my boss seems annoyed when I stay home every time it snows

There have been days when it is snowing when or shortly after I wake up. The weather forecast predicts the snow will continue all day and they have been accurate. So I call in or email to let the boss know I am staying home. I am salaried, so I say I’ll use a sick/vacation day.

The boss and a few other employees can make it in, and I can tell they are annoyed when I and others call out. On such days, typically schools have been closed also.

My reasoning is based on economics and probability. I have to go down three murderous hills en route to work, and you could argue my driving versus other’s does not make a difference. The way I see it, there is a high probability I will crash my car. I do not make enough in a full work day (let alone getting in for a few hours) to cover my deductible. My boss certainly won’t pay for it. So weighing those factors, I stay home based on that. What are the implications? Is my reasoning justified?

Well, I think you’re probably off-base in saying that there’s a “high probability” that you will crash your car. The vast majority of people who drive in snow don’t crash their cars. Entire regions of the U.S. deal with snow for months on end in the winter, and the people who live there go to work without crashing their cars. Even regions that are less used to snow, where drivers are therefore less experienced with navigating snowy conditions, are full of people who drive in snow without crashing their cars.

So yeah, if you’re calling out every time there’s a day of snow — as opposed to a major snowstorm that’s shutting down a city (not just schools*) — your boss and coworkers are likely to think that you’re being overly dramatic and/or shirking work. That is why they sound annoyed.

* Schools play by different rules. Here in the D.C. area, for instance, school systems shut down for snow far more quickly than county governments and workplaces do, partly because they’re concerned about sending kids outside onto icy sidewalks in pre-dawn hours. You’re not really safe using schools as your guide here.

Where do you live, and are you a transplant from elsewhere? Because snow, by itself, is not a particular reason to stay home from work. Millions do it every day and don’t crash their cars. Accidents happen, but accidents happen on clear sunny days, too.

If you’re very concerned, take a winter driving course, put snows on your car, be prepared. Most offices do not close for snow days unless there are extreme conditions or other mitigating circumstances.

1. Yup*

Ditto. The expectation where I live/work is that you typically report to work when snowing except in the following conditions:

The township/city/county has closed the highways, declared a state of emergency, or otherwise officially instructed people to stay off the roads.

Public transportation is not running, and/or you are physically unable to get your car out of your driveway or off your street because you’re plowed in and won’t be able to extricate yourself with the next two or so hours.

Your commute is expected to take an unreasonable amount of time due to travel conditions: for example, your usual 30 min commute will take you 2.5 hours. (But anything under an hour is still considerable pretty reasonable around here.)

1. Hunny*

I learned that my office often closes because the parking nearby becomes atrocious with snow on the ground. And maybe because the decision to stay open or not is made by someone very much like OP.

2. Emily K*

I’m guessing you meant “snow tires” but I’m cracking up at the mental image of OP going out to her car to put handfuls of snow on it in order to practice snow driving.

We pretty much just refer to them as “snows” around here but if this person is unfamiliar with them, I probably should have clarified!

Although neither my car nor my husband’s wear snows and we get through just fine. Sure, we got 25cm yesterday and my commute home took 75 minutes, but we lived. It was just crappy.

1. Emma*

This is my first winter driving with snow tires. Where I’m originally from, we don’t really do snow tires (and we have plenty of hills, too, whose troughs/dells/bottoms don’t become death pits when it snows heavily in spite of this). I do wonder if they’d be effective anyway – in my new location, the snow is voluminous, dry and easily compact. It creates a layer over the ice, usually, which the studs can bite into.

In my stomping grounds, the snow is wetter and when plowed, more likely to have a sheen of icy frosting over it. I question the snow tires effectiveness in biting into that icy layer, but I’ve never driven in it with studded tires. Can anyone chime in?

1. Anonymous*

I’ve never had tires with studs… they are banned where live as they tear up the pavement. But even so, winter tires are a huge improvement over all-seasons for winter driving, and I find they are well worth the investment.

Winter tires design has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. They used to be chunky versions of summer tires, but that is not the case any more. The rubber compound and treads are designed to stick even on slippery surfaces… for example, the tread actually holds snow which then sticks to the icy/snowy road surface and improves traction. The rubber compounds can include weird things like walnut shells that dig into ice, etc.

2. Dip-lo-mat*

I was stationed in a northern country that required studded tires, and I became hooked. I use them now in Colorado, where the streets are surprisingly rarely plowed. It’s like driving a totally different car. 4WD plus studded tires = winter driving heaven. They bite into the ice pretty well. Braking still needs a bit of extra time, but I don’t slide anymore.

3. Hunny*

I’ve only seen snow chains on tractor tires, never automobile snow tires. Learning a lot on this thread :)

3. Piper*

Yep. My mom absolutely refuses to drive in the snow and is always calling out of work because of it, whether it’s a few flakes or a blizzard and I know it annoys her coworkers because they have to cover for her. I get annoyed for them when I have to hear her talking about how she called out again. The irony to that whole situation is that she was recently in a car accident on a bright, sunny day with zero precipitation and totally dry roads (she’s fine, by the way). But don’t be that person.

Also is there an option for you to work from home? That’s what I tend to do on days where the weather is bad. I do use school closings as my barometer because I have the option of working from home, which is the same thing I’d be doing if I were in the office. However, in previous jobs where that wasn’t an option, I sucked it up and drove in (I did land in a ditch once).

1. Anna*

I’m working from home right now because I wasn’t going to drive up the Columbia River Gorge after all the snow we got yesterday. We don’t get a lot of weather like this, but when we do I’d rather be home (and I’m not totally unfamiliar with driving in the snow). However, if this weather sticks around to Monday, I’ll figure out a way to get to work (public transportation isn’t an option).

4. Windchime*

If a person lives in the Seattle area, it’s absolutely safer to stay home. I am originally from an area where we get lots of snow, so I know how to drive in snow; however, many, many people in this area do NOT. It’s exacerbated by the almost complete lack of snow removal/sanding equipment. Drivers frequently abandon cars in the middle of the road or the freeway as a result, or they drive too fast for conditions due to lack of snow-driving experience.. So it’s better to just stay home when it snows here. Fortunately, I can just work from home so there isn’t a penalty.

1. Jessa*

I’m in Ohio, and that’s my problem. I’m not worried (we have two vehicles one is a 4wd and the other is a truck with two 4wd options, both have brand new tires) I learnt to drive in Manhattan in the snow and ice, as well as the Catskills. I’m more likely to stay in, not because I can’t drive, but because the guy next to me has no clue. Every snow day the news is full of the crashes on I-75 because people just will not slow down (black ice is a biggie.) We had another set of pile ups yesterday morning.

But if my bosses expect me and I can’t work from home, as long as the cops/sheriff/highway patrol haven’t given the no travel order, I’m willing to make a reasonable go at getting to work. I stopped having to travel during restrictions when I left the emergency answering service. So unless I’m in a critical industry you won’t get me on the roads if they’re closed by authority.

1. maggie*

OMG, all the youtube videos of folks attempting to get out of their parking spots and zig zagging down hills are amazing!

*off to google Seattle snow driving videos*

2. maggie*

COSIGN!! I had a friend that lived in Queen Anne and there was absolutely no friggin’ way she was getting to work. Oddly, public transportation could make it up and down Magnolia. I lived in Ballard but still took snow days because I don’t really have experience driving in the snow all by myself — and I’m a chicken. Plus I like taking walks around the neighborhood when it snows, and having snow ball fights just as much as the kids do. :)

1. Kassy*

I had roommates about a year ago that not only would stay home themselves in the snow, but insist that I must too. It irritated me to no end. Like “If you have the PTO or the paycheck flexibility to stay home, awesome. I don’t, so if I can physically get my car out of the driveway, I’m going.”

5. AB*

From the sound of it, she could very easily be here in the South where even the slightest bit of snow is a VERY BIG DEAL. I know most of the country laughed as my city was brought to it’s knees by what amounts to a dusting. I am from the Midwest and grew up accustomed to big snow storms and “real snow” being an every day occurrence in the winter. My boss is also from the Midwest and he scoffs at anyone wimpy enough to call out when snowy weather threatens. He was even poking fun as those employees who took off early to get their kids out of school the moment flakes started. He ended up stranded that night.
However, after last week, I will also be calling out whenever there is snow from here on out for as long as I live in the South.

As much as you like to laugh at poor Southerners who don’t know the boot from the bonnet in snow or wax poetic about snow tires and driving in three feet of snow up hill both ways, the honest truth is there is a very real reason snow is and can be catastrophic for people in the South. We don’t have the infrastructure to deal with snow, which makes conditions dangerous in even the slightest bit of snow. We don’t have the tools to handle snow and can’t buy them (you would be hard-pressed to find a set of snow tires or chains or snow shovels in my state. Cars are not winterized. Stores don’t sell snow boots or de-icer for your drive ). We also have a government that doesn’t know how to handle snow and the threat of snow. It happens so rarely that investing hundreds of thousands equipment and systems that are used once every 3-10 years is really a waste of money. Any training or studies or instruction or lessons learned that the current government might have will be useless the next time it snows because those people will no longer be in office. So if OP#1 is from my neck of the woods, I do not fault her even in the slightest bit if her decision is to call out whenever it snows because I will be right there with her.

1. Portia de Belmont*

+ 1000 I grew up in Atlanta, and the level of danger in even a small snow or ice storm there can’t be denied.

2. Piper*

Okay, yeah I agree with this. As a Northeasterner transplanted in the South (and who experienced a city-wide shutdown thanks to a dusting just a few weeks ago), I do get why people call out in the South for this kind of thing because it is bad and we can’t handle it. But it happens so infrequently here, and I got the impression that the OP lives in an area that has much more snow on a regular basis, like the Northeast (which is where my mom lives and I mentioned her calling out habits upstream – I also lived in the Northeast and just worked from home if I could when it snowed).

1. Jessa*

I know this. I once got off the road and checked into a motel because there was frost on the ground in Orlando, FL, and even the police cars were spinning out on the road. They had zero clue how to drive on it.

3. So Very Anonymous*

This. I’m from the Midwest, but I’ve lived in the South for nine years and have lost my ability to drive on ice. I live in the Large Southern City That Shut Down The Other Week. I know my own limitations and can guess at others’ probably greater limitations, and I won’t drive in snow here. But, it’s the rarity of the snow here that makes it dangerous. If it were a regular occurrence, I’d be expected to accustom myself to it (and I’d assume others would have, too).

4. mnh*

^^^This.
My father grew up in Alaska, but now lives in Dallas. If it’s snowing in Texas, then he’s not driving. The roads aren’t built for it, the people don’t know how to drive on it, and most businesses are set up to allow telecommuting, so why not stay home?
The last time it snowed here, 3/4 of my office left before lunch, and my boss sent me home at two “for safety.”

6. Charles Hall*

Here in central N.C. we rarely get snow (maybe once or twice a year). But when we do, it is invariably preceded by sleet and ice. We have neither the snow plows nor the salt to cope with this. Most everyone lives on a secondary road that will not see a snowplow… EVER. The probability of sliding off the road into a ditch or an oncoming car is very high, as witnessed by the number of accidents handled by the Highway Patrol.

Even you Yankees that have moved down here are shocked to find themselves sliding off the road in North Carolina “snow”.

2. BCW*

If I were your co-worker and I had to pick up your slack, I’d be annoyed. Granted I’m from Chicago, so we are used to big winters here (although this year is especially bad). If it was absurd amounts of snow and schools were closed so you had to take care of your kids, I could understand it. But it sounds like you just don’t want to go out in the snow and stay in bed. While that is a feeling I can understand, I don’t know that its the most professional way to be. I guess they can’t really do much now, however I’d expect to be marked down on your next performance review.

1. Rin*

For real, I am over this polar vortex. It’s supposed to snow again on Saturday. I’m about to murder someone.

1. EngineerGirl*

I’m laughing. When I grew up back in the 60’s, this “polar vortex” was normal winter weather. Every.single. year. That said, there is a whole generation (maybe two?) that haven’t had to deal with it. I see governments shutting down very quickly simply because there are a lot of people that don’t have the knowledge for dealing with it.

1. Anonymous*

I remember coming from the PNW to Chicago in ’79 and renting a car. It was supposedly the biggest whiteout blizzard to hit the Midwest in 20 years. I didn’t think it was that bad! I was used to driving on Cascades slurpee-snow and that cold blowing snow? Seriously, no big deal. Everyone there was completely freaked out though.

1. Laura L*

It’s funny you mention that because that was a record-breaking snowy weather in Chicago and this year has been one of the worst since then. It’s also been the coldest since ’94, when I got a few days off school because it was too cold.

Luckily, I don’t live in Chicago at the moment, but I hear about it from my parents.

1. Rin*

I remember it being cold when I was younger, too, but I feel like it hasn’t been this consistently cold below zero for this many weeks in a row for a long time. We’ve been so spoiled.

2. FootballBat*

I figured as a fellow engineer you would like to see the data on this; thankfully we have an entire government agency that collects just that: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=chi_seasonal_snow

So let’s see what we have for the 130 years of snowfall accumulation data:

all years \bar{x} = 37.3 σ = 14.6
39-40 to 48-49 \bar{x} = 32.78 σ = 11.0
49-50 to 58-59 \bar{x} = 37.2 σ = 14.4
59-60 to 68-69 \bar{x} = 43.9 σ = 15.0
69-70 to 78-79 \bar{x} = 57.5 σ = 19.4
79-80 to 88-89 \bar{x} = 37.4 σ = 11.3
89-90 to 98-99 \bar{x} = 35.7 σ = 9.3
99-00 to 08-09 \bar{x} = 36.8 σ = 11.7
09-10 to 13-14 \bar{x} = 44.12 σ = 18.0

Results: the 60s were slightly snowier than average, but not significantly (< 1σ). The 70s sucked. This decade is slightly snowier than the 60s, but has only half the data so far.

Conclusion: on average, the same whether has happened "every. single. year."(or decade in this case), a whole generation has had to deal with it so most people should "have the knowledge for dealing with it."

What has changed in the last 50 years is the ability to work from home, so weighed against the risk of accidents (and more lost time) and the loss of time during the commute, it is much more productive to stay at home. As I tell my employees "I give you a laptop and mobile phone for a reason."

3. Portia de Belmont*

Also from Chicago, and totally over this winter. I’ve been shocked at how poorly the train system and some of the suburban areas have handled all the ice and snow. I’ve lived in the north since 1984, and can’t even begin to think how a new transplant would cope with this.

4. Anonymous*

Part of why they shut down is due to lack of resources to deal with snow – salt, sand and trucks. If budgets are cut and those things reduced, the streets can’t stay open.

It’s pretty simple. I’m used to snow driving, but if my city didn’t plow and salt or sand, even moderate amounts would stop me.

I don’t laugh at people who can’t deal with snow because they’re not used to it and their towns/cities aren’t prepared. if the temperature went up to 105F for several days, we couldn’t deal since we’re not used to that.

Back to the OP – if he’s using limited vacation for his own fear, and isn’t missing critical meetings/deadlines, I don’t see what the problem is. If, on the other hand, he is racking up time off that he otherwise wouldn’t have, then he needs to step up and figure out how to drive safely in the snow or make other plans to get to work more often.

2. Jan Arzooman*

Me too. I had to dig my car out again this morning (from the same spot that I’d dug out and was clear yesterday. A plow must have come by again. Now it was all icy and hard as ****. A man came by in his car, rolled down his window and explained how he thought I should be doing the job. I became aware of the fact that this was not accompanied by an offer to actually help. I know this has nothing to do with anything, but yeah, ya gotta shovel out and get to work.

3. Elizabeth West*

God, me too. We got so spoiled by those mild winters (I’m quite a bit south of Chicago), and now I’m just ready for it to be OVER.

I am working from home today; it snowed a couple of inches the other day, but I just did NOT want to deal with it. And now it’s super cold again. :(

2. Jamie*

Another Chicagoan here and yeah, it’s been a mess. If everyone called in whenever it snows we’d all be working part time.

Heavy, horrible snows are a different matter, but those are the kind who are going to impact everyone who doesn’t live in the attic of their workplace. The other day my 1.25 hour commute took me over 3 hours…but with one exception everyone else was late and struggling through the mess, too.

I don’t like for people to measure themselves against the one person who braved it in who happens to have a 4WD and lives a block away…but if everyone else is managing to get in with little trouble it will make you look bad.

Someone asked if the OP is a transplant – I’m wondering that, too. When we were stationed outside of Washington DC once I was amazed at how little snow kept people indoors and closed schools. But if you live in a place where it snows more than once a decade you need to learn to drive in it.

3. j_e_tothedouble_n*

I remember at my last job we were expected to be at work no matter what. Even if the roads were closed. One time I was specifically chided for calling off because the roads were closed and was told “You are expected to be here even if you have to break the law to do so. Buck up and break through a few roadblocks”. Yeah…. :-/ Not the best work environment.

That comment particularly makes me laugh now because I remember that I was one of three employees who lived 40-45 mins away from our place of work. Everyone else (including the manager who stated the above comment to me) lived right around 10-15-20 mins from the office. Anyway, we had a particularly bad snow day a couple years ago and I bucked up and got there on time, somehow. I walked into an office of three people, including myself. And just wouldn’t you guess who those three people to actually show up were? Yep. Me and the other 2 employees who live 45 mins away. Everyone else had called in sick due to snow.

I was a little irked at the employees who didn’t show, particularly because they were a lot better at maintaining the roads near my work than in my rural township and I made it in. We worked for most of the day until, in the late afternoon, we were told just to go home.

1. Anonymous*

“You are expected to be here even if you have to break the law to do so. ”

“I understand. Can you put that in writing for me?”

Yeah, really. “So you don’t mind if I tell the nice police officer that and mention the company name, right?”

1. Emily K*

So I’ve always wondered about something related to this. I’m pretty much never sick, and on top of that, I can work from home whenever I need to. Which means the only reasons for me to ever take a sick day are:
1) Need to be in constant proximity to toilet.
2) Unconscious/heavily medicated.
3) Temporarily blind/eyes dilated/unable to look at computer screen.

We report our time off in hours, and all working hours have to be reported one time sheets as working, personal/vacation, or sick hours. Since I never have need to use my sick hours, I reckoned it was reasonable to use them for the things I do for preventive health. So when I come in 2 hours late because I had a routine annual medical appointment in the morning, I deduct 2 hours from my “sick” bank rather than spending my personal/vacation allotment. My managers have always approved my timesheets each time I’ve done this, but I wonder what other folks think of this. Is it appropriate to use sick time for preventive health?

1. KLH*

Yes, that’s perfectly reasonable. Why would it not be?

Look, I consider myself to have a pretty good work/commitment ethic and am not prone to calling off, but I don’t understand this “not actually sick” logic. It’s preventing you from getting sick later. And you should call off if your mental health needs it too–not excessively, but if you don’t have commitments or work due and need to indulge your malaise and think things over extensively, why not?

