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Buy a fucking shovel
December 23, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

The snowpocalypse has hit Britain, again, and you've still not bought a snow shovel. Naturally, all the shops have sold out and have no idea when they'll get more. Let the Internet help you by sending you a reminder for next year...
posted by mr_silver (58 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've always wondered about this phenomenon, every summer there are mountain-like stacks of fans and air conditioners that sell out on the first hot day of the year. Likewise with tire chains and snow shovels in the winter. you would think that everyone would have these things by now.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always say I'll stock up on salt during the summer but between hardware stores not necessarily stocking it year round and "oh I've got plenty of time" I always failed. Now I have a Plan: as soon as I have to wear a scarf I start extending my grocery shopping trips to the home depot next door and buy a medium-sized bag of salt, repeat until the corner I store them in is full.

Then when it does snow I have enough of a buffer to last through the initial mad, shelf-stripping rush as everyone is shocked SHOCKED to discover that snow melt eventually re-freezes.
posted by Skorgu at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2010


A (Dutch) girlfriend once remarked "You English are so odd. You let things run, do nothing about them, spend no money on them and then wonder when it all spectacularly breaks down".

She was talking about the London Underground escalators at the time but it seems to fit well for anything we do.
posted by mr_silver at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, mr_silver's Dutch girlfriend, 200+ years as a non-colony and that's certainly a lesson the US hasn't learned either.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:12 AM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Living where I do, I tend to be of the mind that if you are even able to consider using a shovel as a solution, it isn't the snowpocalypse.
posted by quin at 9:13 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seattle and its surrounding cities are the same way. "ZOMG, it's snowing. What do you mean this entire city has only one snowplow???"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:16 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Snow is just nature's way of telling Britain that Heathrow is shit.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


So how many feet of snow has the UK gotten that's caused such chaos?
posted by octothorpe at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inches, octothorpe. The word is 'inches'.

For an interesting look at the not-at-all overstated response to the weather, I present the Evening Standard (for maximum impact you really need the REFUGEE BRITAIN bit to take up half the front page, as it did in the print edition).

We're all doomed. Doomed, I tell you.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The snow was melting off London's streets, but Heathrow Airport told infuriated passengers it won't restore full service until Thursday — five days after a five-inch snowfall turned hundreds of thousands of holiday plans into a nightmare of canceled flights and painful nights sleeping on terminal floors.

5 inches of snow is a snowpocolypse?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!
posted by pyramid termite at 9:36 AM on December 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I keep a snow shovel and brush in my car year round, because if there is one thing I can guarantee it is that if I took them out in April I would lose them before the first snowstorm. (In the winter they are in my back seat. In the summer they are in my trunk.)

When I was a bit further south for school, every single snowstorm had the same result: I would use my brush, and get stared at longingly by students and professors who were using their sleeves to clean off their cars, usually without gloves. Mostly I just smiled at them and drove off, because if you cannot be bothered to buy a brush, I cannot be bothered to wait 5 minutes to do you a favour.
posted by jeather at 9:37 AM on December 23, 2010


We got a light dusting of snow in Dublin the first winter I lived there. It brought the city to a screeching halt. As a Canadian accustomed to feet of snow in the winter and having to heave shovelfuls of snow above my head when I shovel the walk, it was the most bizarre reaction I'd ever seen. But then, the city wasn't prepared to deal with it, the roads are way too narrow and drivers way too crazy, and tires with not enough grip, trying to drive in that actually was a hazard.
posted by LN at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Living where I do, I tend to be of the mind that if you are even able to consider using a shovel as a solution, it isn't the snowpocalypse.

If I may do the tell, I'm lookin' behind us now, during THE Snow-poxy-clips, figuring 15 pounds to the square foot of snow, I shoveled two tons in expectation that my sick child might need a doctor. Then God was so angry at our election of a Muslim to the highest office that He saw fit that we got another two feet of snow.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:43 AM on December 23, 2010


evening standard photo caption - "Road to nowhere: Traffic crawls through the snow during a blizzard"

sir, if you can see the cars and trucks backed up and the road they are on, it is not a blizzard

wait until you're driving on the road and everything including the front of your car disappears - THAT'S a blizzard
posted by pyramid termite at 9:43 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Inches, octothorpe. The word is 'inches'.

