With roughly 75 percent of the nation shivering from record and near-record cold, many federal offices have been hit much, much harder than usual. Some that pride themselves in never having a winter-related shutdown can no longer make that claim.
This is out in the real world, not inside the Beltway.
People expect the government in Washington to panic over ice and snow. For as long as anyone can remember folks at the headquarters office of most federal operations have gone to cover during snowstorms and bitter weather with the traditional D.C. survival kit: White bread, milk and toilet paper.
But not out in the real world, at least not usually in the real world. This time it was different.
Civil servants in places that normally shrug off ice, snow and wind chills — Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul — closed or operated on delayed schedules. It was the same in much of the Northwest and from New York City to New England.
Many people know about the D.C. area survival kit. Though nobody seems to know why so many people buy exactly the same thing to face Armageddon each and every time. But several did share their secrets, such as Steve from the Census Bureau:
“My family has this standard checklist when the possibility of getting stuck in the house for a couple of days: Case of good German Riesling wine for my wife, two cases of Stella Artois for my older son, bottle of Woodford Reserve for my younger son, bottle of Grey Goose for my daughter, two bottles of single malt Scotch Whisky for me, case of Cotes du Rhone red wine as a general backup for us all, gallon of milk, toilet paper we get from Costco so always have a good supply. Bring on the snow!”
There’s also this observation from Geoff at the IRS:
“I have lived in Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, New York and have seen a common regional survival kit across all those locations: French toast. Milk, eggs, and bread shelves are always empty with upcoming snow.”
Linda from Missouri echoed that point.
“In St. Louis the news always covers the French toast runs, since milk, bread and eggs are the big sellers before winter weather. Transplants to [the] area never seem to get the joke.”
Denny at the Department of Homeland Security grew up in the district:
“My father is also a D.C. native. He is a child of the 1950s Cold War school A-bomb drills. Duck and cover and all that. He is a survivor. When the going gets tough, like that 30 inch snow we had some years ago, my wife, son, daughter and self head for Dad’s. He’s got a six-month supply of everything, even sterno for heat.
“As a guest gift when we go to Dad’s we always take a supply of white bread, milk and toilet paper. Not sure why exactly, maybe its just a D.C. thing?”
Another Washington resident who grew up in Boston said stocking up on bread, milk and toilet paper is standard procedure there, too. “But people don’t panic like they do here” in D.C.
German chocolate cake is not actually German, but actually named for Sam German. He invented a sweet baking chocolate for the Baker’s chocolate company and a homemaker in Texas used it for a cake recipe which she sent to a newspaper. The result was a surge in the chocolate’s sales.