It’s like doing your taxes down to the penny and begrudging any extra penny you might not get back, just because. What a horrible way to live.

1. Elysian*

Yup. I also use my sick time for appointments and the like – I occasionally get sick enough to stay home, but I’ve never run out of sick days.

I’ve actually been thinking I might need a mental health day soon – or as you put it, time to ” indulge my malaise and think things over extensively.” I also consider those a proper use of sick days – sometimes its more like “sick of going to work” days, but if they only happen occasionally (no more than, say, twice per year and are strategically taken when nothing important is going on) they’re totally valid. In my opinion.

1. Rayner*

Out of about two hundred and sixty odd workable days a year you’re going to object to someone calling out twice because they need time to recharge and rest their brain?

Wow.

1. smallbutmighty*

We have very generous PTO (to be used for anything we want) at my work. Because we have a kind of go-getter corporate culture, the more common problem for us is getting capped out; myself and several other longtime employees in my department are all up against the 300-hour cap. By agreement with my manager, I take the last Friday of every month off to . . . do whatever I want. And the one piece of constructive feedback I got on my annual review was to manage my PTO better by taking an actual vacation.

I’m realizing, as I read this thread, just how lucky I am.

Nobody I can think of abuses PTO here. We stay out sick when we’re sick (though we often try to telecommute if we feel well enough), we take days off just for fun and we’re completely transparent about it, and somehow all the work gets done.

The down side, I guess, is that we really are connected ALL the time. If something urgent needs to get dealt with on a day I’m taking off, on the weekend, or at 4 a.m., I or someone from my team is on it as soon as we become aware of it. And I am guilty of checking my email in the middle of the night. I am the subject of all those “do you never disconnect” articles you see. And it’s really not that bad.

1. Ethyl*

Totally agreed. I’ve never had any pushback on this in any job I’ve held with separate PTO banks for vacation/sick.

2. Jen S. 2.0*

This. I use sick time for anything related to my or a family member’s health, whether current or preventive (…and whether physical or mental/emotional).

Our timesheets actually break that out — if I take sick leave, I have to check a box that denotes how I used the time. The choices are something like:

*Illness of employee
*Medical/dental examination of employee
*Care of family member

…and a couple of other choices (but the above are the only ones I’ve ever used). So, when I needed to be with my mom during and after her cataract surgery, I checked care of family member. When I had the flu, I checked ill employee. When I go to the dentist, I check examination of employee.

I mean, during those events I’m certainly not on vacation, am I?

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, but if ever I needed to take a sick day because I was plain old sick of work, I’d likely check ill employee. That would fall in “preventive mental health care.”

1. Pennalynn Lott*

Holy cow! Your company makes you account for how you spend your time *away* from work??? I can’t believe they make you give that much detail about how you’re using your sick time.

2. Lia*

Like you, I am rarely sick. I use my sick time to either:
Care for sick family members (like if my kids get sent home from school)
Go to medical or dental appointments, or take my kids to those appointments.

Our contract says those are permissible uses of sick time, so I’ve always charged them this way, rather than using vacation time, and so does the rest of my office.

I accumulate 16 sick days annually, and use maybe 4 in total (we can charge as little as 1/4 day).

1. Jan Arzooman*

I’ve done the same thing, and tried to schedule two appointments on the same day so I don’t have to take off more than once. No managers (at the reasonable companies I’ve worked for) have had an issue with it.

3. Anna G*

Absolutely okay. In my last job, our sick time policy specifically included doctor/dental/optical visits as acceptable uses, but it’s been an informal given in all my other jobs, too.

4. Dan*

Same here, although all of the employers in my professional career have just used PTO time. Saves me the hassle of deciding if I’m “sick enough” or not. Besides, if I’m “sick” I just work from home, unless I fall into the three categories you describe. So sick time for me would either be wasted or lied about.

I do find it interesting that some people on this board dislike a generalized PTO policy. They seem to think it encourages people to use up “sick” time for preplanned vacations and then come to work when “sick” because they don’t have the time to take off.

In the five years I spent at my previous office, there never once was an “outbreak” that wiped out the whole office, or even a non-trivial portion of the staff. So I don’t feel guilty showing up with the sniffles.

Besides, I read that the average person gets between two and five colds a year. I don’t know where I get them, as I never recall encountering symptomatic coworkers prior to getting sick.

1. NK*

I used to feel the same way as you – I rarely got sick, and so I wanted a PTO bank that I was free to use as I saw fit. That was, until I got a job with a PTO bank. My first week on the job, over half my department was disgustingly sick in the office – the kind of sick that would keep most people home. I’m hardly a germaphobe, so the fact that I was grossed out by it says something. I still liked having my single bank of time, but it was immediately apparent why some workplaces prefer separate banks for vacation/personal time and sick time.

1. Windchime*

My guess is that those people would still save up those sick days and use them as vacation, just calling in “sick”. People who are going to cheat the system will do it either way.

2. Anon1*

I worked in a public practice firm where two of the partners tended to come in at all costs. In heavy flu seasons, we’ve had 1/3 of the office down in January/February. Our busy season started mid January, so this impacted the office quite badly.

Yes, I think this is perfectly reasonable. Our policy even states that sick leave can be used for (routine) dentist and doctor appointments. I’ve used it for psychotherapy appointments, too (I think our policy includes that, too, but I don’t remember).

6. The IT Manager*

For the US government, sick leave can include time for normal preventative medical appointments. That’s usually the only time I take sick leave. I’m pretty sure they can be used for parents taking family members to appointments too but I do not have kids so I don.t have to know for sure.

7. Christina*

One would think, especially if one is exempt. But of course my manager’s “rule” is that if I need to take 2 hours to go to the doctor, I need to make up those hours that same day. I can’t take half a sick day because I’m not actively with the doctor for that whole time. So now I just say the appointment involves tests so I don’t get grief about it.

Hmmm… If you have to travel more than 100 km on a major highway, then you COULD possibly be justified, but it sounds like you’re far closer to your work than that. I live less than 10 minutes from my work, but I have to travel up a major hill on my way up and it’s all on busy main roads… I’m a relatively new driver (this is my first winter driving on my own and I’ve had to learn a lot of stuff myself, very quickly; I’ve had a fair amount of lucky near misses), but as long as I drive slow, I do okay. I wouldn’t stay home, but would instead risk making it in late – late is better than never!

4. Laura*

Here schools never shut down for snow. If they do, it’s for two feet of snow, which only happens like once every two years. So here following school closures for when to not go to work would be good. Lots of people stayed home here yesterday, because there was a major snow storm . It was only about a foot of snow, which here is not weird, but it was falling hard and fast enough for it to be dangerous to travel. My mom went to work, and it normally takes her 30 minutes, but yesterday took her an hour and a half. Just staying home because it snows seems a little excessive. If it’s an unusual amount of snow , or the weather channel is telling people to stay home if they can, or you’re able to work from home that day and your boss doesn’t mind, then I get it.

5. Jax*

I called off yesterday because I couldn’t get out of my driveway. The 4-wheel drive made it out, and since my husband makes 3x’s what I do, we decided it was more important for him to make it work than me.

When I called off instead of just warning that I’d be in late, my boss sounded surprised. But I can’t shovel my driveway with a 3 year old running wild alone in my house. Was it an overly dramatic call off? To everyone in the office, probably. I’m sure I got a few eyerolls. But it was worth it to me to just hang out with my kids and not spend the morning shoveling, wrangling kids, and finally making it to work at 11 am.

Calling off for anything other than the puking flu is really frowned upon around here, so I know I’m in the dog house. Best advice? Don’t have an attitude about it, and make sure you have a stellar attendance record from here on out.

1. Product Management*

My little ones are out in the snow “helping” me shovel. A toddler can absolutely go play in the snow while you shovel. That’s why I’d roll my eyes.

Or, knowing your family has issues like this, pay $20-$50 for a plow.

1. AnotherAlison*

Well, I was stuck at home because my plow guy didn’t get to my house until 5:00 yesterday evening. And living in a rural area with a longer-than-usual driveway, I sure am not going to shovel it.

But, it was all good because I brought home my laptop and VPN’d in for 2 days, like almost all my coworkers did, too.

1. Malissa*

When we lived in snow country with the long rural driveway, we had a snow plow for our ATV. Plowing snow was actually fun!
I highly recommend it if you can.

2. fposte*

I’m not in an expensive area, but you couldn’t get a plow to wave at you for only $20 around here. I hurt myself in December and can’t shovel for a while, and cumulatively we’re over$300 now for plowing.

1. Product Management*

I’m in the expensive Boston burbs. Our driveway is $40/storm. Typically we shovel but sometimes I get lazy. 1. AnotherAlison* Do people not typically have snowblowers in Boston? Just curious. . .they’re generally pretty quick compared with shoveling and cheaper than a plow arrangement. My mom is 61 and snowblowed her driveway herself this week. My husband used to do it for her, but she got bitchy with him last year, so he stopped. (I’m on team husband. It was uncalled for, and she’s perfectly healthy and can do it herself without issue.) 1. AnotherAlison* So apartment building maintenance doesn’t clear snow for the tenants? Seems that they would. 1. Contessa* They tend to “clear” the snow into piles behind the cars in the parking lot, so then you need to dig through the pile left by the plow to get the car out. 2. Jan Arzooman* I live in a co-op and can’t afford the fee for the parking onsite so we fight for street spaces. Every winter it’s the same; you shovel out your car once; the spot’s not there when you get home and you either have get out and shovel your way into another spot or park in the supermarket parking lot two blocks away. I don’t mind too much. I’m not going to say anything ridiculous like “New Yorkers are used to it,” because it’s a pain in the ass for everyone. 1. TL* I saw 3 or 4 people on my walk to work yesterday (Boston suburb) snowblowing and that street was all multifamily homes. Mind you, I totally pulled the “I’m a transplant and can’t deal with the snow!” and got in late – but it had already been approved the night before. 2. fposte* Most snowblowers hit a limit on depth of snow and weight of snow, though, or at least the ones people have around here do. 1. Jamie* I was very not happy when last year my husband spent a ridiculous amount on a snowblower the almost the size of my car and with enough power to create our own outdoor ski resort. I’m super happy about it now – at least the boys could get me out the other day. Although, those of us who live on side streets are still at the mercy of the plows. Getting out of the driveway doesn’t mean a thing if the street isn’t cleared. 1. the gold digger* Jamie, fortunately, all that happened was the shear pin (or something like that) broke, but it was a pain in the neck because the only place you can get them by us is at the Sears parts store, which is 3o minutes from our house and you have to stand in line to ask the attendant to get for you. So now I buy them by the handful. And my husband is more careful. Oh – and because it took a while for us to figure out how to get the rock out from behind the blades. That was a fun day. I told my husband to have a cigarette and calm down. 3. Product Management* A lot of people do. Of my four immediate neighbors, two have snowblowers, one has a plow service, and one shovels. I also live in a snooty town where the vast majority of people have long secluded driveways and hire a plow service. Also, some snow doesn’t work well with a snowblower. In our case, for the storms where a snowblower would work, by the time you get it out, start it up, and shoot snow, our relatively short driveway could be half cleared. We often race our neighbor, who has a snowblower. We are youngish and spry, though, (mid 30s) and its a lot easier to snow blow if you have a bad back. 4. kyley* Boston resident chiming in: I’d say the vast majority of people don’t have a snow blower. One of my neighbors does, and when I was growing up in the suburbs maybe another neighbor did? But where I’ve always lived, they are kind of minimal. Maybe it’s a tough New England thing? Personally, I snow blowers use so much gas that they are really harsh on the environment, so I go with shoveling or hiring someone to plow. 2. Colette* I think mine is a little over$300 for the season – but a few years ago when we had a brutal winter, most companies weren’t taking new customers mid-season because they were full, so it’s entirely possible that that’s not an option.

3. AnotherAlison*

My plowing is free this year. . .the guy who bales our hay does it, and said “not to worry about it.” You just have to wait until his commercial accounts are finished, apparently. : )

1. fposte*

I have farm-dwelling friends who have neighbors with teenagers who love to drive the plow for the joy of it, so they get plowed out free a lot too. Nice!

3. Jax*

Roll away. I’m on a busy street and am not going to risk her wandering into the road while I’m focused on shoveling. I’m a Super Mom fail.

I’m one of the 40% of working Americans without paid sick days. I’m not feeling too angsty about my choice to stay home with an unpaid day off.

1. Product Management*

Interesting. We are also on a busy main road (40mph, main drag). But when we do the driveway I stick the two kiddos in the sideish yard, with a bucket, and tell them to scoop. They have proper snow gear, because we live in Massachusetts (even their daycare takes them out in the snow!). If they start hitting eachother, I can hear. THe only part I don’t like is the end of the driveway when I’m almost in traffic myself. I make DH do that before he leaves.

4. KellyK*

Depends on the toddler and his or her mobility. Depends on the length of the driveway, how busy the road is, how long it takes you to shovel, what kind of winter gear you have for them.

It seems like keeping a little kid safe and out of trouble while shoveling your whole driveway would be a bit tricky.

1. Product Management*

the poster didn’t say the WHOLE driveway- just whatever was left after they got one car out but not the 2nd car.

What do I know, I’m admittedly a snarky new englander to whom 6-10″ is “not that much.”

1. KellyK*

Ah, see, that’s not the way I read it. The other car was a 4-wheel drive and hers wasn’t, so what I was picturing was not a mostly cleared driveway with one car still snowed in, but the other car being able to make it out *through* the snowy driveway.

Even still, if your kids are fine playing outside partially supervised, that’s awesome, but the logistics vary so much from situation to situation that it seems silly to make a blanket statement that *of course* you can shovel with your toddler playing outside.

1. Jax*

Exactly. The 2-door car was stuck in the garage, the SUV was able to climb over everything since it was parked in the middle of the driveway.

We had 10″ of wet, heavy snow and it took 45 minutes to shovel it later that night. My 3 year old would not have happily played while I tackled that. Factoring all that in, it made sense to stay home and enjoy a snow day rather than freak out about getting to work.

1. kyley*

Sorry people are jumping on your decision to take the day off. It seems highly reasonable to me. I hope you had fun hanging out with your kid on the snow day!