Yea, I was just being snarky. The citizens of my little city were ready to storm city hall with torches and pitchforks last year because it took three or fours days to dig us out of almost three feet of snow. Five inches is barely enough to bother shoveling.
posted by octothorpe at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2010


Mustn't grumble.
posted by Decani at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, my American other half idest is due to land at Heathrow tomorrow morning. If those bastards mess that up I'm blowing the whole... err, okay, strike that.
posted by Decani at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


In fairness, Hawaii isn't prepared for tornados, nor Kansas for tidal waves. To put it in context, until two weeks ago, there hadn't been snow on the ground in my part of Ireland in 14 years. Would have been hard to justify buying snowplows at the county council AGM. We're good at dealing with what we've always dealt with - torrential rain with temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees.
posted by kersplunk at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


We got about 30cm (a foot) of snow here in Southport on the Merseyside coast, which is about the same as the total amount that fell in the previous 30 years combined. We've never needed the shovels before. The local council was so taken by surprise that a week later, not even the main roads through town have been cleared, let alone the residential areas.
posted by nowonmai at 10:25 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


To put it in context, until two weeks ago, there hadn't been snow on the ground in my part of Ireland in 14 years.

You got mud there right? Gravel? Surely you have bulldozers.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2010


5 inches of snow is a snowpocolypse?

I read that five inches fell within an hour, which I would say is actually pretty intense, especially in a place where you don't get a lot of snow at all.
posted by padraigin at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2010


I've lived in the DC area since 2001, but didn't own a car here until 2006 and wasn't responsible for transportation of said car during snowstorms until last year. I grew up in the South and am therefore a poor and inexperienced snow driver, and I usually don't leave the house during blizzards. Naturally, last year and earlier this year the DC area got absolutely pounded with snow - as pounded as we ever get, anyway - and the jerks I work for actually expected me to come to work once the office opened back up. The nerve of some people!

So, this nearly 30-year old Southerner had to be introduced to the task of "digging out your goddamned car from under 20 inches of snow." Huh? Snow doesn't just, like, melt away? You mean I have to move this shit? I was displeased, and even more so to find that we had once again failed to buy a snow shovel. We had a shovel, but a woefully inadequate one for that volume of snow, so I resorted to scooping snow into a laundry basket. We were not the only ones in our neighborhood in this predicament - I saw all sorts of things being used to move snow, like baking pans, buckets, empty litter boxes, and even a piece of cardboard box. (Thank God for my husband, who spent many winters in Chicago and actually did know how to get the car out once we finished digging.)

Therefore, as soon as I spied them at Home Depot this year, we bought a fucking snow shovel. Two of them, in fact. I might even learn to drive in the snow this year. Maybe.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obligatory link to the Blizzard of '78

THIS is snow.
posted by Melismata at 11:05 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


And that British snow will blow around a whole lot more after they've cut down all the trees.
posted by Twang at 11:08 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yea, I was just being snarky. The citizens of my little city were ready to storm city hall with torches and pitchforks last year because it took three or fours days to dig us out of almost three feet of snow. Five inches is barely enough to bother shoveling.

Yes, I figured: my snark was aimed at the British, and the over-reaction and failure to deal with a small amount of snow. I wasn't snarking at you; my apologies if it seemed that I was.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2010


You've seen nothing until you've been in the South and watch how people react to 2 freakin' inches of light powdery snow.
posted by blucevalo at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, mr_silver's Dutch girlfriend, 200+ years as a non-colony and that's certainly a lesson the US hasn't learned either.

But we've improved the concept: half the fuckwits who run the federal government block funding to maintain things, then blame the other fuckwits when it all falls apart.
posted by Hylas at 11:31 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


When you open your front door and are confronted by a solid wall of snow from floor to roof, that's a snowpocalypse. Growing up in Northern Canada, that was the only time I remember knowing for certain that it was going to be a snow day.

