This is the real reason you go shopping before a snowstorm

Daniel Engber of Slate offers an explanation as to why people behave like idiots before a snowstorm, rushing off to a grocery store that will undoubtedly be open at some point the next day.

The word is hunkering, in the specifically American sense of digging in and taking shelter. It’s the anxious form of self-indulgence, where fear is fuel to make us cozy.

I agree that hunkering is part of it, but I also think there is something even larger at play:

People want to be involved in momentous events. They want to feel like they played a part in a historical moment. By role playing panic – which is essentially what a person does when he or she is willing to wait in an endless line for milk that will be readily available in 24 hours – people feel like an essential part of the oncoming snowstorm. They are like actors, committing to a part that their friends, colleagues and the local media have been undoubtedly hyping for three days.

It’s no fun to be liaise-faire. Being able to remain calm in an actual emergency is a skill that is valued by all, but remaining calm in a fake emergency is no fun for anyone involved. It just makes the people pretending that they are in the midst of an emergency feel stupid or angry or both. It’s like when little kids are running around the playground, pretending that a dragon is chasing them, but one kid just stands there and shouts, “There is no dragon! There is no dragon!”

But there is no dragon, people. New England just experienced one of the worst winters in terms of snowfall ever, yet in my part of Connecticut – which received near-record snowfalls – there was never a storm that kept the roads from being cleared and the stores opened within 24 hours, and most of the time, considerably less than that.

In most cases, the roads were impassible for a few hours at best and the stores never actually closed.

My wife and I never went shopping before a storm this winter – despite the fact that we have two small children who drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of bread – and we were never wont for either item. If you don’t have enough food in your house to survive 8-24 hours, the problem isn’t the storm. It’s with the way you shop for groceries.

If you’re looking for something to panic about, why not make it climate change. I realize that it won’t allow you to go shopping (which also plays a role in the pleasure of pre-storm pretend panic), and you won’t find yourself in the midst of the pretend panicked nearly as often, but at least you’ll be panicking over something that is real and worthy of your concern.

Bread bags on your feet was apparently a thing. Not just my family’s desperate attempt to keep our feet dry in the snow.

Staring at the photographs from the enormous snowfall in Buffalo, I was reminded of the Blizzard of ‘78 in Massachusetts. I was only seven years-old at the time, but I remember it well.

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My hometown of Blackstone and the surrounding towns of Lincoln, Smithfield, Woonsocket, and North Smithfield were the hardest hit, reporting more than 40 inches of snow.

I spent days outside with my father, shoveling trenches from the front door to the car, and from the car to the street. Truthfully, I was probably more of a nuisance than anything else, but I remember feeling like a man for the first time in my life.

We were ill equipped for the winter, as was the case throughout most of my childhood. We wore old socks on our hands in lieu of mittens. Hand-me-down winter coats.

I didn’t own a pair of snow pants until by friends bought me a pair a few years ago for my birthday so I could stay warm at Patriots games.

I didn’t own a scarf until a girlfriend bought one for me when I was in my twenties.

We didn’t own any winter boots, a fact that my evil stepfather would later use in an attempt to drive a wedge between me and my father. Instead, we wore three or four pairs of socks and then wrapped our feet in bread bags before putting on our sneakers.

I thought this was something that only my family did, but when I mentioned the bread bags in a tweet last week, three people responded, saying they did the same thing as kids.

Bread bags used as waterproofing.

Apparently it was a thing.