5. kelly*

My dad and one of his sisters pay for his mother’s snow removal. She’s in her 90s and still lives in her own home, but relies too much on on her kids to do the maintenance. She also doesn’t reimburse them for their expenses and time. My poor mother is usually the one to get the phone call from her complaining that her driveway isn’t cleaned up in time for her to go to daily mass. My mother is also the one who handles the snow removal bill. She has said it ranges from $300 in a light year to over$500 in certain years with frequent and heavy snow. This year it hit $300 at the end of January. The person they hired to do must need the money because my grandmother isn’t an easy client to work with. I think that the guy contacted my mom to ask her to see if it was okay if he would come by if the accumulation was over 2.5 inches over a 24 hour period because of his other jobs. She told my dad and he relayed it to his mother, who exploded at the suggestion. 1. Lillie Lane* She’s in her *90’s* and wants to brave the snowy, icy roads to go to *daily Mass*?!?!?! No, no, no. My family would blow a gasket if my grandmother complained about her snow removal for this line of reasoning. 1. the gold digger* My grandmother went to Mass almost every day when she was in her early 90s, but she just strapped on her snow boots (or maybe her overshoes) and walked the four blocks. Me? A ton of snow is a sign from God that I am not supposed to go to church. :) 1. Anonymous* Perhaps the choice is to brave the snow to go to mass or miss the snow and end up in a hot place for eternity. I’d suggest braving the snow. 1. Us, Too* Bingo. When you’re a 92 years old, each day may be your last. Better to go to Mass every day just in case. LOL. 2. April* A *90 year old* grandmother described as relying “too much” on her kids? I am incredibly impressed at someone 90 years old even being able to live independently at all (and apparently still driving, at that!). Wouldn’t begrudge maintenance and other chores to someone 90 years old!! As to ‘doesn’t reimburse for expenses and time’ – wait a minute. What kind of expectation is that? What kind of a person do you have to be to charge your own mother / grandmother (your *90 year old* mother / grandmother for crying out loud) for helping out around the place? That is one of the coldest things I have read in a long time. Besides, pensioners budgets are usually very tight so they probably couldn’t afford to pay, even if their family was cold enough to demand it. 1. April* I’m still puzzled by the thought that a 90 year old pensioner would have enough money in the budget to be able to afford that better than her presumably still-gainfully-employed relatives. Especially if they all chipped in together to help out. 1. the gold digger* We don’t know that she doesn’t have any money. My husband’s parents have plenty of money for booze and a cleaning lady and a gardener and eating at restaurants. Being old does not mean you are poor. Also, if you are not paying for your snow removal yourself and relying on others to pay for you, it is rather poor form to complain that it is not being done quickly enough for your liking. 1. April* “if you are not paying for your snow removal yourself…rather poor form to complain” Agreed! :) “being old does not mean you are poor” True. But lots of times it does. Retirees are not known for having lots of expendable income, but the opposite. That’s why we have senior citizen discounts, free programs for seniors at community centers, etc. And not everyone who can’t afford something is comfortable outright saying they can’t afford it, especially to those close enough to them to tactfully figure it out without it having to be said. That’s the first thing I would think it would make sense to investigate if someone is ‘forgetting’ to pay for something in a situation like that: Can they even afford to pay for it? You are right that it is possible the described situation is one of a very wealthy 90 year old who is just plain inconsiderate; can’t tell for sure from the information given. Just seems unlikely from the described reliance on others; usually a reason for that kind of thing. 2. anon58* Who knows? Grandma could be independently wealthy. Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they don’t have money. I’ve known some people in their 90’s with plenty of money, having lived in wealthy areas. 1. iseeshiny* Eh, I’ll admit I’m guessing here, but if you’re reading this and thinking of your own dear sweet grandmother whom you’d do anything for, just remember that family members who inspire that kind of devotion tend to not ask too much of their loved ones – they’re beloved because they’re also deserving of that love. One of my elderly family members is a dear for whom I drop anything to go help out. I also have a family member who aside from being demanding, difficult, and entitled is also not a great person, and while I might do her a favor once in a while, I wouldn’t go out of my way and I certainly wouldn’t give her money. Is it because I’m cold? No, it’s because some people suck and forfeit their right to a good relationship with me by being nasty people, family or not. 1. April* “…family or not” I guess that is where you and I differ. I am more of the “blood thicker than water” types. But then again, you are right, even there a family member being nasty will impact whether I help them out with things that are more of the “want not need” category. I’d still be more likely to help them given same level of nastiness and want/need ratio than I would non-family, but nevertheless there would be an impact. And maybe that applies here since one could argue that a retired person does not ‘need’ to get out for much (as long as they have groceries stocked, etc). But then again, sometimes people get crotchety as they get older and it really isn’t their fault it is part of the aging brain slowly declining (and this person is 90 so it is totally a possibility). And so I personally would try to take that in stride as much as possible and just do nice things for them anyway because after all they are my mother (or grandmother). 1. the gold digger* April, I am so lucky with my own family to have nice, considerate relatives (except for my cousin who licked my husband’s cheek the first time she met him – which was also the last time she met him). My grandmothers were absolute darlings and we mourned their loss. It wasn’t until I met my husband’s parents that I understood what it meant to have mean, nasty people in your family. My husband’s parents are alcoholics who have told him he is “abandoning” them and is a “bad son” because we didn’t spend Christmas with them. When he asked them what their retirement plan was – how were they going to maintain their house, etc, they told him they expected him to visit at least twice a year to take care of things, even though they can very well afford to hire help. So yes – I would have done anything for my grandmothers (and grandfathers, who died a long time ago), but my husband dreads even talking to his parents, much less visiting them. 2. iseeshiny* I’m not trying to judge anyone else’s family dynamics at all here, just for me personally while I agree that family is important and I’m more likely to forgive family than someone I’m not related to, I need an apology and a change of behavior first. Not even for family will I be a doormat, and if blood is really thicker than water then it has to go both ways and they need to treat me like family, not a servant. And there is a big difference between someone getting crotchety in their old age and someone who has always been cruel and is coincidentally also getting old. 1. the gold digger* there is a big difference between someone getting crotchety in their old age and someone who has always been cruel and is coincidentally also getting old. Exactly. Some people just become more of who they are as they age and/or suffer and the veneer wears away. My dad suffered horribly as he was dying from cancer but he never became a jerk because he never was a jerk. He was always a nice guy. My grandparents were nice when they were young and were nice when they were old. 2. April* “there is a big difference between someone getting crotchety in their old age and someone who has always been cruel and is coincidentally also getting old” I hear you there. And I’ve had to think hard about that one in my own life, due to observing some habitual nastiness in certain people and having to think through how that behavior – if it doesn’t change – could or should impact my treatment of same people as they age. The result of my thinking is that at a certain point people reach a stage of fragility and vulnerability that requires me to help and care for them just out of basic human decency, not because they deserve it but because they need it. At that point they are more than likely past the point that my refusal to help them would do any good (I mean, that’s the reason for the refusal earlier in life, right, to avoid enabling bad behavior and to try and influence towards good behavior); so the best that can be done for them is to just take care of them. Let them say nasty things / have a moody attitude if they want. At that point they are just a sad old woman/man and their opinions shouldn’t (won’t I hope) matter too much to me as long as I do right by them. That’s a few years in my future, though. I hope I am able to follow through when the time comes. 2. kelly* The snow removal is my parents’ Christmas gift to her. I don’t think she appreciates it because she’s drove off at least 3 other individuals who did it before because she was so difficult. My father has had to plead with the current person to keep doing it even though he needs the money. He works at least 2 part time jobs in addition to doing snow removal on the side. I don’t think that she realized that this is a side job for him and was rather insensitive when he didn’t come until 5 pm one day. Then again, that lack of tact and sensitivity towards other people is the norm for her. There’s some stuff that she could do herself around the house, but instead calls my dad’s brothers and expects them to drop their weekend plans to help her. From how others who view her more critically talk, she was never much of a housekeeper or cook when she was younger and it has gotten worse as she’s gotten older. My father who rarely has a bad word to say about her even admits it. I don’t think it’s too much to give them some money to help pay for the repairs and using their own tools. One aunt has said that the money and time her husband spent fixing his mother’s house up was their Christmas gift to her that year. 3. Laura* I don’t think it was cold – I read it and was instantly reminded of my own grandmother, who is in her mid-eighties. She is mean spirited, demanding, and ungrateful for any help that is given. She has many medical problems and so many joint replacements we jokingly call her “the bionic woman”, so she requires a lot of care, but will not hear of going into assisted living or hiring a nurse. Her children – who are all middle aged and not in the best of health themselves – are expected to maintain her life *exactly* as it was while her husband was alive (who, incidentally, did everything for her and got kicked in the teeth for it). This includes chopping wood for her fireplace, paying her bills via ATM on a Friday night at 7, coming home from work if so much as a lightbulb needs replacing, and shovelling her walk when she won’t even be using it. Oh yeah – did I mention she has TRUCKLOADS of money? I will help her when she needs me, of course. I will even help her when she doesn’t need me, but admittedly, a lot of this is to save my poor dad from being berated again. I can take the verbal assaults and guilt trips better than he can, and I have no problem standing up to her, but he does. All I’m saying is, family relationships are complicated and we ought not to be shaming people with “but its your FAMILY! And she’s ELDERLY!”, because while true, it doesn’t make them any less difficult to deal with if they atre anything like my grandmother. 1. Not So NewReader* Some people are right out of the manual “How NOT to behave towards others.” Every single thing they do comes from that book. This old saying makes me smile: Treat your friends like family and treat your family like friends. It is a shame, but in the end nasty people tend to have quality of life problems. All the money in the world cannot buy friendships or love/respect from family. 2. April* Laura, I am sorry that you have this situation. And you are right. Having money to pay for things oneself makes a difference that I wasn’t thinking about originally. It does open the possibility of telling even an elderly person, “Sorry, no” for things that they can perfectly well hire out. The Gold Digger pointed this out above and it is true. I’m used to most of the elderly people I know being both physically and financially vulnerable, but if someone is in good financial shape that does change some things. Not everything, but some things. 4. Windchime* That’s kinda what I’m thinking. Good for Grandma for being 90 and wanting to go to Mass every day. I hope that if my mom lives that long, that I will be able to pay for her snow clearance and not expect to be reimbursed. 1. Windchime* Yeah, reading all the other comments kind of makes me change my stance. Grandma shouldn’t be so cranky. (My Grandma was a little southern lady who I never saw be angry or cranky ever.) 6. Celeste* A lot depends on the weather. With our heavy snow this year, it was also bitterly cold after one storm and freezing rain after the next one. Even bundled toddlers shouldn’t be out in that weather. 1. Rana* Yeah, the wind chill takes it from unpleasantly cold to dangerously cold. I’ll take the baby out on a cold day (I carry her in a front carrier, and we both stay quite warm) but on a cold, windy day? No. It’s bad for her, and it’s unpleasant for me, given that I can’t fully close my coat when I’m wearing her. 2. Anon* Yea, I had to go into work 3-4 hours late just because of 3 inches of snow for the same reason. I live on a SUPER steep/long driveway. I’m not shoveling snow in front of 3 houses to go to work. I don’t get paid enough for that – especially not when I have 3 weeks of vacation and 3 weeks of sick time saved up plus with technology, it’s super easy to telecommute. I probably got a few eye rolls as well. 1. Anon* I will add a note that I was in an accident last year that I’m still recovering from. And it snows here like once or twice a year. So lots of people tend to have issues when it snows. 1. TL* Once or twice a year or a rare event – I’d be okay with not going in for snow. When it snows in Texas, everything closes down but that’s because nobody can drive in or deal with the snow. It’s rare enough that a reasonable boss wouldn’t give you the side eye for it. 2. Product Management* You mentioned telecommuniting– the OP implied she was NOT telecommuting. I say that is a totally different scenario. When I’ve worked for tele-friendly companies, I stay home with minimal snow. It just makes my day more productive (note: if the kids are home from school, I get childcare. No childcare = PTO or at least partial PTO.) 6. kas* It’s kind of ridiculous to call in almost every time snow falls. I’m from Toronto so we’re expected to make it in even in the worst conditions but it is inconsiderate and makes you unreliable. Plus to say you’re sure you’d get in an accident … 1. Laura* I’m from Toronto too! *waves* hi! Yesterday was one of the few days I could understand some people calling in because snow, though not everyone would have had to, and lots of people were late. 1. Anoners* Yay! Another Torontonian here. I walk to work, so I can’t really ever call in for it, but I know my coworkers had a tough time with the commute. I didn’t even realize there was a storm until I walked outside and then BAM blizzard. 1. Diet Coke Addict* Here in Eastern Ontario along the lake we had about 25cm yesterday. Brutal. Nasty winter. Nothing compared to the winter I spent in Ottawa a few years ago where the official tally was something like 3.5 METERS of snow all winter! People’s roofs were cracking. 1. Heather* Not as nasty as Alberta. We’ve had winter since the beginning of November with record snow falls and lots and lots of cold (many days at -20 C or colder) days. 1. Al Lo* With the snow we had that first week of December, I was snowed in for 3 days. I’m in a rural area just outside of Calgary, and while the highways were fine, our gravel roads were drifted 3+’, and there was no way I was going anywhere until the plow came through — which happened on the afternoon of day 3. I think that half the office was out on the Monday, and everyone else was able to get in on Tuesday, but there was just no way I was going anywhere until Wednesday afternoon, no matter how good my winter driving skills are. I did have the foresight to stop by my office on the Sunday evening before the snow hit to pick up a few extra files I knew I’d need to have to work from home. I think I’ve taken more weather-related days this year than I have in a long time. I took 2 days in June — flood day and train derailment day — because I work just off Deerfoot, and the day the train bridge collapsed, I knew it’d be a 3+ hour drive to get in. Also, I was just following the mayor’s orders for all non-essential traffic to stay off the roads. :) Fortunately, my work has great work-from-home and flex time policies, so it wasn’t a big deal to not be in. 1. Chinook* I am outside Calgary too and I have called in due to weather more in the last 6 months than ever before when I was farther north – 3 days for flooding (I work downtown and the building had no power) and 1 for snow. In all cases, the deciding factor was that the commuter bus wasn’t running. If the professionals won’t drive, than neither will I. 2. Colette* Yeah, I remember that winter. Everyone remembers that winter. But they aren’t usually that bad. This year we’ve had less snow, but way more super-cold days. Also not fun. 1. Also Laura* And another Torontonian! I didn’t realize there was such a big storm until I glanced out the window, and by that time it had been going for a good while. Luckily my train wasn’t cancelled or too late getting me home! I’ve gone into work in all kinds of bad weather, and its taken me hours at times. The exception was the ice storm in December – trains were running (such as they were), but people were being advised to stay inside and this was a day that there would be nothing happening in our office, so I sat it out. 1. Laura* And a same named Torontonian, which is awesome! I had realized that it would be a snow storm the night before, but I didn’t realize how bad. I’m not sure where you were coming from, but yesterday morning it took forever for the subway to get from St. Clair to Davisville, because it had trouble with the hill I think. I’ve always worked places that were understanding if you were late in a snow storm, which is good because yesterday I left 45 minutes early and was 30 minutes late, but so were most other people I was on vacation most of the ice storm in December, except the first Monday, but my office didn’t have power so I wasn’t forced to come in. I heard some offices without power where people were pressured to come in. 2. Mike C.* In Toronto, I’m sure they take care of the roads a lot better than they do in areas where it doesn’t snow often. Also, there’s a huge difference between a consistent cold and snowy season, and milder areas where wet snow freezes overnight and then melts again in the morning. 1. Laura* But we do have flash freezes in Toronto. We aren’t consistently cold at all – though there has been a deep freeze here as of late the temperature has fluctuated from -20 C up to +4 C. This created one of the worst pothole problems on our roads in a long time. Also, our roads are overcrowded and our close main highway is deteriorating fast. Accidents, spin-outs, pedestrian hits are commonplace. I wouldn’t say it was “better taken care of” here than most other places. 1. Jamie* I would assume Mike meant better taken care of because you have the infrastructure to handle it. When I’ve lived in warmer places a once in a decade inch of snow will bring a city to it’s knees because they don’t have the plows and salt trucks – and they certainly don’t have dispatch plans even if they had the equipment. We’re always going to have weather related accidents in winter because there is no perfect snow removal system, but I’d still much rather drive through a blizzard in Chicago or Toronto than an inch of snow in Oklahoma – because of official preparations but also the majority of drivers who know how to handle it and aren’t completely freaked out. 3. Karyn* Totally off-topic, but I am coming to your fair city at the end of March and would love to know if you have any tips for good bars, restaurants, and the like in the downtown area. I’m staying near West King, at the Thompson, and am sort of stalking a movie set while I’m there, so no real plans… and I’d like to treat myself while I’m there! Anything you or other Torontonians have to contribute (is that the correct name?) is certainly appreciated! 1. Laura* It depends what you like! We have very authentic multi-cultural foods from every country you can think of, so name a country and I’ll tell you where i’d go to get that sort of food:) I’m a big fan of this restaurant in Kensington Market called The Grilled Cheese which sells fancy grilled cheese. Kensington Market is sort of the hippy, cool area. I also like this placed called Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches. I also like this pizza place called Magic Oven, which I think has a location near there. But if you’re a tourist, i’d also go for the authentic food from other countries. I’m a big fan of Vietnamese food, and my friend from Vietnam said it’s authentic here. Mmm Bahn Mi and Pho! Which is also cheap. Where you’re staying is a bit further west of downtown than most people stay, but it’s an easy street car ride to anything. What sorts of things do you like to do? There are also lots of things to do! 1. Karyn* Thanks for the suggestions so far! I’m a big fan of Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese, as well as Italian. There’s really not a food I won’t eat. This probably explains my winter weight gain… I’m very into museums, art galleries, film, and that kind of thing. I’m going by myself, so no one else to take into account, so I can basically do what I want. I’m very excited, as this is my first trip out of the States (I know!), and I’ve always heard such fantastic things about Toronto, so I figured it’d be better to get a resident’s take than try to Yelp it. ;) 1. Laura* I like Bahn Mi Boys on Queen West for Vietnamese. Actually you’d probably like all of Queen West, which isn’t far…it’s a cool people area:) Haha like where you’d go for tattoos and piercings, as well as where you can buy unique hand crafted things. Kensington Market is definitely an experience if you like hand crafted jewelery, clothes, other artistic things. I think the best Indian restaurant is called Little India (it’s not in little india, that’s just what it’s called), It’s on Queen West too. It’s imo really authentic, there’s so much to choose from, and there’s great service. The AGO and the ROM are the obvious art galleries and museums to go to , and they’re always worth a visit. We always get all the Broadway touring casts if you want to go for that, or there are really good independent plays. I really like to see plays at the Tarragon theatre. I’m a big fan of Casa Loma, more than most locals I think. But it’s a real live castle! So you should go there if you want to tour a real live castle. Honest Ed’s is a landmark store that will soon be gone forever, and it’s been a landmark in Toronto for over 60 years, so i’d see it before it’s gone. Just walking around both Chinatown and Kensington Market, which are right next to each other, is I think a great experience, and if you do that you can get some authentic Chinese food anywhere . The Distillery District is worth a visit, for its pubs, art galleries, old architecture and really small museum type thing. I also enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, if that’s your sort of thing it’s free and also on Queen West. There’s a lot more that I enjoy doing that only happens during the summer, but hope those suggestions are helpful and make your trip great! 1. Esra* I used to work around the corner from Bahn Mi Boys! Khao San Road in that area has some great Thai. It’s a fun neighbourhood to visit (as Laura mentioned). I loved working there because you had Chinatown, Kensington, the fashion district, everything within walking distance. Now I work in Liberty Village and we have nothiiiiing. 1. Laura* I wish I worked there Esra! Or lived there, I wish I lived there:) I work in mid town now and it’s not fun either! I loved how good Bahn Mi Boys was for so cheap. If I worked near there i’d go for lunch every day. I know many people who live and work in Liberty Village, but it’s not where most go for fun 1. Esra* It’s so expensive! You can grab yam tempura sushi + a can of pop for 5.25 at CJ’s down by Queen and Spadina, but good luck eating for under 10$ in Liberty Village.

I miss being close to all the bakeries in Chinatown. Mashion sells pork buns 3/1\$.

2. Karyn*

Thank you thank you! I am taking copious notes and tucking all this information away for my trip. I am so excited to go, it’s my first solo vacation in a long time, so I’m just looking forward to doing what I want, when I want. Thanks so much again for the info! :D

1. jennie*

The Bell Lightbox is at King & John, not far from your hotel. It’s the HQ of the Toronto International Film Festival but off-season it’s a beautiful movie theatre that usually has great film exhibitions. The area is fantastic for food too. I love Bar Hop for craft beer & pub food and Wvrst for house-made sausages in a beer-hall environment. There are plenty of higher-end restaurants around too. Toronto even has a Momofuku now if you can get in.

7. Kirsten*

Are you located somewhere where snow isn’t common? I’m from the Midwest, so my PTO would be depleted by January if I stayed home every time it snowed. If you really aren’t comfortable driving in the snow, is there public transportation that you can use those days? If your boss is already annoyed when you do this, I only see it getting worse as the winter goes on.

1. LMW*

I’m in the Midwest too…but I’m in a position where, if I didn’t feel comfortable driving or thought conditions were unsafe, I could work from home with out any impact on what gets done. We’re a really mobile office.

However, I will say that our admin, who has been “working from home” basically two days a week due to weather since the start of the year is really getting the side eye from the entire team. If she were a top performer, no one would care that she works from home, but since she’s really not, everyone just assumes she’s not working and it’s considered an absence.
OP, you may want to consider how all these days off are looking with your overall performance. Unless you are a top performer, it looks really bad if everyone else on your team makes it in and you don’t.

1. athek*

I second this. My high performers either make it in or at least try to make it in. They adjust their schedules to come in earlier or later when the roads are better. Sometimes there are legitimate weather related circumstances that prevent you from getting to work, and I understand that. I don’t begrudge or side-eye when they don’t make it in.
I do side-eye my low performer who calls in every time it snows. She lives closest to our office and doesn’t even bother. She actually called in one day this year and said her car was “covered in snow” and she wasn’t coming in. Like it was going to be any better the next day? You have to brush it off some time…
I had another low performer call in on a day when she knew she was needed and it was a big deal to call in. The snow hadn’t started when her shift started and was light enough and it was warm enough that it never accumulated.
I don’t want people to put themselves in danger, but sometimes we just have to put on our big girl or boy pants and try.

8. Kay*

I have to agree with most of the other commenters. I’m in southern Texas where it almost never snows and even here the city does not shut down for *snow.

However, if you feel unsafe driving, is it possible to set up to be able to work from home when such events occur?

*Ice is a completely different story, but I consider ice more dangerous than snow.

1. TL*

What part of southern Texas? Where I lived, everything shut down for snow that one time it snowed – but it was Christmas. (Mind you, it snowed once every 50 years or so, I think.)

And even in Austin/San Antonio – snows every 5-10 years, I think – places generally shut down for snow.

1. Anonymous*

4 times this year in austin, and they had snow/ice/sleet.
2 times this year in houston, and we had snow/ice/sleet this morning.

It’s been picking up more in the recent years. I would say Austin every 2 years, and Houston every 5.

1. TL*

Yeah, this year has been crazy, though. Definitely not normal weather!