Awaiting other Canadian snark
posted by benzenedream at 11:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awaiting other Canadian snark

Well, were you stocked up on Kraft Dinner?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:42 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


That is uncalled for sir. We have apologized for Bryan Adams on a number of occasions. The delicate matter of Bieber reparations is still under negotiation.
posted by benzenedream at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just send us Mike Holmes as a down payment.
posted by crunchland at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2010


White Christmases used to be a thing of beautiful legend here but now that we've actually got one it turns out that its cause for 24 hour panic media coverage. Who knew?
posted by memebake at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


and do i need an internet reminder next spring to buy a flyswatter? how would that begin "dear fucking idiot...."?
posted by kitchenrat at 12:24 PM on December 23, 2010


you're missing the point: in a country where pulling a sickie is an artform, and the weather is a national obsession, snow is just an excuse for an unofficial bank holiday.

we LOVE it when everything grinds to a halt. four inches of snow here in London meant i got to work from home for three days straight.

(spoken as someone who grew up in Boston, has lived here 8 years, and *still* can't wrap her brain around how an imperial power that once conquered the world can be reduced to jelly by a few flakes. forget bombs, terrorists should use SNOW to cripple the UK!)
posted by wayward vagabond at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


You've seen nothing until you've been in the South and watch how people react to 2 freakin' inches of light powdery snow.

Cop cars in snow chains in less than half an inch. (No other cars, at all, were out.) I wish I had pictures.
posted by enn at 12:52 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was at Home Depot getting various project stuff after the 3rd blizzard hit DC last winter and this couple was yelling at an employee wondering how they could be out of shovels. Apparently it room 3 storms for the entire region to realize they needed shovels. As a person from big snow country I'd been seriously over prepared.
posted by humanfont at 12:57 PM on December 23, 2010


I can't imagine what snow would do to California (well, not counting the parts where it does snow). The recent storms here caused enough overreaction.
posted by shinyshiny at 1:12 PM on December 23, 2010


Yeah, reminds me of this clip from Monkey Dust. UK FTW
posted by yoHighness at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Edinburgh - I live by the docks. Late last night I looked out of my window to see a fox sneek out over the frozen harbour to catch a roosting duck. This morning a tug was brought in to act as an icebreaker so that we can keep landing all-important grit from Peru. The modest urban hill we know as Arthur's Seat had avalanche warnings. In the UK as a whole is will almost certainly be our coldest December since records began.

So no - we will not win, in the snow machismo stakes, if we are lined up against Canada or Scandinavia - but, for all our modest few inches of the white stuff - few people here have seen it colder.
posted by rongorongo at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Congratulations, England! You're now a Nordic country. Try the lutefisk!

Actually, don't.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:27 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


All this fuss reminds me of the scene in Doctor Zhivago (1965 Julie Christie, Omar Sharif version) in which Lara's daughter is stopping around in the snow singing:

"Snow, snow, snow; I love the snow..."
posted by cool breeze at 3:00 PM on December 23, 2010


Although I didn't get a fucking snow shovel before they ran out, I did manage to fit winter tyres, for the first time, before the shit hit the fan and I must say they're absolutely amazing.

Now if everyone else did the same, we might actually be able to carry on normally!
posted by Transparent Yak at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2010


You've seen nothing until you've lived in the subtropical Southern Hemisphere and watched the British react to 25°C+ temperatures at Christmas by getting nude, drunk and sunburned.

Santa, for Christmas, could you please send snow and the riot squad.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


When the 2009 Snowpocolypse hit the east coast last winter, we found ourselves with 2 feet of snow and only one snow shovel. We made due with one shovel the first time, but when they started forecasting another 16" of snow we decided it was time to invest in a second snow shovel. Of course by then all of the stores were sold out. So I did what any sensible geek would do...

