February 26th, 2010

Snow days and sick cars

Today, for the second time in two and a half weeks, Hofstra closed due to snow. Unlike the last time, they waited until early morning to make the call; I was surprised by this, because the weather reports made it seem like an obvious choice. We'll probably have to make up these days at the end of the semester, but that's over two months away, so we don't worry about it right now.

In both of the major storms, I expected Hofstra to close, but it was a bit weird for me because I'm not used to snow days in my recent past. I only had one during my time on the submarine, and that was way back in 2005. I'm not counting the debacle last March, when the decision to keep non-essential personnel at home wasn't made until after people were already on the road. Cornell has a slightly less restrictive policy, staying open pretty much as long as the roads around Ithaca do (although CU did delay its opening today, after getting a lot more snow than Long Island and NYC did). On the 10th, Columbia University stayed open, even though lots of other stuff closed, including the New York City public schools. The primary motivating factor is the percentage of students who have to drive to campus. At Hofstra, it's over 50%, whereas it's much, much lower (and likely close to zero for undergraduates) at the two aforementioned Ivy League schools.

The snow and certain problematic parts of the Blue Trooper intertwined to shift my course of action in interesting ways over the last twenty-four hours. On the way into school yesterday, I began to intermittently see the brake and battery warning lights simultaneously. After a little bit, they stayed on. I made it all the way into campus, but started seeing the "ABS" light just as I pulled up. Some research in the interval between my classes pointed to the alternator as the cause. This peeved me more than a little bit, since I had that particular part replaced just less than a year ago. When I fired it up to leave, these lights remained on, plus the lights were dim and the wipers were slow. I wasn't taking the car out of the parking lot. I tried looking under the hood, searching for a way to get this thing running under its own power. Mind you, the lot is full of puddles, as it's been raining for pretty much three days straight, it snowed for an hour and a half earlier, and it's going back to snow at some point. So I finally go to Public Safety, they jump the car; it starts, but as soon as the cables come off, it dies. I have to have it towed off campus, and I elect to pay to have it brought to our trusted repair shop in Northport. I didn't get home until about 10:45 at night, and I was soaking wet as I walked in the door.

This sickness of my vehicle posed a problem. I was scheduled to have a test Friday morning. Had Hofstra remained open, or canceled morning classes, I would normally not have risked going in. But the test denied me that option. I would have needed to procure alternative transportation somehow. All right, let's call a spade a spade...one of my parents would have to take me in. Fortunately, the snow day made that a moot point, and the Blue Trooper's second alternator replacement in a year's time was completed just after 11 a.m. So the net effect is this: the dead car helped me overcome the snow last night (I rode in the front of the tow truck instead of behind the wheel of my own car), and the snow helped me overcome the dead car this morning (by negating the need to drive to campus). (Correction: in both these instances, the problems weren't so much overcome as they were sidestepped.)

The test is still looming ahead, now on Monday. I wasn't concerned about it then, and the extra three days means I'll be more prepared when the exam comes. Right now, I'd like the cessation of precipitation more than anything else.