Has it? I lived in Austin the past 2.5 years and San Antonio the 4 yrs before that and it snowed once the whole time. I think maybe it flurried in Austin during that period, though.

2. Us, Too*

I live in Austin. Our office closes/delays opening based on whatever the Austin school district does, but unless you have a job that can only be done in the office (e.g. front desk reception), the expectation is that you’ll work from home. This seems reasonable to me…. Except…

I have a 4 month old son, and my childcare provider comes to my house to care for him. When she can’t make it due to road closures, I have no childcare. I may be able to sneak in a quick email here or there or maybe make a quick call during nap time, but I certainly can’t rely upon being able to be even moderately productive on one of these days. A full closure has happened twice already in the last month. So I ended up sitting at home, knowing that my peers with no kids or older kids (who can be plunked in front of a TV or sent out into the yard to play) were working away productively while I looked like a total slacker having to reschedule my meetings and be offline most of the day. In fact, the first time an ice day happened a few weeks ago, I had a colleague text me that “you know that people at our level are expected to be working from home, right? The closure only applies to staff that can’t. Just want to make sure you didn’t fall off the earth or something.”

Anyway, I just hate it. I’m not sure I have a point here, just whining. LOL.

1. Editor*

Us, too — Is there a teen in your neighborhood who would have school days off when weather is bad? Would they be willing to be backup childcare for at least part of the day? If you had substitute care within walking distance, then you might be able to work (but I do know that then you have to train the teen and may not be able to find one and so on…).

1. Us, Too*

I actually have no idea. This is a good suggestion, though! Honestly, I haven’t done much planning for this because historically an ice storm is very rare. As in, we get them once every five years or so. And this year we’ve now had THREE shutdown days and a delayed start once. It’s ridiculous.

Note I said THREE when yesterday I said two? Well, today the city shut down AGAIN. There isn’t a drop of water on the roads, even. They decided at midnight last night to shut down in light of the (wait for it)… 10% chance of light freezing rain/snow during the morning commute hours. Everyone pretty much acknowledges the absurdity of this decision and my babysitter can make it today. I left at 6:15 to ensure I could make it in before “icepocalypse” hit during the normal commute hours and had one of the best and fastest commutes of my life. This town is unbelievable. LOL.

(Note: the first two shutdown days were actually warranted. The roads were like a skating rink of ice and completely impossible to safely navigate)

2. ThursdaysGeek*

We had a nasty ice storm (1/2 inch) covered by nearly a foot of snow, a few winters back. My husband had been in a freak pogo stick accident and broke his pelvis, but was itching to get out of the house (using a walker). It was a sunday, so I was out chipping off the ice so I could get into the car and get it cleared. I was so glad when our church service was cancelled, which gave me more time to get the driveway shovelled so I could get my car out and to work the next day.

1. amaranth16*

I’m truly sorry about your husband’s injury, but I have to admit that I cracked a smile at “freak pogo stick accident.”

1. ThursdaysGeek*

Me and everyone else too! Still, I contend a pogo stick was a great birthday gift for me to get for him. :D

This would happen to me. I avoid pogo sticks, skates, etc for this very reason. I admire people who try though! I had an 80 year old aunt try inline skates and she did just fine.

Humbling.

9. Shaun*

From what you write, that sounds like a poor work ethic. Sure there are days when the snow can be intimidating, but find a way to work.
I’m a manager in the social work field and we encourage all employees to have a back-up plan, carpool with someone with a better car, catch a bus, leave a few hours early and drive extra cautious.
Based solely on your response it seems like your looking for an excuse not to come in. That’s not any kind of attitude to gain the confidence of your employer or co-workers and it’s a safe bet it’ll be reflected on your evaluations and possible advancement.

1. De Minimis*

That could make things worse, too…the road crews usually won’t have things cleared off enough in the early morning hours.

1. Christa*

I bet you’re real fun to work for. Leave a few hours early? Are you serious!? Sure, I’ll leave at 5 am to get to an 8 am job. Who cares about sleep or taking the kids to school. Must get to the job! Catch a bus? What if the buses stop running? Because they do in bad snow storms. Also, public transportation in a lot of places is nonexistent and can be dangerous. Carpool? Sure, I’ll make a coworker leave extra early to come pick my ass up. That’s real considerate.

Based on OP’s response it seems she values some things more importantly than a job. Like her daughter and her own life. Good for her.

1. Christa*

No. Just referencing how some other people getting down on another poster who couldn’t abandon their kid to make it to work.

1. Us, Too*

The OP’s letter sounded a bit offhanded in her assessment of the importance of making it to work. Clearly in her workplace, many people DO make it to work (or they wouldn’t be annoyed) and it sticks out when she doesn’t. The same is true in my workplace – people generally find a way to work when the weather shuts down the city/schools. They either come in if it’s safe to do so or they work remotely. So if I want to fit in here, I make an effort to find a way to work on these days as often as I can.

So… Leaving early is what I did to ensure I could get to work today and I’m not an ogre to work for. I just have stuff I need to do at work and this is a practical solution for me. I figure I’ll try to leave a few hours earlier today if possible and if not, I know it will balance out in the end. And anyone I work with who does a good job generally manages to find a balance that works for them as well.

Making an effort to find a way to meet my job responsibilities in challenging situations doesn’t imply that my child or life aren’t more important to me. Life isn’t as easy as having some ordinal list of priorities. Sometimes my job sometimes requires that I rejigger my schedule. Just like I sometimes leave work early to take my child to an appointment or to meet my husband for our anniversary dinner at Chez Fancypants.

1. Shaun*

well said, I’m not asking for the 7 feats of hurcules, but show a backbone and show a work-ethic. if you try to drive and you cannot get off your street, then fine.
if you look out the window, see a few flakes and stay home then i’d rather not have you as an employee.
good luck finding a job that is willing to accomodate laziness.
I live in pittsburgh and we get our fair share of snow.
we also get our fair share of bad drivers (namely everyone who lives in the Oakland/ Squirrel Hill area)
public transportation isn’t cheap, but it’s available and it’s a 24 hour facility we work in.
You make it to work or you can look for another job.

10. aebhel*

Yeah…I’ve occasionally been the only person at work calling in for weather, but (a) I really do mean occasionally–as in, maybe once or twice a year–and (b) I live quite a bit further away from work than the others, in a rural area where the plows frequently don’t make it up my road until mid-morning. And even then, I don’t call out for the whole day–I’ll just come in late.

And I feel bad about that, you know? Because there are other people at work who are having to pick up my slack. If you’re calling in to work every time it snows, I don’t blame your boss and coworkers for being annoyed. Getting to work in the snow is a fact of life in a good portion of the country.

11. Lalou*

Here in the UK we are woefully ill-prepared for any sort of lively weather, but all major roads are always gritted and cleared when it snows unless the snow is really very bad – so driving in would rarely be an issue anyway.

You say “On such days, typically schools have been closed also.” Only typically? This makes it sound like you miss work if there isn’t even enough snow to close the schools. I can understand your coworkers and boss being annoyed if by the looks of it you could actually make it in quite safely.

12. fposte*

Can you work at home instead? It sounds like this is a lot of last-minute no-shows otherwise, and I can understand why that might be a problem for the rest of your office.

(And if you’re not comfortable driving yourself, can you take public transit or a cab?)

1. Kris*

This! You should try to make alternate arrangements if you can and save calling in for the absolute worst weather. We got 25 cm (10 inches?) of snow last night, and the schools were closed this morning, but the rest of the city is functioning. I wasn’t comfortable driving, so I called a cab. The driver had to vary his usual route to take main roads, but I got to work without incident. I’ll probably take public transit home because I don’t want to pay for a second cab ride. There are times when I will call in for weather, but this was just a lot of snow, not a major blizzard.

2. Anonymous #13*

Right, this. They are upset because you’re taking a “sick day” instead of trying to find a way to work remotely. I’m sure there is a service out there that can send you a notification of tomorrow’s weather by 4pm the day before so if you don’t normally take your work with you, you can make a more informed decision.

3. Laufey*

Thirded. If a storm is going to be so bad that it requires a city shutdown or not driving, it will rarely just pop out of no where. Can you keep a closer eye on the weather so that you can make plans accordingly?

1. De Minimis*

My experience has been, the forecasters are good about predicting when and where the storm is going to be, but can be way off regarding intensity and impact.

1. Laufey*

This is true, but you’ll still have to be getting up early to scrape your car or shovel the first bit of snow or will have already planned to take a cab/bus/train/walk/pogo stick. And while they’re often off on intensity/impact, a dusting (drive in anyway) rarely turns into a blizzard (work from home level) or vice versa. In my experience, it’s been more along the lines of a dusting becomes 6 inches or 6 inches becomes a foot or a foot becomes two. It’ll at least give you an idea of whether you should bring work home or not. I’ll often bring stuff home if the forecast is questionable, and then just bring it back to work the next day when the forecast turns out to have been overblown.

I guess my main point is that even if forecasters are off the mark a bit, it shouldn’t be a complete surprise when there’s snow. You should have contingency plans.

2. KJR*

Is it just me, or does it seem in recent years they make every little snow storm sound like the “storm of the century?” Where I live, we have frequent snow storms, and I don’t recall all this catastrophizing 30 years ago…

1. De Minimis*

I definitely see it here, all the time.

From what I can tell, it does seem pretty rare that they fail to warn of a serious storm. What usually happens is they predict heavy snow and it turns out to be much less and has a lot less impact on travel than predicted. I know I’ve wasted a least a few vacation hours this winter coming in late when I probably didn’t need to, since I was going off of hysterical weather forecasting.

It sends grocery sales through the roof. I thought it was a covert economic stimulus plan?

4. Windchime*

Not everyone lives where there are cabs and public transit. I do now, but for years I lived in a very rural area and I could not convince an online friend who was from Boston that no, I couldn’t just ride the train into work instead of driving. Because I would have to somehow get to the train station first, which was in the city that my workplace was in. And then I could either go to Spokane or Seattle on the train. Period.

13. Interviewer*

Your employer has nothing to do with where you chose to live. I had a boss once that lived about 4 blocks from the office, and he told everyone if he could get to work, the office would be open. That was our cue to figure it out and get there.

How many days off are we talking about this winter so far? You mention you don’t make enough in a day to pay your deductible. If you use up all of your PTO on snow days, will you try to drive in at that point, or find someone to pick you up? Can you afford to take (or are you allowed to take) unpaid leave? It’s the first week of February. The groundhog said it’s another 6 weeks of winter for us. Maybe winter next year is even worse.

The implications of continuing to stay home on snow days can include you being replaced by someone who does drive to work in snow.

1. veggie*

“The implications of continuing to stay home on snow days can include you being replaced by someone who does drive to work in snow.”

Yes. My thought was that the appropriate calculation here was not what you make in a day, but what you make in this job.

1. Zillah*

Exactly. That’s doubly the case when telecommuting is not an option, which for some jobs it is and some jobs it isn’t.

That’s not to say that people should venture out in truly unsafe weather – I’m remembering some nightmare AAM letters here – but a little snow does not qualify any more than it being a bit drizzly qualifies.

2. ExceptionToTheRule*

Also, there isn’t just winter on the front end of the year. November & December can be equally snowy.

1. ExceptionToTheRule*

Or May. It snowed in MAY last year. I am so sick of snowblowing, shoveling, salting, sanding and 4WD’ing to work I could about puke.

1. Ethyl*

It took me an hour to get out of my driveway this morning because there was ice UNDER the snow AND the plow guy for our building buried my car in three feet of icy, solid snow. So ready for spring, or to move somewhere warmer.

1. Editor*

Yes, when I hear from my mother that she had almost a foot of snow, I’m glad I don’t live in upstate NY any more.

Yeah, the deductible thing really bothered me.

If you aren’t making enough money on a single snow day, you probably aren’t making enough on any single day. Maybe you should stop going in at all.

Or, do what everyone else does – save up the money you’d need for your deductible, and drive extra carefully in inclement weather?

1. Anonymous*

It’s not really the main point here, but I’ve been in a couple winter accidents, and if it’s due to weather, insurance has always waived my deductible because I wasn’t considered at fault.

2. Elysian*

Yeah, if this was really about statistics and the deductible, there would be additional math involved to figure out the economics. I’m not going to do it, though. I don’t think its really about the deductible or the economics.

14. Katie the Fed*

OP, lemme say this:

I have someone on my team who calls out whenever there’s liberal leave for government employees (that’s when the Office of Personnel Management says we can take unscheduled leave) because of inclement weather.

She’s also the least motivated person on the team, and the one I always have to pull along to get her work done on time. She’s the team goof-off.

My top performers usually make it in.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

1. Katie the Fed*

No, I’m addressing her performance issues. She’s actually improving, but there are still some motivational issues.

2. Anonymous*

It’s the government. Don’t want to speak for Katie, but it’s not always as simple to replace someone as it is in the private sector.

1. Katie the Fed*

Exactly. And with hiring freezes sometimes you do the calculation that a good-enough employee is better than no employee. Especially when they’re improving.

1. Dan*

Even without hiring freezes, you still have to do the math and roll the dice. The hiring process for the feds is just broken. I was laid off in late October, and applied for a fed job the next day. In mid-December, I received a phone call from the agency asking if I was interested. Sure… the guy says he is going on leave the next day and will continue the process in January. Mid January, I get another phone call from the agency, asking if I was still interested. At that point, I was already settled into a new job for a week, so no. Plus, the position I was applying for topped out at a GS12, and for me to get a starting salary that I liked, I need to come it at step 6 or so. But that always means waiting *years* to just get a puny raise. No thanks.

I have no idea if/how the feds ever get their top pick of employees on the open market. Those employees have choices, and get snapped up quickly. The feds simply can’t move fast enough for that.

So yea, you’ve got to gamble that you can replace said employee with someone better. And that’s not just an if, because “when” is also a huge unknown. At my current job, I went from initial contact to start date in 6 weeks, and that included the Thanksgiving, Xmas, and New Year holidays. I’d like to see the feds do that.

1. De Minimis*

It really varies from agency to agency and from location to location…I’ve seen hires done pretty quickly, including mine [which was only a matter of weeks], and as an applicant I’ve seen processes take several months [especially if it’s an agency that does mass hires for multiple locations.]

When it’s a position where the government is competing with the private sector for employees they generally compete with better benefits and also the overall culture that often allows for good work/life balance. I think for many positions we do start to become more attractive for professionals who want more family time, for example.

1. Dan*

Well, for the position that I was applying for, the government isn’t the only game in town. The rest of them are for-profit companies that do contract work for the federal government :) The job I ended up taking is with a non-profit, doing similar work to what I would have done had I gone with the feds.

Both places I’ve worked have had STRONG work/life balances. Sometimes it’s hard to compare the benefits, as a pension is only worth something if you stick it out for a long time. And then you have to bank that the pension will actually be there as promised.

Basically, the feds can’t put together a compelling reason as to why I should put up with the hoops they want their applicants to jump through. The process costs them candidates, and likely good ones, plain and simple.

1. De Minimis*

I’d guess many nonprofits would have a similar culture.

Federal pensions these days aren’t so hot. Better than nothing, but not much.

2. VintageLydia*

Yup, it can take months and even years to hire a replacement which is, IMO, the REAL reason it’s so hard for slackers to get fired.

1. De Minimis*

Many times we will hold off on filling vacancies for budgetary reasons, even if it’s a position that really needs to be filled. It’s not that we don’t have the money for the position, I think we just get used to not having to pay that salary and then it gets tempting to use the money for something else and just put off hiring for a few months–this happens a lot with the higher salaries.

1. Anonymous*

Yup, I worked for a private company in DC who followed federal guidelines and there was a woman who lived one metro stop over from our work…and yet always claimed that she couldn’t come in when there was liberal leave because the sidewalks were too icy or something like that. She was also always the one who consistently failed to complete her work on time, baldly lied about why she couldn’t finish her work on time, and generally was the office bottle neck. Again, could be a coincidence but it was…suspicious.

To be fair, she had back problems so maybe walking on the ice really was too detrimental, but she also never put in any work from home on those days, which would have been easy for her to do.

1. Katie the Fed*

The real top performers are probably going to try to make it in. Or you barely even notice when they take a day because they’re kicking butt the rest of the time. It’s the underperformers who usually get noticed on things like this. If I’m happy with someone’s performance in general I’m not going to begrudge them something like this.

1. A Jane*

“It’s the underperformers who usually get noticed on things like this. If I’m happy with someone’s performance in general I’m not going to begrudge them something like this.”

In total agreement here. One of the team underperformers here already has a reputation of not doing much at work. When it snows less than an inch, I know not to expect her to be around much.

2. Zillah*

“…but she also never put in any work from home on those days, which would have been easy for her to do.”

To me, that’s the difference. If you’re in a line of work where it’s reasonable to work from home sometimes – and many people in my field (archiving) are – and if your boss is okay with it, I don’t see a problem with choosing to stay home when the weather is bad. (Read: not every time it snows.) Given the choice, I’m happy to stay home rather than brave poor weather and transportation delays/reroutes/etc.

But when I do that, I work from home. I may work in my pjs, but I do sit down and work, just like I do when I have a migraine and my boss gives me permission to do my work from home that day. In some ways, I think I’m more productive, because I appreciate their accommodating me and want to 1) make it worth their while and 2) give them the confidence to continue to do so in the future.

15. Malissa*

Trade your car in for a four wheel drive or something you feel comfortable driving in the snow with.
Then go out and drive in the snow on weekends. The only way to get over this problem is to get practice at driving in the snow.
Then you’ll feel comfortable driving in the snow to and from work and the boss will be way less annoyed.

1. Lalou*

This is exactly what I do every time it snows badly here – I drive carefully to somewhere very quiet and open like an empty car park and I practice driving and get used to what driving in the snow feels like and how to control the car a little more if it does skid a little.

1. Malissa*

I have a better solution, but it’s not feasible for everybody. I moved myself to a place where snow is a distant memory.

1. De Minimis*

I think this is going to be my solution, long term….not even necessarily somewhere tropical, just some place where winter weather is rare.

1. Jenna*

I’m in Southern California. There’s a tiny bit of water falling from the sky today….what is that stuff called? Oh yeah! Rain! It has been a while since we had any rain. I’d almost forgotten what it was!
The downside is that people here forget how to drive in rain. I can’t imagine what they’d do with snow or ice.

1. De Minimis*

Had a tow driver tell me once that slightly wet roads actually produce way more accidents than either snow or ice.

1. Jenna*

Well, it isn’t just water, when it’s the first rain in ages; it’s water plus a layer of all the oil and such that’s been sitting on the road for a while. It makes it more slippery. Also, when I say that people forget how to drive in it, I really mean it. Some people just don’t feel the need to slow down.