I ordered a snow shovel from Amazon with Prime shipping. It arrived 2 days later (12 hours before the snow arrived) via Fed Ex, wrapped like a gift. Why plan ahead when there's 2-day shipping?
posted by geeky at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


We have apologized for Bryan Adams on a number of occasions. The delicate matter of Bieber reparations is still under negotiation.

oh, hell, you've got the tragically hip - they make up for bryan adams, bieber, celine dion AND nickleback
posted by pyramid termite at 8:35 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, if you don't buy a shovel all year and don't have one come winter some email that ends up spam filtered into oblivion isn't gonna help. I mean, I know I don't have a shovel, that didn't make me go out and buy one on the 200 some odd days it didn't snow, what makes buyafuckingshovel email machine think that their reminder six months after I forgot I signed up for it is going to make me go out in the snow to buy one?
posted by IvoShandor at 9:34 PM on December 23, 2010


I can't imagine what snow would do to California

Mr Jamaro and me are native Californians who have never lived further than 30 miles inland. One February many years ago we were coming home from a wedding and driving north over the Grapevine when we spot all these white flecks whirling around in the air.

SO: Hey, what is that?
Me: Is that feathers?
SO: Looks more like pollen.
Me: Maybe it's bugs.
SO: :opens sunroof, sticks hand out: It's uh, snow.

We were mutually embarrassed and silent until we reached Bakersfield.
posted by jamaro at 10:44 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also.

Snowpocalypse my arse.

I can report, having been there, that it did snow in London last Friday and Saturday. The snowfall bore about the same relation to a blizzard as a gentle breeze does to a gale. It snowed a few inches for a few hours. After that it remained cold, an unreasonable thing in winter, I know, but not unprecedented.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:52 PM on December 23, 2010


my snark was aimed at the British, and the over-reaction and failure to deal with a small amount of snow

Well, this has gone about as predictably as any trans-Atlantic thread on this subject could be expected to go.

I first visited Britain in the winter of 1985-86, which for years afterwards was the last-coldest mentioned in news reports; spent 1991-92 in England; and then moved to Edinburgh in 2001. The cold and difficulty of the past month has trumped anything I would normally expect for January or February, and for November and December is unprecedented, whatever smug NYT op-ed writers say.

I've also experienced three Canadian winters, basking in the warmth of in-laws' homes heated to 23°C with cheap power, driving on country roads with massive ditches either side that are easy to push snow into, which are cleared by plentiful snowploughs and stay safe (unless you're actually in the middle of a blizzard) because the temperature stays below freezing night and day for months.

Britain isn't like that. Roads don't have ditches either side; in many rural areas the roads are one lane wide with ancient drystone walls hemming them in, with nowhere for the snow to go; in the cities they have cars parked along them. And the temperature hasn't been staying consistently low, it's been swinging between -10°C overnight to around freezing during the day, with snow partly melting and refreezing on the roads, then with new snow falling on top of that. Cars don't have winter tyres here because until the snowy period of 2009-10 there was no need for them; would you buy something for your car that nobody has needed for twenty years?

In the cities, many cars aren't garaged; mine is parked on the street, outside our Victorian tenement. After several nights of -10°C, its battery predictably died. For the first two weeks of snow it was parked on a nearby side-street, which was a low priority for clearing; this is a hilly city, and driving on that would have been extremely dangerous, so we didn't. At one point all the city's bus services were suspended because its double-decker buses were sliding downhill. You won't see that in pancake-flat Alberta.

Britain's cities and towns aren't geared up to deal with this much snow over this long a period. It isn't just about the number of snowploughs and sacks of grit, it's surely also about manpower. There aren't platoons of snowplough drivers waiting in the wings to clear thirty tons of snow from beneath every 747 parked at Heathrow. You don't marshall forces like that overnight, it takes time, but in that time the backlog of stranded passengers is building up and turning your airport into a refugee camp.

The media here have been comparing Heathrow's lot with airports like Anchorage and Helsinki, but the comparison is largely meaningless: Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, with an enormous volume of traffic on any day of the year; disrupt that to any extent and you have no slack to absorb the impact. The fairer comparison is to airports like Schiphol and Frankfurt, and they've been struggling this month too.

