Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buffetting the Storm

Fifteen years ago I learned to embrace the power of positive thinking.

I wasn’t attending a Tony Robbins seminar, nor was I reading a Norman Vincent Peale book. Rather, I was stuck in a car on a Pennsylvania highway, alone in a traffic jam.

It was early January 1996, the final semester of my senior year of college. It was 18 degrees outside and I was driving back to campus after a seven-week internship in sunny Florida. A major storm had just blown through the entire Northeast, and I knew there was 23 inches of snow on the ground waiting to greet me at my apartment.

I was still an hour and a half away when it began to snow again just as the sun started to set. Some unseen event ahead of me halted traffic to a snail’s pace, and we reached a top speed of 10 miles per hour for the short spurts when we were actually moving.

In the prior seven weeks my blood had quickly thinned out to a deeply southern consistency, so the cold was hitting me hard. On top of that I was tired from hours of traveling and just wanted to get to my apartment. My stomach was growling. And I had to pee.

Solitary on Interstate 78, I had no companion with whom to commiserate. So I reached for my tape collection and one of them spoke to me. His name was Jimmy Buffett. I cranked up the heat as hot and high as it would go, then I popped in the cassette and pushed play.

For the next 70 miles I thought about how I’d been lying by the pool just days before, and I really pondered the concept of changes in latitudes/changes in attitudes. Steel drums had me drifting south immediately.
I imagined sitting on dock sipping two more boat drinks. And crazy enough, I slowly shook the chill that had enveloped me all day. I could envision that the snow outside was really a white sandy beach, and that the blowing flakes were sea spray. The heat pouring out from my ’85 Celebrity’s vents rivaled any Florida summer wind.

In a bit of perfect comedic timing, Buffett’s song Volcano was playing just as I passed a highway sign pointing toward Three Mile Island (“Don't want to land on the Three Mile Island/Don't want to see my skin aglow”). I may have rolled the window down just a tad and sung this line at the top of my lungs, but I can’t be certain.

In any case, by the time I arrived on campus my mood had improved so much that I didn’t even mind that the parking lot hadn’t been plowed, or that snow drifts had completely blocked the sidewalk. No, in my mind I lived down by the ocean.

For all my friends in PA and NC and crazily even GA, who this week are all dealing with ice and sleet and feet of snow, I can only offer as advice that process which got me through my own snowpocalypse. Remember, it won’t last forever. Come Monday, it’ll be alright….

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