1. Youth Services Librarian*

Yep. I grew up in Austin, live in WI now. I drive a little car and I’ve never had snow tires. Two years ago I moved one town over and my commute now involves hills, twisty roads, and open fields with lots of blowing snow. On the plus side, my landlord is super nice about clearing the parking lot and shoveling. I have never called in, although I did get in late once when there was really bad ice (like, entire car encased in inches – and my director called and told me not to come if it was too dangerous). I leave early, drive veeeery slow, and saved up to buy extra insurance just in case. In the winter my 15 minute commute usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, but it was my choice to move farther away. On rare occasions we close early due to weather, but that’s very rare. One of my colleagues drives from even farther away and several live in much more rural outlying areas and we all get to work.

2. JoAnna*

When my mother was a teenager, her older brothers wanted to teach her how to drive on ice. So, they all got in their old pickup truck and drove out into the middle of a frozen-solid lake. Her brothers got out of the car and walked back to shore, leaving her to drive the pickup back. (This was in North Dakota, and her brothers had the ice-fishing experience necessary to gauge if the lake was frozen enough to hold a pickup truck.)

16. Clever Name Goes Here*

I can understand your anxiety, because it’s my first winter in a town that gets a lot of snow /and/ I’m not good at driving to begin with. Here’s what works for me:

– Make sure your tires are in good condition. You don’t need expensive ones, but the tread shouldn’t be worn down.
– Practice in an empty parking lot. Driving in snow is a skill that lives in your muscle memory, so you have to practice in a safe place. Try a college or shopping mall’s lot during the next snow. Learn how your car handles: brake hard, brake gently, spin out on purpose to practice recovering. You’re done when you’ve found the “sweet spot” for braking and turning and can consistently do those things with control.
– Drive a stick, if possible. Once you get the hang of a manual transmission, you have a lot more control in bad conditions. If it’s not an option, you should still have the ability to force an automatic to stay in 1st or 2nd. Downshift (especially up or down hills), change speed gently, and don’t make sudden moves.
– Front-wheel drive or 4WD, if possible. If you have rear-wheel drive and replacing the car isn’t an option, place a couple boxes of kitty litter in the trunk to weigh it down. That’ll help the tires press more firmly into the road. (Bonus: if you get stuck, putting kitty litter around the tires will give you traction to move your car!)
– Be prepared. Know what you’d do just in case something bad happens. Your trunk should have a small shovel, a box or two of kitty litter/salt, an aluminum blanket, flares, a pack of shake-to-activate hand warmers, and a couple of energy bars. Remember, all of life has risk, and you can’t eliminate it — but you /can/ manage it.
– Consider an alternate route, if one is available to you. I have two big hills between work and home, too, so if the roads are icy, I take the long way. It’s 4 times the distance, but more manageable.

If you practice and prepare, you don’t need to be stuck at home. Like I said, I’m not about to win any great driving awards, but doing the things above has made me a better driver in snow than I am on a clear night.

Some insurance companies will give a discount if you take a safe winter driving course, as well. Something to look into!

2. Mike C.*

Why is driving a stick useful here? Also, don’t you want to avoid lower gears when you’re starting to prevent your tires from spinning?

Many autos these days allow for the manual selection of gears, and provide different gear mappings for different driving conditions.

1. Clever Name Goes Here*

You always start in lower gears and move up through them as your speed increases. :) With a manual, you can limit downhill speed by shifting down instead of braking. And in a skid, you can shift up to take some power out of the wheels and regain control. So if I’m turning left at a stoplight when the roads are snowpacked, I’ll keep it in first until halfway through the turn, then shift to second to finish smoothly.

But that kind of control comes with time and becomes intuitive (I had to really think to explain why it works!). I didn’t mean to imply that the OP should run out and buy a manual right now because it’s a magic bullet — it’s totally not. And that’s really cool that new automatics can adjust to different conditions. If driving an automatic didn’t put me to sleep, I’d check it out myself!

1. Mike C.*

So what my car does in the “Snow” mode is lock me out of 1st when starting – it keeps the torque low and helps prevent a lot of wheel spin. Combine that with careful driving and a good traction control system and snow driving is pretty good. Plus you can just tap the paddles on the wheel if you want to shift anyway, or turn it all off when you find a nice, empty parking lot. :)

2. Emma*

You explained it beautifully. The other thing a manual trans can allow is rocking the car and forth in the snow to lurch out of a spot. To me, neutral-to-first-and-back 20 times is a lot easier than D>N>D>N.

2. ExceptionToTheRule*

I always referred to my stick shift trucks as a poor man’s 4WD. Couple hundred extra pounds of sand in the back and there wasn’t much I couldn’t get through. There really is an art to driving a stick in the snow.

3. Anna G*

These are great tips for someone who HAS grown up driving in snowy weather! Also, agh, rear-wheel drive. I learned to drive in a Delta ’88 in Minnesota winter. In addition to my countless trips into the ditch, I perfected the whipping of the “shitty” (aka doughnuts, to the rest of the world). If you’re stuck with RWD, OP, I’d definitely look into replacing your car.

1. Mike C.*

Modern RWD is just fine. TC systems help a great deal, as does not going too fast for conditions.

2. Jamie*

I know it’s not ideal, but you can learn to manage RWD in the snow. I drive a Mustang and before that a restored Grand National and I haven’t been stuck in years – knock wood.

But again, totally not ideal and I do have to use an alternate route to/from work when it’s bad because my regular route is too hilly…but a couple of bags of kitty litter in the back as others have noted and knowing how to drop the gear for more traction will go a long way to keeping you mobile in the winter.

That said, twice in the last 5 years I’ve left my car parked in the dock at work and hitched a ride home with my husband because no way was my baby going to manage it after a certain point. And I did spin once and came within less than an inch of hitting my bosses infinity…so yeah, not ideal.

1. Jamie*

Oh and do NOT use the sandy kind of clumping kitty litter. In case you need to use it as traction for tires that fine powdery stuff turns to the slickest substance on earth.

You want old school gravel kind that comes in the bags.

1. LJL*

Agreed. the cheaper the better. Also, for a rear-wheel drive, when you carry it in the trunk, get 2 bags and put one over each wheel well. That

2. Anna G*

I’d no idea RWD had gotten better! (Or, for that matter, that Mustangs had it.) I do think it helped me form a more flexible attitude when it came to winter route and emergency car kit planning. But then, MN winters helped that, too. :)

3. tesyaa*

My dad had a 1974 Delta 88 that was the size of a boat, as well as an even larger 1970 Buick LeSabre. I learned to drive on those and I still kind of miss the 450 cc engines, though I don’t miss the rear-wheel drive. In fact, when I was out shoveling yesterday with my husband and 18-year old daughter, we were discussing the merits of all-wheel-drive vs. front-wheel-drive, and my daughter asked if there were such a thing as “back wheel drive”. I had to break the news to her that everything used to be RWD.

17. Laurie*

I live in suburban Boston. It snows here all the time. We drive in the snow all the time. I have a coworker who relocated here from Texas. He won’t come to work when it snows. He didn’t grow up with snow, I can’t expect him to drive 30 miles to work in the snow. He’s more productive working from home.

> He’s more productive working from home.

Exactly – he’s still working. OP is calling in instead. Especially if your coworker is more productive, no one would consider letting him go just because he’s not in the office on heavy snow days. OP, on the other hand, is building a reputation of not being someone the office can count on to be there if they need her.

2. NylaW*

But at what point would you say he’s lived in an environment where it snows frequently that he should be able to make it into work? If you choose to move somewhere you need to try to adapt to the environment. If it’s common for staff to telecommute when the weather is bad, that’s one thing, but when it’s one person doing it over and over, the excuse that they don’t know how to drive in bad weather isn’t going to cut it.

Yeah, that strikes me as a bit odd. Part of moving somewhere is adapting to that environment. A former coworker of mine grew up in Victoria–very occasional light snow–and moved to New Brunswick–heavy, frequent snow. It’s not fair to expect her to never learn to drive in snow while everyone else cobbles by.

1. NylaW*

Exactly. I can totally understand that first winter when it can be a shock to the body in a lot of ways to even deal with the type of cold we’ve had this year. I have lived in the Midwest my whole life and this has been a new level of cold for me, I can only imagine someone who has never lived outside a warm climate where 40 is frigid. It’s something that takes some time to adapt to, but there’s a point where you have to do that if you want to keep living and working in that environment.

At least in this case the coworker is working from home and is being productive. This OP is just giving up before even trying.

2. LMW*

I live in a climate with a lot of snow. Yesterday my car got stuck. I dug it out wearing a suit skirt and snow boots and still made it into the office on time, while driving through a construction zone for the entire route. That’s a pretty normal situation in my city – happens all the time to many of us. So if someone just decides not to work, and the rest of us who put in the effort to make it to the office have to pick up the slack for a situation we all have to deal with? Probably not going to go over well with most people. Especially if it’s pretty much a fact of life where we live. You get a few months to adapt, but after that you actually have to work with the reality you live in.

3. AnonAthon*

Also grew up in the Boston suburbs. (Hi!) It basically has to be hailing death for them to cancel school. I was so confused when I first moved southward and the schools were closed based on the prediction of snow. This was mind-boggling to me. Anyway, I’ve been driving in snow since age forever and it’s not a big deal for me anymore, but I can see how it would be scary if that was brand new. That said, it is a learnable skill and quite a good one to have in case of emergency.

4. yasmara*

I grew up in Alaska & we had plenty of Texas transplants (oil business). You just have to learn!! I echo the advice to take a course if you feel really uncomfortable. There are some counter-intuitive aspects of winter driving that it helps to practice in a safe environment. But seriously, if your manager disapproves of you taking this time off, you’d better work around it or risk being replaced by someone who will actually come into work…

OP can you work remotely? Calling out isn’t a long-term solution to fear of snow no matter where you work.

1. Celeste*

+1000 I also wonder why you choose to live someplace where you have these “murderous” hills between you and everything else. I think you have some problems to solve, either geographically or with driving lessons or anxiety management.

1. The Clerk*

Not everyone can choose where they live–they choose where they can afford to live, and even if they choose one place to live based on proximity to work, suddenly they get laid off and have to take what’s available soonest wherever it is.

The OP might not have enough money to move house, buy a four-wheel-drive car, and pay for driving lessons and therapy. And I’m not convinced those are reasonable investments for a job just to avoid taking, say, seven days off during three months of the year.

1. fposte*

Agreed, though a conversation with a manager definitely is, and I’d say consideration of transit fare and cab fare, both of which are cheaper than any of the listed items, would be a reasonable request as well.

2. Celeste*

I am a homeowner, and I know it isn’t always easy to relocate even when you really want to. I hear the OP saying, if it’s snowing she needs to stay home because she can’t drive those hills in snow. Maybe it’s her skill, maybe it’s her personal issues. It sounds like a big problem for her. Besides, I think a bigger concern in an accident is injury, not an insurance deductible that a day’s pay may or may not cover. It’s really silly thinking to even wallow in whether an employer should pay your deductible if you were en route to work when you had an accident.

As far as the idea that not everybody can choose where to live, I call baloney on that. Americans are not assigned to living areas or coerced to purchase or rent a dwelling. They choose to. Why the OP chose someplace where she is confined by “murderous” hills (from work and everything else) doesn’t make any sense.

1. De Minimis*

Renting allows you to be more mobile, but once you buy, it’s way more complicated to leave. And I can say from personal experience, when you’re looking at a house you can’t anticipate every single thing that ends up becoming an issue later on…especially if you’re been looking for a while and are sick of the whole house hunting process.

1. Zillah*

But presumably, the OP was probably familiar with the weather in the area and their feelings about snow before buying the house. Knowing those two things, it seems pretty short-sighted to buy a house with “murderous hills” surrounding it. I agree that you can’t anticipate every single thing, but it seems to me that this could have been anticipated, given how extreme the OP’s dislike/fear of snow is.

Not that it helps now, if the OP is, in fact, a home owner, but.

1. VintageLydia*

Considering this winter has been terribad for EVERYONE (Even my Northern Canadian friends are complaining!) I’m willing to assume how those hills would be in snowy weather wasn’t much of a consideration regardless if she rents or owns. This winter is unusual and people shouldn’t be faulted for making decisions based on relatively rare events.

1. Zillah*

This winter is definitely unusual, but again, the OP is apparently calling in whenever it snows and is forecast to continue snowing all day. If they’d said, “I call in when a foot of snow is forecast and it’s 10*F out,” that would be a different story.

2. Laufey*

I would also like to point out that is still expensive to move if you’re a renter. In addition to the actual time involved in the move, and getting appropriate vehicles to do so, etc, every time you move into a new building there are application fees, background checks (often, but anot always), credit checks (always), reconnecting power, moving the cable, etc. and these fees can be more than a full month of rent sometimes. A lot of people can’t swing an extra month’s full of rent just because they don’t like a couple of hills when it snows.

And as for choosing where to live, when I personally would love to rent one of the fancy houses in midtown (which is also safer) with large yards and parks nearby and hipster restaurants I could walk and be biking/walking distance from work…but there’s not way I could afford that, even if I factor in the gas I would save. So yeah, I could live closer to work, if I didn’t want to do anything but pay rent. Maybe OP can’t move to the other side of the hills because there’s no affordable housing.

I also don’t see anywhere where the OP said the company should pay her deductible. Her cost/profit analysis may not be taking all the tangible and intangible costs into account, but she’s not asking her employer to (outright) comp her is she crashes.

1. Celeste*

“I do not make enough in a full work day (let alone getting in for a few hours) to cover my deductible. My boss certainly won’t pay for it.”

Here is where she lets on that she has even thought about it being the employer’s responsibility to pay up. To me, you should just never go there, yet it’s part of her argument.

I feel sorry for this lady. Maybe the house wasn’t her idea, maybe she doesn’t want to work. Maybe she’s alone or widowed and money is tight. I guess it’s good that her employer has always let her use her paid leave to avoid driving in snow, but she really should consider what becomes of her if she loses the job over this problem, or even if she gets a new supervisor or other management and the rules change…because these changes can happen.

1. Laufey*

Ah. I didn’t interpret that line quite the same say. I get where you’re coming from.

And I totally agree that the status quo is not maintainable in the long-term. I’m just pointing out that housing is limited and that choices are restricted.

3. Jenna*

My brother moved from S. Cal(no snow. No ice) to Alabama(snow and ice happen, but not like some places talked about here).
He thought he was a really good researcher and had found a great house…and he was so very wrong. The problems were all things that he, being from a warmer place, didn’t think of, and the people there just took for granted that he would KNOW so they didn’t warn him. They just thought he was an idiot.
Common sense is only something that you learned so long ago that you forgot learning it. It varies from place to place, and changes over time.
The problem the house had? The house was on a hill and had a sloping driveway. The area iced sometimes in winter, and the hill and driveway scared buyers away when they tried to sell it when they realized their mistake. The only way they managed to unload that house was after our dad died and my brother inherited enough money to move, and then they unloaded that albatross of a house at auction.
In Southern California, that house, driveway, and street would have been fabulous, and sold in a heartbeat. There? Everyone that had a couple winters under their belt looked at it and said, “NOPE!!”
So, if you are new to the area, and climate, and no one tells you the things you need to know, I guess you just get to make these very expensive mistakes and live with them.
A few things I learned about as a kid that you might not have to deal with where you are: no matter how tasty the mushroom looks, don’t even touch it! If you get caught in a rip tide, swim parallel to the coast a short way to get out of it. If an earthquake hits, don’t run, but locate something sturdy to be under like a doorway or sturdy desk, and stay away from anything glass or things that could fall on you. Where I live, those things are considered common sense….people learned it as kids and forgot that they LEARNED it. Not everyone grew up with snow, or the amount of snow that you consider normal. Ifi moved somewhere colder, I’d need to start over from scratch and learn all about frozen pipes, snow tires, ice, and everything else.

19. De Minimis*

I have a co-worker who calls in a lot when it snows or has the potential to do so, but she lives in a rural area and has told me she has to take rural roads [which are seldom cleared off] and steep hills to get to her home.

I recently moved much further from work [there are few desirable housing options locally] and am dealing with this too. I called out once this week and it was probably borderline, but several employees also called out. I came in today despite a couple of sliding incidents on the way to work. Generally you’re okay as long as you take it slow and stick to well travelled roads. If I lived closer to work, I’d probably rarely miss for snow–and I’m actually considering looking for a job closer to home just due to the commuting issues.

You can’t really go by the schools closing because they have to take a lot more into consideration–this winter I’ve often seen schools close on days where the weather didn’t really affect most commuters, but the weather would be too cold for the kids to wait on the bus and the busses might have accidents due to the slicker residential streets even though the arterials were relatively clear.

1. Zillah*

You can’t really go by the schools closing because they have to take a lot more into consideration–this winter I’ve often seen schools close on days where the weather didn’t really affect most commuters, but the weather would be too cold for the kids to wait on the bus and the busses might have accidents due to the slicker residential streets even though the arterials were relatively clear.

Yeah, this. My mother works for a special ed school, and they usually close at least a few times a year due to snow or ice… but that’s because the population is especially vulnerable. Some of the kids are quite fragile health-wise, and many use walkers, wheelchairs, etc. Also, if I recall correctly, sometimes schools that primarily use buses close because the bus company decides they don’t want to risk an incident with a lot of kids on the bus.

Able-bodied adults who control their own transportation options are a completely different story.

1. De Minimis*

Even then, though, every time there’s bad weather the schools get complaints when they close or when they don’t close. This is in a larger metro….the rural schools here seem to close more frequently I guess because they have more issues with bad roads.

One of my coworkers has her son here today–his school is closed and I guess she can’t take off to be with him. He is old enough to entertain himself and has been quiet but apparently it’s against the rules to have him here.

20. KLH*

Your logic of “I don’t make enough in a day to pay my deductible” is also dumb. That has nothing to do with the situation. Either you have money in savings to cover your deductible or not; you can just as easily crash the car distracted, or when a deer runs in front of the car.

You can learn to drive in snow. You can learn to drive on hills in the snow. You are choosing to be a lazy baby.

1. Mike C.*

As much as I love driving in the snow, I really hate the attitude some folks have about it. This isn’t the way to measure one’s self worth.

2. Annie The Mouse*

I have nearly died twice in weather related traffic accidents, and I think calling someone who is hesitant to drive in bad weather a lazy baby is unhelpful and harsh. Only the OP can assess the risk level with any degree of accuracy.

1. Jamie*

I don’t like the name calling, either, but not everyone assesses risk correctly.

The way I see it, there is a high probability I will crash my car.

That kind of hyperbole is indicative, to me, that she’s overstating the risk. If it were truly that bad that it’s actually a high probability there wouldn’t be an argument since everyone else would also be aware of those extreme conditions.

1. Emma*

Unless she’s driving a Reliant Robin, in which case, every drive is an opportunity to crash the car. (Top Gear, anyone?)

