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What DC's Winters Taught Me

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A photo of a snow and ice covered walkway in Northwest DC. The left side of the photo shows several rowhouses. The right side of the photo shows cars and the street coated with fresh snow.

I’ve never been shy about saying that I hate winter. I hate it with a fiery passion that could melt all the ice and snow in the Alaskan tundra. I hate everything about it. The cold, the wind, the salt, the ice. All of it.

I’ve never liked it. Not even when I was a kid. I grew up in upstate New York, on the eastern side of the state (read as: not Buffalo) so it snows, but not as much in other places. But a snowflake is a snowflake and they’re all terrible if you ask me.

When I think of snow, I don’t think of pretty, picturesque scenes. I always think of the leftovers. The murky, muddled, gravel-filled snowbanks that fill countless parking lots every year. Those giant piles that don’t melt until six months later. The remnants on the side of the road that I end up having to trudge through to get to the bus stop, making me even more miserable on my morning commute. Snow falling in between my glasses and my face making it so I can’t see.

When I first moved to DC, of course during the heat of summer, I was excited about the possibility of a more mild winter. I was excited about not having to face ice or feet of snow falling all at once.

And the first winter I was here, back in 2014, was relatively mild. It wasn’t the worst winter I ever experienced; it was better than the one my family saw, but I still found myself taking to the internet to complain.

That first winter, I slipped and fell on an escalator entering a metro station on my way to work.

That first winter, I had to buy a new winter coat because the one I’d brought just wasn’t quite warm enough.

That first winter? It was awful and I hated it. Loathed it even. (The phrase “unadulterated loathing” is probably a more accurate representation of my feelings toward winter as a whole.)

I learned a lot from that first winter though.

I learned that I’ll probably hate winter no matter where I live. I learned that outdoor metro stations are the worst places to be at night from November to March. They’re cold and often become slick and slippery. (I’ve had some near disastrous falls at several.)

And as the winter continues, I keep thinking about all the things I’ve learned since I moved down here.

You cannot have enough gloves or mittens or scarves or hats. I swear, every year I end up losing a pair of gloves or mittens either when I switch jackets to match the weather or during my commute to and from work. It’s exasperating because I never seem to be able to find them when I need them, so I end up perpetually replacing them. I keep extras everywhere now—in my jacket, my purse, and my backpack. (That way I’m able to have a pair on hand when I need them.)

You must walk like a penguin nearly all the time. Whether you take public transportation to work or you drive, at some point you’re going to encounter something that’s slippery. Parking lots and sidewalks ice over. Shoes get wet from snow. Floors are covered with other people’s slushy footprints. And it becomes dangerous.

Everything is wet and slick and slippery. The recommended course of action from many is to walk like a penguin—where you take short, slow steps to avoid any potential slippage. (Bonus tip is that I always keep fancy work shoes in the office and wear shoes with better traction as I commute. I don’t need to wreck fancy shoes and injure myself. That’s literally adding insult to injury.)

Bringing your phone charger with you is always a good idea. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times in any season my phone has managed to die. In the winter it seems to be worse because I’m always trying to figure out how long it’s going to be before I make it to my final destination while commuting—in other words—how long am I going to have to sit in the cold. It drains the battery and I absolutely don’t want to be stuck without a phone anywhere, even in the summertime.

Those are the tips that I would give to anybody anywhere, honestly. They’re pretty helpful and I’m hoping that this winter doesn’t teach me any other new tips. And of course, there are all of the other helpful tips from our friends at Ready for things you can and should do before, during, and after a snowstorm.

And, as storms threaten and impact the west coast and are expected to head further east into this weekend, we hope that these tips are helpful and those in the path of potential severe weather stay safe and warm.

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:20