As an Australian married to a Canadian, I'm used to raising a bemused eyebrow at British reactions to weather extremes. Not this time.
posted by rory at 2:47 AM on December 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm Norwegian. I've got a Land Rover, studded tyres, new battery and new glow plugs. I came here to snark, but I see the Canadians already got you covered. *Waves a mittened hand at Benzenedream*
posted by Harald74 at 7:01 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, this has gone about as predictably as any trans-Atlantic thread on this subject could be expected to go.

Don't know why you quoted me before this comment; I live in London. I can see the snow by looking out my window. There isn't that much of it. Here, at least. From what I hear it's a lot worse up north, but London should not be basically shut down by 5 inches of snow, which is what happened on Saturday. Sure Heathrow doesn't have huge numbers of snowplows, but nor does Gatwick, which has been operating pretty much fine.

And this has happened several times in the past few years, and each time we're told that the government/transport agencies will be ready next time. At some point they have to stop acting like snow is a surprise, and actually be ready to deal with it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:46 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


HAHA JUST A FEW HUNDRED ELEPHANTS RUNNING AROUND NEW YORK CITY AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GET TRAMPLED OH MAN YOU GUYS SURE WEREN'T PREPARED FOR A THING YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D HAVE TO BE PREPARED FOR HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WEEE
posted by tehloki at 11:11 AM on December 24, 2010


in my neck of the woods, they'd be called funny looking fat deer and be shot
posted by pyramid termite at 12:53 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also. Snowpocalypse my arse.

Irony. Us Brits use it quite a lot.
posted by mr_silver at 3:19 PM on December 24, 2010


Irony. Us Brits use it quite a lot.

My word choice invalidates the point made in the column how?
posted by IvoShandor at 10:04 PM on December 26, 2010


Meaning, if you'd actually RTFA you'd realize that my use of your term wasn't meant as a dig at you.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:05 PM on December 26, 2010


What I realised during an abortive attempt to fly out from Heathrow on December 23rd last (and a more successful attempt from London City the following day), is that the margins at BAA's airports have been cut to such an extent that any deviation from everything working properly causes chaos - at London City, one slightly delayed plane was enough fill a nearly-empty check-in hall to one snaking queue, with nervous middle-managers carrying clipboards stalking the queue and panicking. At Heathrow the previous day there was a genuine crisis, the queue was of nearly refugee proportions and it was clear no one had any idea what was happening, or what to do next. We were only at the airport because it was the only way we would be recognised by the airline: there was no UK number (the airline was KLM), the Dutch call-centre was permanently engaged and there was definitely no way of engaging with the airline via the website. If we'd sat at home, (even though it was clear the flight was cancelled) we had no way of knowing whether we'd be rescheduled or what was happening.

I have no idea whether the airlines or BAA do contingency planning - I would have thought they did, but if so they don't do it very well.

So, yes, the kind of snow we've had this year and last year is very unusual. What isn't unusual is that in the event of something disruptive happening (snow, baggage handlers striking, or perhaps French air traffic controllers - anything at all), the system collapses, leaving passengers stranded, uninformed and angry.

I have to presume it keeps costs down in some way to rely on muddling through rather than rational (and equitable) strategic planning.

(Recently such things have happened at least once during the winter due to weather, at least once during the summer due to industrial action or something like the Heathrow Terminal 5 debacle. It's not as if they don't have practice.)
posted by Grangousier at 10:22 PM on December 26, 2010


Heathrow doesn't have huge numbers of snowplows, but nor does Gatwick, which has been operating pretty much fine.

Yeah, but Gatwick only has one runway. Also, wasn't it closed down for a day (Dec. 18th??)? I flew out from Gatwick on the 19th and we were 10 hours late getting into the air. A whole lot of easyJet flights had been axed, though, so we counted ourselves lucky (with a 9mo. old baby, though).
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011


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