2. PurpleChucks*

Agreed that shaming the OP is uncalled for, but I get the impression that OP is NOT in fact able to “assess the risk level with any degree of accuracy.”

3. A Bug!*

I’m not discounting your experience with weather-related traffic, because I’ve been there too, but I do think you might be projecting some of your experience onto the OP’s letter.

Per Jamie’s quote, the OP said “the way I see it”. Now, that’s fine, but the OP implies it’s a simple, objective calculation that results in the choice to stay home: A, therefore B. But the OP doesn’t really provide us with the variables used to come to that conclusion, and just expects us to accept it as a given.

What relevant information are we given? The irrelevancy of the school closures has already been addressed. What’s left is the fact that all of the OP’s coworkers are able to make it to and from work without incident on these days that the OP calls out.

With that information, I see two possibilities: the OP’s coworkers are adrenaline junkies who are cheating death every time it snows; or the OP is being unreasonably cautious. I think common sense will tell us that it’s unlikely to be the former.

Of course, it’s possible that the OP did leave out information that would make it more reasonable to stay home. But I think we as readers should be able to operate on the assumption that writers are providing all available beneficial information to begin with, because otherwise there can never be a basis for a useful response.

1. A Bug!*

On a re-read of the OP, I should correct myself: “all” should be replaced with “at least some”.

It alters my position somewhat, but not substantially. I’d still recommend the OP seriously put some thought into examining the risk assessment process. But I’d also like to know, out of the coworkers who do choose to stay home on these days, which of them are doing so because they have children whose school has been cancelled.

21. Enid*

I feel like people might be jumping on the OP a little bit. The letter does sound a little weak in essentially saying, “If it’s snowing, I stay home,” but the OP also indicates that most of the other employees stay home these days, too. (Although I wonder if the OP is really sure that it’s only a few people who come in.)

In my experience it’s kind of a balancing act between how bad the roads seem to be (which is different from “is it snowing y/n”) and how much value it will be for me to come in, especially if a lot of other people are out. The obvious solution is for your company to encourage telework if possible, not to encourage people to try to drive in if they do genuinely feel unsafe doing so.

1. Zillah*

The letter does sound a little weak in essentially saying, “If it’s snowing, I stay home,” but the OP also indicates that most of the other employees stay home these days, too.

Does s/he, though? I didn’t get that at all. They say that the boss and a few other employees make it in, but I don’t see any mention of most employees staying home – if that was the case, I imagine the people who made it in would be a bit more sympathetic, unless it’s really a bad workplace environment.

2. A Bug!*

(Although I wonder if the OP is really sure that it’s only a few people who come in.)

You caught this on your first read but I missed it until my second.

I mentioned this a little bit above, but even if it is true that a number of other coworkers also call out, we’d need more information. Specifically, which coworkers have school-age children who are unexpectedly home from school that day.

22. Rebecca*

I called off yesterday, the first time in many years due to a snowstorm. If it would have been just snow, no problem, I have a 4WD vehicle and am comfortable driving. It was the rain and freezing rain on top of it that did it for me. As it was, I spent over 3 hours shoveling my driveway – heavy, wet crusty snow – and had I just driven out and gone to work, I would have come home to a solid mass of ice at the end of my driveway nearly a foot thick. My commute is 23 miles one way.

I used a vacation day. And yes, I could have worked from home, but I’m not allowed, even under these circumstances. My boss won’t allow anyone to do it, even though she does it herself when it’s convenient for her.

I understand the suggestions about paying people to plow for you, but it’s not feasible for me. I simply don’t make enough money to pay someone to do that.

1. Rebecca*

Yes, she’s lame – that’s one of the words we use. She also plays favorites. Some people can take off whatever days they want, while she gives other people a hard time about every single request.

I took the initiative to set up everything I needed to work from home, so there was no expense to the company, laid out all the pros and cons (got a lot of ideas from AAM), and she said because she couldn’t trust everyone to work from home, no one could. No negotiation, no let’s try it a day a week, nothing.

I asked her what I could do to earn more money. Again, nothing. That was her answer.

Needless to say, I’m looking for another job, but decent paying jobs are few and far between around here, and I can’t afford to take a cut in pay and work someplace decent. I have to put up with the crap until I can make at least a lateral move.

23. Cruciatus*

I live in a city that is currently the snowiest city in the U.S. with a population over 100,000 so I definitely have some experience with this (over 100″ now. Woo!). It really comes down to A) just doing it B) going slow and C) leaving tons of space between cars. The other day I only went 35 miles an hour on my 15 mile drive to work and was perfectly happy about it (well, would be happier if this snow ever ended, but that’s not something I can help). I don’t have snow tires because I can’t really afford both (and they aren’t fool proof, just extra protection), but I do have quite good all-season tires. But I think most accidents happen because of too much speed and not enough space between cars. If you only feel comfortable going 20 mph, then do it. Yes, you will annoy people behind you, but sometimes people are actually glad to be going slow…. Sometimes visibility is the bigger issue and I’ve been in some doozy snowstorms so I just hit my hazard lights and take the familiar way home that has the most houses (instead of the highway I normally take). There are usually other cars on the road to follow. Maybe save up your “snow days” for terrible visibility days (or just say you’ll need to take 1, 2 hours of PTO until it’s better.) But I agree with others that you cannot continue to call off every time.

1. Jess*

Taking it slow is the best advice for driving in the snow. You can do everything else right, but still end up in a ditch if you’re going too fast for the conditions. On the other hand, at a slow speed you’re able to recover more easily from any slips and slides. I’ve found that attempting to drive normally is the biggest mistake drivers unaccustomed to snow make when driving in the snow. OP, if you remember any advice from this thread, it should be to take it slow and steady.

24. The Editor*

I’m from Alaska…. If we took snow days, we’d work two months of the year. :-)

And just for the record, where I lived (Fairbanks), we only canceled snow if the ice fog got really bad OR it was at least -70. If we canceled for snow or “higher” temperatures, we’d never get anything done.

1. yasmara*

Another former Alaskan here! I live in MN now & the attitude is pretty much that everyone comes to work…

Schools, however, have been cancelled FIVE times in one month (January) this year for excessive cold/wind chill. I’m lucky in that I work at home & my parents live nearby, so we got some childcare help on those days. It’s still not easy to manage, though, but that’s more an issue of back-up childcare than it is about road conditions.

1. The Editor*

With the wind chill, the coldest day I ever experienced was -92. And yes, I went to school that day because the non-wind chill temperature was only -68 or so.

Alaska is a COMPLETELY different world. Everyone should go once (in the summer is fine), but I warn you… It gets in your blood pretty darn quick!

1. TL*

I want to live there for a few years if I can! But I’m never sure if it’s because I secretly hate myself or I’m attracted to the wilderness/beauty.

1. The Editor*

There’s something wonderful about Alaska that just gets in your blood. If you want to try it without the super cold, go for Anchorage or Juneau. Both are on the Japanese current and are relatively warm for what you’d expect. Juneau is typically Seattle but 10 or 15 degrees colder. Lots of rain, beautiful glaciers, and more wildlife than you could ever see in a lifetime.

2. Elysian*

I heard someone from Alaska call in to Car Talk (on NPR) once and they were asking about special heaters that they had installed in their car – cause, you know, antifreeze has its temperature limits.

I got the impression that you Alaskans are very dedicated. :)

1. The Editor*

In Fairbanks, parking lots have electrical plugs throughout them so you can “plug in” your engine block to keep it from freezing. In this case, dedication is just another word for insanity. I look back at those days now, and I don’t know how anybody does it permanently, but if there was any work up there, I’d be trying!

1. hilde*

Yup, it’s not uncommon to see that this time of year – extension cords running from houses out to the street (if there’s no garage) to keep the vehicle plugged in so it’ll start in the morning. I even saw that at a hotel I was staying at this week. I love the cold seasons up here- it keeps out the riff raff.

1. Becky*

I’m from Northern MN, and the main employer in my very small town is a large factory. The factory parking lot is full of plug ins for that very reason, because quite often in the winter Northern MN will be as cold or colder than anywhere else in the US (or the world, or even on rare occasion, Mars, like this winter. Gross!). Other places people just leave their cars running or go out and start them for 10 minutes every hour or two.

2. Windchime*

Yeah, we used to plug in our cars in Eastern WA where it gets below zero in the winter. I haven’t had to do it over here in balmy Seattle.

3. Elizabeth*

I suggested a co-worker get a block heater for her Jeep today. We’re in east-central Kansas.

My grandparents’ station wagon had a block heater more than 25 years ago. It was necessary for the diesel engine.

3. Emma*

I just moved to Alaska from the mid-Atlantic region and this is my first winter. :3 I haven’t been to Fairbanks yet, but I can’t wait to go to those hot springs and see the Northern Lights.

1. The Editor*

China Hot Springs is one of the most amazing places on earth, especially for the northern lights. We’d go out there all the time as kids. Nothing like laying in the hot pools while watching the lights dance above your head.

I’m very jealous you’re up there! My wife is from Juneau, and we keep dreaming of getting back that way some day.

25. Dulcinea*

One thing about your letter stuck out to me – the days you are calling out, your boss “and a few others” are able to make it in. If the majority of people are calling out on the same days as you, I would feel more comfortable justifying your position.

However, that is only because of safety issues – I don’t think your economic rationale makes much sense, because (a) even in the worst weather, even when the number of accidents is very high, the majority of drivers still will not be in an accident so while the probability is increased, I don’t think it is not increased to the “more likely than not” level; and (b) the fact that your deductible won’t be covered by a day of working has nothing to do with it; on a clear sunny day you might get broadsided buy someone who runs a red light. Also, would a day of working cover the cost of buying an insurance plan with a lower deductible? I am not saying it makes sense to buy such a plan (that’s really a different issue that has to do with the value of your car and other financial considerations), I am just pointing out why that particular cost analysis is not really relevant to whether you should risk driving.

Finally, consider how much it will cost you if you lose your job over this and analyze the probability of that – it may be higher than the probability of getting into an accident and paying the deductible.

26. NylaW*

School closings are not a good indicator of whether you can safely make it to work or not. Driving a bus is not like driving your car, and while you can sit in a warm car while waiting on traffic or stoplights, kids are standing out in the elements on a sidewalk waiting for the bus to get them, provided the buses will even start when it’s -30. :)

1. Ethyl*

Right, plus this year with the Polar Vortex, wind chill has been a big factor. Roads completely clear, sun is out, but when it’s -20 wind chill, schools will cancel so kids aren’t standing around outside in dangerous conditions. You can still get to work on those days.

OP, I also live in a place where it snows a LOT (I’m a couple more places down the list than Cruciatis, above, though!), and I’m …. look, I’m having a hard time being charitable towards you. If we stayed home every time it snowed, we are talking weeks and weeks of time off. People here have all learned how to drive in snow and navigate our commutes, and it sounds like at least a couple of people in your office have too. There is really no reason you can’t learn how to drive safely in snow, take proper precautions like snow tires or a four wheel drive vehicle, and stop finding reasons to take a snow day. We don’t get those anymore now that we’re grownups.

1. NylaW*

We had the reverse issue at work the day the Polar Vortex moved into the region. Everyone was able to get to work no problem, but it got so bitterly cold by the end of the day that a lot of people couldn’t get their cars started to get home.

I’m pretty sure that’s a worse situation. :)

1. Deedee*

We were -28 this morning and many people in my office were a little bit late coming in because their cars wouldn’t start. But they just got jump started or called a co-worker for a ride (or one guy was embarrassed that he had to call his mom for a ride!) My husband was my chauffeur today. And there are icy snow packed streets. But everyone eventually made it in. And the schools were not closed.

2. annie*

Depends on where you live. Chicago schools only close if it is truly life-threatening weather conditions, so that’s generally a good indicator of when most reasonable people will consider staying home. Sad but true – so many kids get their only meals of the day at school, the schools only close if the danger of a kid waiting for a bus or in the snow is higher than the danger of a kid going without food for a day.

1. L McD*

It’s the same way in Syracuse. I think I saw maybe one school closure in the 7 years I lived there. Now I’m in New England and I certainly would NOT use school closures as a reliable indicator of how dangerous it actually is to drive – partially because it’s often just the low temperatures that cause cancellations, and partially because people here don’t seem quite as used to brutally abrupt snowfalls.

I’m also finding myself wondering if the OP can take an alternate route to work. Maybe avoiding at least one of the hills would help. If they plan to stay in the area long-term, getting comfortable driving in the snow is kind of important. I was thrust into it when I moved to Syracuse and within a year, even without snow tires, I felt comfortable. When I was finally able to afford snow tires it was the icing on the cake. I basically never felt unsafe, but of course it helps that they do an excellent job of keeping the main roads clear.

The catch-22 of snow driving is that you never really know how bad it is until you try, and (IMHO) it’s usually not as bad as you think. I had many days where I wanted go “screw it, this sucks too much!” but by the time I’d reached the main roads, I realized it was really fine. Working in retail you don’t get much wiggle room, so as I say, I was forced into it – but ultimately I’m glad I got the experience and I was never even close to getting in an accident.

2. Jamie*

This is true. When my kids were small and we’d watch school closings early mornings the private school and suburb after suburb closing while CPS was still in session. I had always assumed it was because the city did a better job of snow removal…that was before I worked in the city.

Now I just laugh at how naive I was considering I’d pay out of my own pocket to get the mayor to send a plow down to bridgeport once in a while.

I think your reasoning is flawed. You’re taking into account your deductible and how much you make in a day, but not the damage your actions are almost surely doing to your work reputation or to your relationships at work – both of which can follow you for years. Furthermore, it’s IMHO overly dramatic to assume you’re probably going to crash your car if you get on the road.

I can understand not liking to drive in snow – I live in the intermountain west and trust me, we get snow. But as a supervisor, I would be really irritated if every time the snow flew I had an employee who bailed on work completely. A better solution for you would be to work from home if possible, rather than calling out on leave every time it snows. And if you can’t work from home, you need to figure out an alternative route/transportation method or practice driving in snow more, as others upthread have suggested.

1. fposte*

I totally agree with your first paragraph. The OP is approaching the situation as if it were a math problem, which is fine, but she’s leaving out a key factor.

2. bearing*

Even the math isn’t right. She should be comparing how much she makes in a day to

(deductible) x (probability of getting in a wreck that will cost more than the deductible)

I’m thinking that probability is not 100 percent.

1. Laufey*

Additionally, she would need to be making that calculation every time she drives (and not just to work), since as someone pointed out above, accidents are not restricted to snowy conditions. She would also need to consider days of heavy rain, fog, the first hour of light rain when roads are at their slickest, and Friday nights after the bars close.

As a side note, OP please set aside savings to cover deductibles on car and health insurance, even if you have to eat beans and rice for a month straight. Having savings sets you free.

28. Katie the Fed*

What it comes down to is this:

You have a responsibility to get to work. If you can’t reliably be there, then your boss is reasonable to look for someone who can. It doesn’t really matter WHAT the reason is – if you can’t be relied at to be at work, then they’ll find someone who can.

What’s more important here – the moral victory that you’re justified in being out (which I don’t think you are), or staying employed?

1. Utahan*

THIS!!!!!!!!

I grew up in AK, I’ve lived all over the US, and currently reside where the ‘Greatest Snow On Earth” calls home. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in snow or not, the questions is: can you reliably get the job I need done?

If you can telecommute, are allowed flexible hours, your coworkers are not having to shoulder your work PLUS their own, it doesn’t matter. If you are negatively impacting work with your unreliability (snow days, sick days, beach days, whatever) it’s not going to work

29. Erica B*

I work 30 mins from my work. Often it snows worse here than there (I’m more north) or sometimes is goes the other way. I understand not wanting to go in on really bad snow days, as snow is very common where I live in western Mass. I live on a side street that they often plow pretty crappy. If my work is open then I try and make it in, albeit normally late.

If you are only taking days of for major storms it makes more sense, than if you take off ALL the days it snows. Drive slow, take your time, and if your concerned about how your car will handle get studded tires, add weight to the trunk, and keep your vehicle in low gear the entire way down those hills. It’s also important to know to “tap the brakes” if you catch yourself sliding, assuming you don’t have anti-lock brakes which do that for you.

It definitely sounds like driving in the snow makes you very nervous or anxious. If you are unfamiliar with driving in the snow practicing will help. “clever name goes here” has some good tips.

30. K-Anon*

I don’t know everyone. I think people who are this worried about driving in the snow should stay home. The worst part of driving in the snow to me is all the people going half the speed limit, it drives me nuts.

I have a 5 mile stretch of low traffic, 4 lane highway where it never fails I’ll get behind two yahoo’s going 30 side by side with an inch of snow on the road, or even with clear tire paths. Drives me absolutely bonkers. It also never fails that when I pass people they immediately speed up.

(Grew up in ND, I love driving in the snow)

I drive a small AWD car and have no problems at all… you don’t need a big 4×4. As others said, just get out there and play a bit, figure out what your card can do, it’s more than you think.

(Don’t be reckless, don’t tailgate, do slow down for corners, never, ever, ever pull in front of someone…)

1. Mike C.*

I had a lot of fun in my RWD in the snow to be honest. Sure, it won’t take a huge depth, but it worked just fine.

2. Anonymous*

Half the speed limit can still be too fast on a snowy road. It’s all fun and games until you try to brake!

3. AmyNYC*

No one LIKES driving in the snow, but if you absolutely CANNOT it might you have to live somewhere it snows very infrequently.

4. ThursdaysGeek*

If your tires are good, you can drive faster and safer than someone with bad tires. So those yahoos going 30 might just have bad tires, and that’s really as fast as they can safely drive (but they shouldn’t block both lanes!)

1. fposte*

Yeah, it’s the “both lanes” thing that chafes. I’m always so pleased when somebody realizes they’re making people stack up and pulls over to let them by.

2. Laufey*

Concur that driving in both lanes is both bad and sloppy.

I would like to point out something though. The little number on the side of the road? That’s the speed limit. Note that last word. Limit. That is what road engineers (or social planner, whatever) have decided is the safe maximum on a dry, sunny day with no visibility issues and no surface issues. It is not a minimum (those are marked on different signs). It is not a “you must drive this speed to be allowed on this road.” It is a limit. There is, technically, in most cases, no actual requirement to drive the speed limit.

I know and understand physics. I can drive better than my current vehicle is capable of; therefore, I pay attention to my car and my car’s performance when I drive. I know the limits and abilities of my car when I’m driving. If I notice my car starting to put myself or others in danger (be it through fishtails, increased stopping time, whatever), I will slow to a sped I can safely maintain. I will be in the right most lane. I may even slow down further when approaching bridges and over/underpasses that I know (according to physics, common sense, and past experience) may have additional ice build-up.

