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Super Bowl) I also kind of missed the snow, something that rarely happens in Berkeley. 

When it snows everyone looks better. With a hat pulled over your head, scarf wrapped several times around your face, layers of multiple sweaters on and wearing big boots—what’s not to like. You’re barely recognizable! Who needs to work out at a gym? With layers of clothes wrapped around you and a big overcoat on we all look kind of round and chunky, ear muffs instead of I-Pods! We all have one goal—trying to stay warm, unlike surfers who are trying to look cool. Snow makes people friendlier too. When it’s snowing people that don’t know each other jump-start each other’s car and dig out their neighbor’s driveways. Snow can be a mini disaster as well. It’s fine when you visit it (skiing), but it’s not so much fun when it visits you—it might not leave when you want it to.  

In Berkeley there is an unwritten law, that if you don’t call, don’t come. Everyone’s lives are so busy and planned that someone just dropping by unannounced, for an hour long visit because they happened to be in the neighborhood, is just out of the question. It could disrupt your whole day! You may visit, but you often won’t get pass the threshold. No tea, no crumpets and sometimes no invite inside at all. “I’m too busy right now” or “I was just on the way out”; “Call me and we’ll get together next week.” 

But if someone visits you during a snow storm it’s a completely different story. You hear them stomping the snow off their boots before they ring the bell, because they know that regardless of why they came you will let them in, before you tell them to leave. Usually if someone visits you when it’s snowing they truly want to see you, are not just passing by, and you’re surprised that someone has made such an effort in bad weather. 

Spring might be the time of mating for the birds and the bees, but we are neither fowl nor insect. Actually, in the winter when the snow’s falling, it may be the most romantic time of all. Should I spend the evening in? I have no choice, and to leave in the middle of the night in a snow storm could be a death sentence. 

I think Ray Charles and Betty Carter described the moment best in their classic recording, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” How can I forget being snowed in at some lucky lady’s house with a tall glass of Thunderbird wine, sitting on a bean bag, “Voodoo Child” playing on the stereo, in front of a kerosene heater. When someone comes in out of the snow, it’s like a slow striptease show just watching them take off their outer garments. How sensuous. If you were born on the East Coast or Midwest between September and November, you may be a snow baby (count back nine months)!  

Oh but I wax nostalgic.  

I’m not sure I want it to snow in Berkeley, but maybe, sometimes, we should treat each other like it is snowing outside and say, “Come on in and get warm. ... Would you like some tea and soy muffins? I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.”