The Lost Luster Of A Seventh Snow Day

College, for those lucky enough to attend it, is ostensibly a crucial period of becoming a real adult: a time to get the sowing of wild oats out of one’s system, to experiment with identity, and eventually (and hopefully) to develop a sense of personal responsibility that’s more or less on balance with what’s expected of young professionals.

But college kids are called college kids for a reason — we do stupid, occasionally childish stuff. We enjoy it. We revel in it. Many of us thank God that we’re not full-blown adults yet and still have a bit of the requisite slack. This transitional period as college students (i.e., when we are perceived by society writ large as sorta-kinda-but-not-really bona fide grownups) allows us to oscillate between the responsible and the literally sophomoric. The hallowed halls of academia, as pointed out by innumerable 80s comedies, make a great setting for exaggeratedly un-hallowed hijinks.

When Penn Staters get that notification that it’s a snow day, a part of us reverts to childish glee. And why shouldn’t it? Snow days, Mother Nature’s very own special occasion, offer us a reprieve from classes, more time to procrastinate, an excellent opportunity to squeeze in some partying if that’s your sort of thing. We make snowmen, attempt to go sledding, and have snowball fights with varying degrees of intoxication — truly wonderful things, set against the backdrop of a frosty utopia.

Except those activities are just that: special occasion events. And when you get seven such special occasions in an academic year, that childish luster of the snow day begins to dull. “Special,” by definition, should denote a certain scarcity, not a repeat occasion. With the endless procession of snow days this year, the specialness fades, and our inner adults, cantankerous and routine-inclined, begin to take over.

When I awoke Wednesday morning to a glittering world of white outside my window, my first thought was not an excited middle-schooler’s “oh goody” but the cynical and world-weary “ugh, not again” of a 30-year-old. True, as far as college students go, I am on the crankier side, liable to scowl at anyone who looks as though they’re having too good a time. But even icy hearts like mine are known to melt with that first 5 a.m. email of the year: UP-ALERT: CLASSES CANCELLED. It’s only when that email comes again and again and again that the specialness of the snow day begins to give way to an inescapable malaise — which is to say, the standard MO of adults.

As I meandered around my little corner of campus (the Pollock-Eastview-South tri-housing area), I did not see festivity or hubbub. Instead, I looked at reflections of my own surly mien: cold, gray, unexcited scowls of students bent over laptops and books, heedless of the potential fun of the winter wonderland outside.

The truth is that snow’s novelty wears off fast. Unless you ski (and if you’re a central Pennsylvanian who’s very fond of skiing, I extend my sympathies), there’s really not much of a reason to get excited about snow in late February. Cold has seeped into our bones. Snowmen have already been made. We’ve undoubtedly fallen at least once on the slick sidewalks of University Park. And we’re getting tired of endlessly annotating our syllabi to keep due dates straight.

This academic year and its accompanying weather have pushed the Penn State student body to grow up a little bit, if only by relentlessly emphasizing through repetition just how un-special the specialness of snow days is. What is the death of childhood if not the realization that sustained disruption and entertainment are not fun but rather, in reality, depressing and somehow empty?

As Penn Staters drink their cocoa and don their snowboots for yet another snow day, we did not unite with gratitude or even surprise. Instead, we huddled up in our favorite study and work areas. We crack open our laptops and notes. We get to work. In short, we take the most mundane and soul-deadening of steps on that path of the college student toward eventual adulthood: We get sick of the fun, and we grow up.

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About the Author

Steve Schneible

Recovering Bethlehem, PA native. English & Psych student, PSU SHC class of 2021. Paterno Fellow. Narcissism Hour Showrunner. Kalliope Fiction Coordinator. Earnest and usually good-natured milquetoast. Baby Onward State contributor. Email: [email protected] Moderately amusing Twitter account: @steve_schneibs

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