Please do not hate me for taking actions to ensure the safety of those around me. Because really, the people that drive me nuts are the ones that can see me driving carefully down the road a mile away and still insist on crawling into my trunk before going around me, or who shift lanes so close in front of me that they almost clip my hood, or who flip me the bird as they go past. I think all people that aren’t understanding of or respectful of people’s driving abilities or that aren’t patient should just stay home.

1. ThursdaysGeek*

There is no requirement to drive the speed limit, but do remember that if your speed is vastly different from the rest of the traffic (faster or slower), you’re making the roads more dangerous.

(That’s why I hate driving in Portland, OR. The freeway speed limit is lowered to 55 or 60 mph, and everyone speeds up to 70+. I hate going 10 over the limit, just to not be too bad of a roadblock.)

And I agree with Laufey, too. Consideration of other drivers goes a long way.

2. K-Anon*

I think you’re giving way too much credit to concept that engineers make these decisions, and that there’s nothing at all revenue related in them. I’ve read studies that show less road rules and fewer road signs actually reduce traffic accidents.

But regardless, the point is to drive a safe speed. Part of being safe isn’t blocking traffic, if someone’s safe speed has no cars anywhere in front of you, but a line a mile behind you, then your probably being too cautious.

Please don’t hate me, when given a good legal opening, if i pass you in a completely legal manner, going what I decree to be a safe speed for me and my vehicle. Don’t speed up to prevent the pass, and don’t honk and flip me off. Don’t pull up next to me at the next light, further impeding traffic and trying to chew me out. (this actually happened this week, which is why I’m a bit grumpy on the topic!)

1. K-Anon*

Just to clarify, as that reads weird considering we’re talking about snow on roads. I’ve no problem with people slowing down, my position is that people seem to be too cautious around here, and more specifically they tend to block up the roads for others, particularly 4 lane highways. I see it literally every day.

31. Ramona*

The writer seems to have an expectation that they can choose when to take days off as they see fit. The best employees know that vacation days are for booking ahead, and making sure that your work is covered. Business still goes on no matter what the weather is. For me, it’s not about the snow day (context Southern Ontario, experiencing one of the worst winters in a long time) but the attitude of this employee. I suspect there may be plenty of other situations they find themselves in. Think you need to change the mindset here first and foremost.

1. De Minimis*

For me that depends on the workplace and what’s generally acceptable. Mine has no problem with spur-of-the-moment leave, as long as employees have leave available to use. A lot of workplaces don’t have a problem with employees “choosing to take days off as they see fit.”

But I agree that it sounds like there’s a tendency for the OP to use any type of inclement weather as an excuse not to come in, and that doesn’t sit well with their boss, so something does need to change.

32. MaryMary*

I think this comes down to knowing your company/team’s culture. Some places, unplanned PTO is no big deal, whether you have the sniffles, the weather is bad, or the weather is lovely and you want to take a long weekend. Other workplaces, unplanned PTO is only acceptable if you’re dying or dead. If it is disruptive to your coworkers for them to cover for you, or if your office prioritizes being physically onsite, then I suggest you take the other commenters’ winter driving advice.

Talk to your manager and see how annoyed she actually is. She may roll her eyes when you call off due to the weather, but be thinking about how much easier holdiay coverage will be since you’ve used all your PTO now. Or she may consider you on the verge of a performance issue.

33. Anonymous*

Dealing with the opposite issue right now. I have a boss who rarely closes the office for severe weather. Fair enough, though we’re not going to be getting any business in bad weather anyway (we’re a cultural attraction in a city that shuts down for half an inch of snow). Problem is, while she requires all the “underlings” to show up, she routinely works from home on these bad weather days. I guess it falls under the “It’s good to be the king” prerogative, but as someone who hates driving in snow and ice but sucks it up for work, it’s a little irritating.

1. Elysian*

” Fair enough, though we’re not going to be getting any business in bad weather anyway…”

I once called out for snow when I was a teenager waitressing. It was at least a little about not wanting to go to work. My boss was pissed, but frankly, no one shovels out their driveway to go get pancakes. We weren’t going to get any business and I wasn’t going to make any tips (aka any money at all). I make no excuses, I was being lazy… but I don’t regret it. It only happened once.

34. Mike C.*

What always annoys me the most about these sorts of questions is that CONDITIONS VARY WIDELY, and one person’s advice is only going to work for them! Lets look at the things that can vary:

1. Regularity of snowfall
2. Snow accumulation
3. Humidity of snow
4. Response of local authorities for all roads to/from work
5. Length of cold temperature conditions
6. Presence of microclimates.
7. Type and condition of vehicle

Sure, if you live somewhere that has snow every year, it’s usually dry snow and the authorities are quite prepared to deal with those conditions. The temps usually stay cold and it just becomes part of daily life. It takes a little longer to get to work, but it’s no big deal.

If you live somewhere that doesn’t have snow every year, you can deal with lovely things like local authorities who have different (or no) plans to treat roads, warmer temps (which lead to thaw and freeze cycles and mixed rain/snow/ice conditions) and areas where these conditions hit and other areas where these conditions miss. These sorts of conditions lead to nasty accidents, insane amounts of gridlock and all sorts of trouble.

So when someone says “but people who live in do it half the year just fine”, it’s not useful advice at all. Local conditions mean the difference between living with three feet of snow, and shutting down over a few inches.

As far as vehicle is concerned, your three biggest concerns are having proper winter tires/chains, clearance and driver patience. AWD is a nice tool to help you get going, but it’s not going to help you stop. 2WD is just fine for milder conditions – just make sure you know which tires need the chains and possible weight on top. Some folks use studded tires, but even a straight winter compound of tire will give you a lot more grip. People who end up crashing in ditches are people who were overconfident and didn’t give enough space, not folks who lacked a specific kind of vehicle.

1. KellyK*

All absolutely true. Add to that, driving in snow is a learned skill. One that people in milder climates get *much* less opportunity to practice.

1. Mints*

Yip, I’ve literally never driven in the snow. I’ve been in the snow, but I didn’t need to drive.
And this year, I’ve barely even driven in the rain. Thanks, drought!
Anyway, if I move to the tundra, I’d need a while to learn how to drive in real winter

(Californian)

2. Apostrophina*

This is too true about the varying conditions. I live in a medium-sized city in/near the mountains. We have people working in my office who come from as much as 45 miles away every day, and on this terrain, that can be a problem. (If Wakeen lives in City A and works here, for example, he could have well-plowed roads at home and at work, but not necessarily everywhere in between.) It’s also possible to be 15 miles away from this office, but have part of that distance be up mountains that are a little scary even in good weather.

And then there’s just the local quirks: our previous location was on a street with a lot of businesses, but which for some reason was inevitably badly plowed, so the last quarter-mile of my commute was always twice as terrifying as the rest of the drive.

3. The Clerk*

Thank you for this. I live in a warmer climate where up until recently we didn’t even have plows, and when we got ice this year, they were all blockaded in the city because everyone tried to drive at once and accidents quickly blocked the roads. Cars waiting in traffic ran out of gas and blocked them further, and people were taking shelter in grocery stores.

I made it into work that Wednesday, just me and the manager. Everyone else called out and they closed after four hours anyway. I don’t need to rip everyone who didn’t come in a new one because a) I had to drive 15 mph for 20 miles to avoid an accident and still almost slipped tons of times, and b) if the only thing I did better than my coworkers was coming in in bad weather, I’d be in a bad place work-wise.

You know what else varies widely? Telecommuting. I’ve never worked anywhere where anyone could conceivably do their job from home. I know those jobs certainly exist, but “Why don’t you try telecommuting?” has become the new “Why don’t you try applying for jobs online? Or temping! Temping would give you experience and…” If it’s an option, I kind of think the OPs would know.

1. Mike C.*

Heck, even places that are equipped for telecommuting have managers that “just don’t feel comfortable with it”.

2. Cajun2core*

The Clerk – are you in Atlanta or Birmingham?

I think a number of people are jumping on the OP unjustly. I am originally from south Louisiana (hence the name) and now I live in west central Alabama (Roll Tide!). I have *no* idea of how to drive in snow, ice, etc. It happens so rarely here very few people do know how to drive in snow. Keep in mind that this is an abnormally cold winter and it may be snowing more often than normal so it may be something that the OP is not used to.

If a person is uncomfortable driving in bad weather, especially if it is uncommon for the area, and the person has the available leave, they should be able to take the day off. Is it really worth putting a person a risk?

I can tell you that more accidents happened last week when it snowed than do in a normal day. The OPs chances of getting in an accident may very well be greater than on a normal day.

Being from south Louisiana, I grew up driving in downpours. I even once went to college during the middle of a tropical storm (Juan, late 80’s). When I lived in California people would say it was pouring when it was only what I would consider a good shower. It is all based upon what you are used to.

I think the OP is being very reasonable.

However, having said all of that, if it is common for it to snow a few or more times a year where the OP lives, then I would say that the OP does need to learn how to drive in the snow.

1. The Clerk*

Atlanta area, but I’m originally from way up north, so I learned to drive in snow. But I also got stuck at work a lot, and spent two hours driving 20 miles, and had a pretty bad accident once when someone couldn’t stop, rear-ended me, and pushed me into an intersection where I was T-boned. So, I learned to do the “snow math” everyone seems to hate. What am I going to be paid, how would I feel if I took a ride of horrors and they closed after four hours, how much is being in the hospital and totaling my car and dealing with rentals and insurance afterward worth…versus just taking a damn PTO day that I would have taken some other day of the year regardless since it’s “use it or lose it”?

4. Del*

The varying conditions are an excellent point. The first place I started working was in a valley which tended to have dramatically different weather conditions than up in the mountains or the surrounding area. It could make for some very startling moments going through the passes!

5. Jess*

All true about the widely varying conditions, but the point is the local conditions and office norm for the OP. If OP’s coworkers are consistently making it in and her boss is annoyed that she calls in on every snow day, it sounds as if local conditions don’t merit it nor is it normal or accepted in her particular workplace to repeatedly call in for weather.

6. Malissa*

Very true, but by your second winter some place you should know the patterns….and how to drive in the local weather.
I moved from Denver, where snow was snow and not much else, to Kansas City, where there were ice storms. Two completely different sets of driving skills. Also being able to tell the difference between and salt sprayed street and an icy street became a necessary skill.

7. Zillah*

I agree, but I think it’s worth pointing out that if the OP is calling in because of snow often enough for it to be a problem, they probably live in a place that gets a decent amount of snow.

35. AFT*

Eh, this one depends on a lot of factors. How often is this happening? How bad are the roads, really? How many people are staying home vs. working on these snow days?

I tend to be sympathetic in cases like these. I’m in the Midwest, have 4-wheel drive, and consider myself an accomplished winter driver. Still, there is usually at least 1-2 days a year that I really do feel unsafe driving in the snow/ice. These are the times that the city declares a snow emergency, all schools close, and the media is telling people to stay off the roads. Yet, our office never closes, our CEO puts on his full bravado, and many employees feel shamed into braving the dangerous conditions – even when the majority of our work does NOT have to be done in the office.

1. Mike C.*

This angers me to no end. Your boss is putting your lives at risk, and if something bad happens, then you need the help of first responders who are putting their lives at risk when they could be dealing with other issues.

That sort of attitude is simply asinine.

1. Ethyl*

Yeah I agree with that though. I mean, if the local government is telling people not to drive, that’s different than “it’s going to snow all day so I get a day off.”

2. Jax*

“…CEO puts on his full bravado, and many employees feel shamed into braving dangerous conditions…”

PREACH. It’s the “butts in chairs” philosophy applied to bad weather. It just makes me shake my head.

1. De Minimis*

What I find annoying about my workplace is that we’re a health clinic [though not a hospital, so people aren’t coming to us for emergency care] so closing for weather is highly discouraged–even when the highway patrol and other law enforcement are telling people to stay home. We’re also rural, so most people are going to have to drive a fairly long distance to get to us…I think it’s foolish to encourage people to be out driving in bad conditions when the authorities are discouraging travel.

3. Anonicorn*

Yet, our office never closes, our CEO puts on his full bravado, and many employees feel shamed into braving the dangerous conditions – even when the majority of our work does NOT have to be done in the office.

Do we work together? Any time the the weather is predicted to be pretty terrible we get these fairly harshly-worded emails from our director saying that everyone is expected to be at work. I always think: great, I wasn’t even thinking or worrying about the weather until this, and now I feel super awesome about finishing my work day with the possibility of driving in tomorrow on a sheet of ice. Thanks.

4. yasmara*

1-2 days per year is not the same as “every time it snows.” Well, in most places at least. I guess in Houston it might be the same.

5. David*

I seriously have to wonder if we work for the same company. E-mails have been sent out before major snow storms saying we’ll be open no matter what with a pretty strong implication that you better make your best effort to get in. This is also in the Midwest and has happened on days where local government has pretty much told everyone to stay off the roads unless it’s an emergency.

36. EAA*

Sometimes the decision to stay home is based on your particular location. OP stated there are 3 problematic hills. While I live very near major roads that would be passable it is not always possible to get out of my neighborhood safely. My daughter turned around at the entrance once when she watched 6 cars slip and spin. Also if the weather is just going to get worse she might not be able to get home. And my municipality is very good at snow removal but there is a priority list and the individual subdivisions are last.

1. Parfait*

Even if those hills are problematic, though, I take issue with the attitude that it’s nearly certain that they will get in an accident. Are these hills littered with destroyed automobiles every time it snows, or do 99% of drivers manage to navigate them successfully?

It seems to me that one important criterion in deciding where to live is: Can I get to work from there? If you can’t get to work from your house, you need to either move or get a job that you CAN get to.

1. RLS*

This! Even after 10 years of my own winter driving, and my parents conditioning and teaching me about it in my pre-driving youth, there are times I see a route I must traverse and I get that sinking feeling in my stomach. But that’s exactly what I think: “Okay, at least x-amount of drivers have made it through here today and I know I have great winter driving skills. I can do this.” and you just do it.

37. SerfinUSA*

People being able to just *pay* for a plow (which I assume means having someone else plow your driveway, not acutally buying your own snowplow) is a funny concept.
I’m in a rural part of the Pacific Northwest, near the Canadian border, and while we do have sand trucks and county plows, they have a priority list of routes. My road isn’t terribly high on the list, and my 100+ft driveway is my own problem.
A few neighbors (by neighbors I mean people on farms on my square-mile ‘block’) have plow blades on their trucks & tractors, but so far I haven’t thought to have them come plow my drive when they are bust tending cattle.
Luckily I have a state/union job and am not penalized for using leave to stay home when it snows. The world won’t end if I’m not at my desk, and my co-workers know my 15 mile commute gets pretty hairy in bad weather.
Sometimes, if our shifts line up, I can carpool with my spouse, who works for the same university, but is essential personnel and *has* to be there. She is from Montana, spent years in Eastern WA, and has awesome driving skills. We also invested in a vehicle for her that does well in the snow. Not that my Outback with studded tires isn’t good, but why go through the stress…

I guess everyone’s situation is different, and if my coworkers aren’t otherwise shirking work, I’d rather they stay home if they don’t feel safe commuting. Snow days at home with bored kids are no picnic either.

1. Ann O'Nemity*

Ah, yes. I heard the uni reference and thought of WWU. I grew up in Bellingham. Back then we had a family truckster station wagon, so chains were an absolute must on those back highways.

1. SerfinUSA*

I grew up in Seattle. Pretty much like Atlanta in terms of snow freak outs. But so many hills, and so many insane drivers. And the buses were instructed to run until they got stuck, then wait for a tow. Yuck.
It’s better there now, after their own snow fiasco.

1. fposte*

“People being able to just *pay* for a plow (which I assume means having someone else plow your driveway, not acutally buying your own snowplow) is a funny concept.”

Around here, it’s often the winter business of people who do lawns/repairs in summer (they also often do stuff like Christmas light hanging and gutter cleaning). I suspect that, like lawns, it requires a bit of population density to make it worthwhile, and enough people who aren’t going to shovel their own to get out quicker. An influx of out-of-area tech people has probably been a big boon to the private plowers around here.

38. Ana*

This is very off base but not unheard of, some people really must be sheltered. I have an employee who does that to me. Every time it is cold out or snows she calls and tells me she is not coming in. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this? She does have sick/vacation time so I’m not sure if there is anything I can do here. Would love some feedback from more experienced managers. I don’t think it’s fair to the other co-workers who do show up.

1. Katie the Fed*

I would treat it the same way you’d handle any other attendance issue.

“I’ve noticed you call in almost every time it snows or is cold. While I can understand that such conditions can make it harder to get to work, this job requires that you be here reliably and regularly. Yes, things come up, but those times you have to call out need to be very rare and only in the most extreme circumstances. Is that something you’re able to do? What are your plans for ensuring that you’ll be able to get here reliably and regularly?”

etc

1. Ana*

You are completely correct! Sometimes it is hard with this particular employee because she is older and forgetful so my Boss wants me to let everything slide with her.

1. SillyYankee*

I found this AAM site through my own issues with a very absent employee. I really enjoyed the post referenced above.
We took our problem employee in the office and essentially said “Your attendance needs to improve. We understand that you have children and they have needs and get ill, but you need to be here more. You have used ALL your PTO (both sick and vacation) by calling in randomly. Once these last 20 hours are gone, you will have none for the next 10 months.”
So in yesterdays snow, she called in sick.
My boss said “I can’t fire her. She is a single mother and I can’t live with that”. I applaud his ethics, but am aggravated too.

2. Katie the Fed*

I have a really hard time with older employees too, because I’m inclined to let them slide.

I’ve actually had this exact conversation above with two employees, and it worked really well both times. The important thing is not to get bogged down in details (“exactly how many days is too many?” etc) but get the message across that 1) it’s a problem and 2) it needs to improve. It’s worked well both times. I think framing it as a question helps a lot too: “Can you commit to being here reliably?” puts the power on them.

39. RLS*

I am with the other “suck it up” nay sayers. There are truly times when the snow is not navigable. But it isn’t often. I’m in Minnesota, and believe me…if I called in to work because it was snowing, I’d be fired.

That doesn’t mean snow doesn’t delay traffic, which it certainly does. A couple weeks ago a small storm hit RIGHT at the start of rush hour and everyone took twice as long to get to their destination. One time my car was snowed in to the garage during a blizzard – the alleyway had 6-foot drifts I had no hope of getting my car through, and it’s illegal to leave it there if it gets stuck. That is the one time I called in for snow.

You must learn to drive in snow. It isn’t that hard. You must go slow. Use your overdrive “gears” in your automatic transmission to give you better traction – it works! I have to drive up a long, steep, icy hill at the end of my commute each day, and my car isn’t even from this century. It’s a lifesaver. Make sure you keep your tires straight, and don’t overcorrect if you start to spin out. Keep a bag of kitty litter in your car and learn how to use branches to get yourself out of mud and snow.

