A post-blizzard vocabulary quiz for critics
Published 5:56 pm, Thursday, February 14, 2013
The folks at Merriam-Webster Inc. in Springfield, Mass., have managed to pack 225,000 definitions between the covers of their best-selling "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary."
Among the entries are choice words for any special circumstance or occasion.
Here are two that seem especially appropriate in the aftermath of a weather disaster -- when a tropical storm knocks down trees and kills power to 80 percent of your town. Or when a blizzard dumps the most snow your town has seen in at least 125 years.
1. Patience (noun): the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset.
2. Entitlement (noun): the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).
If you woke up Saturday morning, looked out at three feet of snow clogging your street and were disappointed that the plow hadn't been by yet, you probably don't have enough of word No. 1.
If by noon you were getting angry because plows had been on other streets but not yours, you not only lacked word No. 1, you also may have a sense of word No. 2.
If you expected Fairfield's nearly 500 miles of streets to be completely cleared by Monday morning, revisit words No. 1 and 2 -- or take a ride to Bridgeport, where some streets still haven't been plowed.
The blizzard that began last Friday morning and raged through the night was an epic event -- one that called for realistic expectations of what local public works crews could accomplish in a given period.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy may have put it best: "The last time we had this much snow was never."
Yet in a smartphone era of instant communication, instant information and instant gratification, some seem to think there's an app for removing snow.
The first selectman and the police chief both have given public works crews high marks for their performance in the aftermath of a historic weather event.
We do, too.
For a storm to dump 10 inches on Fairfield is a pretty healthy snowfall -- one that would take a couple of days for full cleanup. Last week, we got more than three times that in just 24 hours.
Not only was the snow deep, it was wet and heavy, too, making it especially hard to move. Some of the DPW's smallest trucks -- pickups used on cul-de-sacs and the like -- simply didn't have the muscle for the job.
Seventy-three public works employees pitched in on cleanup. They came in Friday morning and worked 38 hours -- taking periodic breaks to nap on cots at DPW headquarters before going back on the road. They've continued with cleanup on 12-hour shifts. That's yeoman's work.
Local critics have been heard to complain that Buffalo, N.Y., with its lake-effect storms, has learned to deal efficiently with especially heavy snowfall. They wonder why we can't.
The easy answer is that we could -- if we wanted to pay for it.
For Fairfield to quickly handle this much snow, First Selectman Mike Tetreau said, would require more equipment -- 30 or 40 expensive payloaders, for example, not 10 or 15. Plus the staff to operate them.
But how do you justify spending millions on equipment that would sit idle most of the time, to be used only when the super storm struck?
Would the people complaining now about snow removal also be the first to gripe about wasteful spending on "unneeded" equipment and the consequences on property taxes?
Others have complained that some neighboring towns seemed to have completed cleanup sooner. That may be, but just a few miles west of Fairfield the storm dropped a foot less snow. We've no idea why, but moving one-third less snow is a huge factor.
Police and firefighters have three work shifts to provide round-the-clock staffing. Fairfield's DPW has one -- a day shift. In an emergency, there's no second or third shift to take over. That one shift plugs on.
The Blizzard of 2013 was epic. The people operating the plows and payloaders in Fairfield have worked heroically and anonymously.
If you don't think so, revisit words No. 1 and 2.