#31: Snow Day, by Liz Mathews

On the off chance that the weather is so horrendous work is canceled, the company where I work has an inclement weather phone number. Every year when there’s an inkling of a snowstorm on the way (or hurricane, depending on the season), our HR department sends a company-wide email reminding us to phone in before heading in. The phone will either be answered with “Macmillan is currently open for business,” or some message which is essentially the opposite.*

On our first day back to work in 2014 we received the email.

“In the event the company is closed due to weather or other circumstances, employees should call ###-###-####. A message will be updated by 6:00am on that day if the company is closed, or to provide further instruction. Otherwise, the message will remain, ‘Macmillan is currently open for business.’ For easy reference, make sure you have this number readily available. We recommend bringing it home and/or saving it to your cell phone.

Around my office, we tittered with anticipation, the wonders of sledding and sleeping in sparkling like snowflakes in our imaginations. “But we still have to get up early to make the call,” someone complained. “So? Just go back to sleep.”

That evening I learned that my friends were planning an 11:30 brunch the following day in my neighborhood. Three of them were unemployed, and the fourth had already been told her work was called off for the snow. I was jealous that they had the luxury of already knowing what the weather meant. I wanted to brunch.

At 6:15 that next day I squinted through the curtains in my room to see the snow damage—the world outside was white and begging to be left pristine. Brimming with hope, I picked up my cell phone, which dutifully had the inclement weather phone number saved. Really, I already knew what I was going to hear but held my breath anyway. After one ring, the message dashed all visions of hot chocolate after ice skating: “Macmillan is currently open for business.”

Whoever made the weather decision either lived within two blocks of the office or took joy in using snowshoes. Since brunch was not to be, I took my time getting ready, and showed up at work a half-hour late, ready to blame the trains (though they’d worked perfectly fine for once for me) if anyone commented. I braced myself for tales of falling down subway station stairs or slipping in slush puddles.

There were both. And there were sentences dripping with vitriolic complaining about those lucky enough to get a snow day. The air and my Facebook news feed were full of bitterness toward having to come to the office. Some were taking back their snow day by not doing work while being at work.

And then the sun appeared and the piles of snow glittered and the hours passed and by the time dusk arrived it’d turned out to be a pretty productive day. I will be honest here: the nice thing about working for a company that almost never closes is that it’s a lot easier to commute in when the rest of the world shuts down—and after all the complaints are vented, a lot of work can be accomplished, too.

Deep down in my cold Midwestern heart, I knew the weather hadn’t been that bad, anyway.

*The one time this has happened during my years with the company, there was no message at all. I took it as the ultimate message to stay home, since not even the phones could be reached.

Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.