If you live in a snowy area, whether or not you are originally from there, it is your responsibility to adapt to the typical weather conditions. Yes, there are times when it is treacherous and dangerous to drive in snow, but we’re talking 12″+ whiteout storms. Ones where even the highways aren’t yet plowed. Your residential streets are the last ones the plows will go to, and you must learn to drive through them…and just…go…slowly. (Also you have to wake up early to give yourself the extra time, so much fun).

I’m sorry to sound harsh, but it’s the truth. You just have to suck it up. In Minnesota, summer is actually far more deadly in terms of traffic and insurance than winter.

1. RLS*

Also, again sounding much more harsh than I intend to…you must understand that no single crash is an accident–every single one is preventable. On the one hand, you are correct in that you being off the road completely negates the possibility of you getting in a crash. And yes, there are far less responsible drivers than you going crazy on the roads out there. But a) they will crash anyway, with or without you being on the road and b) if you still think that *you’re* the one crashing (ie, your car hitting another object or car, not the other way around), then please strongly consider having someone teach you winter driving.

Okay, done now. I promise. Please forgive my judgy tone of text, I promise I’m not trying to be! …I’m just a super-direct person when it comes to this. I hate the winter and snow more than anything and I’ve managed it just fine, even long before I had a license.

40. Naomi*

When you’re doing cost-benefit analysis, you have to take the probability you’ll crash into account. For instance, if there’s a 5% chance you’ll crash, multiply your deductible by .05, and if you make more than that in a day you should go in. (This is an imperfect estimate of course; you are not including possible medical costs if you crash, or the cost of losing your job if you keep staying home)

41. WM*

I can see why coworkers would be annoyed. True, not everyone has 4WD and not everyone has the money to buy or space to store a snow blower. But still… if you work in a climate the snows, just be be prepared. There are rarely surprise blizzards that no one expected – one can usually know when to expect any significant weather might be on the way. When you do know snow is expected, get up an hour earlier and shovel the driveway before your kids wake up. Leave early, planning for the longer commute time. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be leeway for folks to be a little late on these types of days… but to routinely call out is taking it too far. I personally, have been irritated with the “but I live so much further away than everyone else” excuse. Yes, you do. You knew where you lived and where the office was when you applied for the position! I’m not saying that no one should ever be allowed a work form home day or “PTO snow day” – but come on people. If you have kids and school is routinely called off… get a back up plan in place for alternative childcare for those days. Not saying that will work every time, but if it works 75% of the time you’re doing fine. **steps off soapbox**

1. Laufey*

In snowy conditions, 4WD drive will help with acceleration, but not with steering or stopping. Laws of physics still apply.

Everything else you say is still valid.

1. fposte*

Yeah, it’s the stopping that really gets people into trouble; I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen many a 4WD vehicle brake on the highway when they shouldn’t and end up in the ditch.

1. Mary*

I live in a cold, snowy climate with a large military base. I see people in the ditch all the time because they bought a giant truck and felt invincible. I just keep puttering along in my little Subaru sedan and feel smug.

2. Windchime*

This. I learned to drive on a big 3/4 ton 4WD pickup. When talking about driving in the snow, my Dad told me, “4WD will help you get out of the ditch, but it won’t stop you from going into the ditch.” (That didn’t stop me from accidentally putting the truck in the ditch one snowy day. Dad had to go get my uncle’s truck to pull my truck out.)

2. WM*

You’re absolutely right. I guess instead of 4WD I should have said “vehicles better equipped to handle the weather.” (4WD, snow tires, etc.)

2. Jax*

I agree with most of your soapbox. People need to factor weather, kids, commutes, etc. when they land a job or move to a new home, and not use it as an excuse to call off repeatedly.

I think the problem is there are some people who see the weather as a challenge (get up earlier! shovel! make it work!) and others who see it as an epic poem (call off! this is ridiculous! school even closed!). Both sides think they are right, when really, it’s a personal judgment call.

We’re all adults. We each have to weigh the weather with our attendance records, work load, PTO bank, co-workers remarks, and management’s opinion and make a choice.

42. HM in Atlanta*

Three considerations:
1. Safety of Drive: can you drive the roads safely
When I lived in New Jersey, I never missed work due to snow or ice. There was infrastructure in place to allow me to get to work safely. Atlanta (as was seen by everyone) doesn’t have it.

2. General Geographic Location of Employee: is this an area that gets snow regularly, so the employee should be better prepared
I am in Atlanta. I worked from home almost all of last week. Here’s why – there was no removal equipment of any kind owned by any of the municipalities I drive through on the way to work. So Tuesday am, when it was 16 degrees and started snowing, I made the call. If I had to, I would have taken a vacation day (but fortunately I have a great employer).

3. Has the OP had a conversation with his/her manager, about what’s acceptable and how to handle? It didn’t sound like it. If he/she hasn’t, that’ s the first thing that needs to happen.

I’ve worked for employers (in Atlanta) that, even when the government was closing roads for ice accumulation, expected employees to drive those roads to get to work. Public transit wouldn’t go down those streets. I remember being told one time, “Anyone who isn’t here tomorrow is fired.” After the second-scariest car ride of my life, a group of us made it to the building. No one ever showed up to let us in, so our boss had us wait in cars for several hours. Finally, the police came and told us to clear the parking lot (basically, to make us go home).

1. bearing*

I interned at a small-town plant in Kentucky a year after there had been a giant storm that caused authorities to close the interstate leading into town (along with every other significant road). The main HR person at the plant commented to me about all the unreasonable commuters who had failed to come in to work during the storm. The way she saw it, it was their own damn fault for living in the city 45 minutes away, and their responsibility to come in even if it meant breaking the law.

43. LP*

My 05 Grand Am has taken me the 15 miles to and from work every winter for the past 5 years without a hitch. Investing in good all weather tires is truly a blessing, and you can use your vacation time for vacation.

44. RLS*

+1

Also, having 4WD doesn’t really help, as the majority of the systems in place aren’t for low-traction snow. They’re for off-roading, which is not the same thing. Can’t tell you how many SUVs I see in the ditch ’cause they spun out, thinking they could go 75 down a snowy icy road with 4WD. I have a crappy old Sable with just front wheel drive (and a shot wheel bearing) and I make it through just fine.

1. WM*

Of course – having 4WD doesn’t mean you can drive like a moron and not suffer the consequences, but it certainly helps in those conditions. Assuming of course, you know HOW to drive on snow/ice and drive appropriately.

1. RLS*

That’s usually the problem I see on the roads. 4WD does not replace experience or knowledge of winter driving.

45. fposte*

I also think that there are assumptions being made in this letter instead of having an actual discussion with the manager. If you get the impression that your manager is unhappy with this and you keep doing it without ever exploring it with her, that is going to hurt you. If you talk to the manager, you may be able to find a way to make this acceptable to your workplace.

46. Observer*

The biggest implication is that you could get fired – even if you have a union, manage not to exhaust your PTO and have regulations allowing you to take time as you please. The reality is that if you annoy your boss enough, he’s going to find plenty of issues to ding you on, unless you are absolutely stellar in other areas and you really make it up to people the rest of the time.

Another potential serious ramification, although not so obvious, is that your ability to grow within the company is going to be stunted. People who annoy their bosses by not showing up rarely get merit pay in creases, nor do they get promotions. And, promotion by finding a different company is not going to be so easy, as anyone who calls your boss is going to hear about your attendance record.

The issue of your deductible is something your boss doesn’t care about – and rightly so. The cost of coming to work is your issue, and is something you should have factored into your calculations before deciding that the job pays well enough to cover your expenses.

But, here is something for you to think about. You knew about the drive when you took the job / apartment (whichever one came second). If you are really convinced that you can’t make it to work safely on a frequent but unpredictable basis, you should be looking for a different set up. And this time think about the safety issues.

47. NK*

Without more details, it’s hard to tell whether this is reasonable or not. If you live in an area ill-equipped for snow and this happens rarely (maybe 1-3 days a season) and you work in a position where coverage isn’t a huge issue and/or working from home is an option, I don’t see it as a big deal. On the other hand, if you live in an area where this is a common occurrence, or your job requires a certain amount of daily coverage, I’d say you need to figure out a way to get to work reliably.

48. Ash*

I lost power the other night because of the ice storm, which caused a lot of problems in my house that kept me up all night. I was already suffering from a cold and the no sleep made it worse, so I called in sick. That is rare for me. And even though I took a sick day I still called in for conference calls and worked from home, which I do pretty much any time I’m not in the office, unless I have food poisoning or some other reason I can’t physically be at my computer.

Can the OP look into teleworking? If this is really an issue (and hey, I grew up in the southwest and never drove in snow until I was 22 so I get being scared of it), then she needs to work out something with her boss. Simply not doing work is not a good solution, though.

49. smallbutmighty*

There are really sort of two questions here.

The first is, how am I likely to be perceived at work if I call out every time it snows? The answer to that question, as others have pointed out, depends a lot on your work culture and on how you’re perceived aside from this particular quirk. If PTO is relatively liberal and if you’re a well-liked high achiever, it’s probably not a huge deal, although your colleagues from the midwest and other snowy climates probably make fun of you for being a bit of a pansy. If you are disliked for other reasons or aren’t a high performer, your colleagues probably complain about you doing this. If everyone else in your office gets to work no matter what, they probably resent you for not putting in a similar effort.

The second question is, what alternatives exist? Some good ones have been suggested (winter driving course, snow tires, telecommuting). As a fellow timid driver, I’d like to throw in some additional suggestions.

Get yourself some decent cold-weather clothing (a good coat and hat, snowpants, boots and socks, gloves) and park your car at the bottom of the steep hills, if that doesn’t represent too much distance and if there’s a safe spot for it. You’ll have to walk a little, and you’ll have to scrape your windshield, but you won’t have the daily white-knuckle anxiety of making it up and down those hills. I actually did this (I live up a steep hill and have a long steep driveway that’s terrifying when it’s icy) and it improved my quality of life greatly during a big storm a few years back.

Also, leave earlier in the day so there’s little other traffic on the road when you’re driving in. Get to the office ahead of everyone else, have a leisurely coffee and breakfast, and know that you won’t be sharing the road with all the other nervous drivers. If you time it right, you can drive in shortly after the plows have run and still beat most of the traffic.

50. Erin*

I’m originally from Massachusetts and have lived in upstate New York, Vermont, and Michigan. I now live in DC and am amused by the reaction to snow. I don’t recall a single time — not ONCE — that my parents stayed home from work due to snow. They often got in late and sometimes left a little early and spent hours on the highways getting home, but they always, always went to work in the snow. I worked in Boston briefly after college and, in the three years I was working there, we had one snow day. On that day, the snow was so high it was up over my knees. Now that I’m in DC, the government shuts down all. the. time. despite the fact that it snows every single year here. Also, one of my coworkers freaked out last time the schools closed but not our office. My parents never stayed home from work when I had a snow day. I got packed off to a relative’s or my mom went and got my babysitter and brought her to our house to watch me (she was a high schooler and so was also home for the snow day).

1. Katie the Fed*

I’ve got to defend OPM a little here.

The government shuts down (and it’s definitely not every single time) because they talk to local traffic authorities and meteorologists and determine that conditions are bad enough that having that many government employees on the road would significantly increase the danger factor. We make up such a big percentage of traffic that it makes a huge difference for overall safety if they have us come in late or not at all. And people commute from Pennsylvania and West Virginia – don’t forget that. Some people drive 1.5 hours to get to work each day.

I know everyone likes to make fun of DC’s inability to handle snow, but it’s geographically right at the cutoff line where it’s rain just a bit to the south, so it’s a total crapshoot on what’s going to hit. It’s also heavy, wet, nasty snow when it does hit.

1. Erin*

It’s just strange to go from a world where grown-ups never, ever get snow days to one where a snow day is a normal thing for a grown-up to have. It’s part of an overall tone here where I know many people who’ve lived in the area a long, long time who think it’s completely normal to cancel plans because there’s a forecast for 2″ of snow. Part of it, I think, is that there’s such a mix of people here. Sure, there are plenty of us from the north, but there are also a lot from the south who didn’t grow up with their dads taking them to drive in school parking lots when it snowed to help develop their snow driving abilities. Plus, where I come from, pretty much everyone with a truck or SUV has a plow that goes on the front of it and those people will often contract with their towns to plow the side roads. That means you have what’s basically a reserve force of road crew workers that I don’t think exists around here (I’ve never, ever seen someone in the area driving around with a plow on the front of their vehicle while we see that all the time back home). It’s just a totally different world for me.

2. So Anon*

Chicago and Boston transplant to DC says +1 to this. I used to make fun of DC’s snow freak-outs, but then I got stuck for 8 hours on the GW Parkway for what really wasn’t that much snow at all. With telework possible for so many of us nowadays, I’d rather they be more cautious. If there isn’t a major incident during a storm now people seem to think it wasn’t worth it, rather than think that the abundance of caution is what ensured there were no incidents.

1. Katie the Fed*

I think it was 2007 or 2008 when we had an ice storm that hit right at rush hour – people were stuck for 8-9 hours on the highways. I had an employee who left early and his bus got stuck on an overpass. I worked late and then called a friend and metroed to her place to sleep there instead of trying to drive.

I always say the terrorists could cripple this city by conjuring up a snowstorm at rush hour plus a couple accidents on a few bridges.

3. Anonymous*

And, DC & the Federal Govt don’t close as often or for as long as they used to. It’s astonishing to folks from snow country, but I’ve seen cars abandoned in the middle of Connecticut Ave in snow that didn’t cover the soles of my loafers. It’s also astonishing to those of us from snow country to be invited to go play tennis, etc, outdoors when it’s 95 (F) & 95% humidity.

4. athek*

I always thought this was an aspect of schools closing during snow — keeping some of the volume of traffic off of the roads to help plows/emergency vehicles/brave commuters, etc. get to where they are going.

2. Dan*

You ain’t the only one. I grew up in Northern MN and Northern WI, and the only way we could get schools closed for snow was if it started snowing right at 6am. We went to bed praying for wind chill and icy roads if we wanted to get out of school, ’cause snow just doesn’t cut it.

I’ve spent almost all of my adult life in DC, and I get a good laugh every time it snows. I don’t usually head into the office until 930, and arrive around 10. Even on snow days, the main roads are generally clear — and I mean pavement clear, no ice. The side roads might have accumulation, but you’re going slower on them anyway.

I recently worked from home on a snow day, and that was because the day before, nobody showed up to the office. So I figured, why bother.

The way the OP’s letter is written, school closings are a poor barometer of road conditions. They certainly are in DC. My reading of the letter is that OP has “issues”. She calls in often enough where it’s noticed. If it “never snows” where she lives, nobody is going to care. So she lives in a place where it snows often enough, with roads that aren’t perfect. That means she needs a new vehicle or has to move. While other posters’ points are well taken in that neither may be that simple, this falls into the category of “her problem”, and not the company’s. Which means *she* needs a solution, period.

3. VintageLydia*

As for school closings but offices not: I know very few people in this region who are not transplants. This means there is little to no family in the area to pick up the slack for when kids are out, not to mention most people I know there family members all work, whether they live in the area or not. When schools are closed, usually daycare is too and not everyone has a regular babysitter (among my friends we take turns watching kids for date nights.)

51. Betsy Bobbins*

I’m orignally from the midwest and relocated to the Seattle area. Driving when the occasional snow hits here is far more difficult and dangerous than it ever was in a state that was prepared for it. Here living on a hill, as I do, can be incredibly treacherous. There are few plows so many roads do not get cleared and salt is a rarity. Odds ARE high that you will crash your car if you venture down steep hills on certain days. Often on my hill cars are just abandoned, and I’m not just talking on the side of the road, I mean smack dab in the middle of it…no joke. If this is the case with the OP I can sympathize.

That being said, it’s not as if weather is unpredictable, if there is a chance of snow park at the bottom of the hill, or look into public transportaion and save the calling in due to weather for only the most severe conditons.

1. Betsy Bobbins*

I remember this article and love it! This line sums it up pretty succinctly:

“A driver atop Queen Anne Hill, after a typical snow-melt-refreeze-snow cycle as we’ve seen this week, simply has no chance to get to the bottom of the hill without sideswiping half the parked cars en route. Pure physics, friends. Not driving skill”

52. A Teacher*

We’ve had 4 snow days in January–my students have not a full week of school since December. They are talking about another snow day tomorrow because its supposed to be -45 and kids that ride the bus (most of our district) can’t be in it. I don’t want another snow day, we’re off curriculum wise by a lot and the students have to take ACT and AP testing later this spring or dual credit exams in mine and its so hard to not be structured because of snow.

1. Laura*

I think I had a snow day twice from kindergarten to grade 12. They really don’t close teh schools for anything here.

53. EC*

speaking from the South. It doesn’t take much for it to be hazardous here. Hills + untreated roads + a little snow on a cold day, fast = pandemonium (ie. 20 hour drive home). ALL the roads ICE, not snow, ICE. Even driving properly in it was very dangerous. But it’s probably something that is really ‘relative’ to where you are and route options to/from work, and planning ahead based on predictions. So in some cases, snow is not a problem, but if the roads ice because of it, it’s a different game.

54. majigail*

Part of me wonders that it’s not THAT you’re calling in, but HOW you’re calling in. Your reasoning above seems way over the top. Using statements like I WILL crash are going to make even the other people who stay home look at you a little weird.
I have an employee that calls off with the weather, which is fine. She’s not an awesome driver in good conditions and she lives in the boonies and her presence isn’t 100% required. I’m not opposed to her not being here on a bad road day. BUT when she does call in, she takes 10 minutes up telling me why she can’t get there with all the drama. The thing is, if I’m there on a snow day, I’m already short staffed, trying to do the jobs of everyone who isn’t there who IS critical.
When you call in, I don’t want to hear about your hills. I have hills too. I don’t want to hear about your deductible, I have one too. I decided to get here, you didn’t. I just don’t want to hear anything but, hey, I can’t be there, see you tomorrow. Then get in tomorrow and get your work done.
The snow is making me grumpy.

1. IndieGir*

I had an employee like that one time. She used to drive me nuts b/c it wasn’t enough for me to say “Ok, you do what’s right for you,” she always wanted me to agree that it was the absolute, only right decision to make. Most of the time I felt she was being a bit of a drama llama, but I’m generally an easy going manager so wasn’t going to hassle her about it when she took off. But I really, REALLY didn’t want to have to go through the whole “Yes, you’re right, it’s so drama filled, everything is sooo tough for you poor baby, life is harder for you than anyone else out there” routine that she really wanted from me.

2. LauraG*

That’s an excellent point. It very well could be the way that OP is calling off is the annoyance.

55. DM*

If you’re really nervous about the snow, are you offering to work from home on these days? My office has been closing on days with significant snowfall expected, but we’re all told to bring work home with us (and were warned on Monday to think of what we could do from home this Wednesday and possibly next Monday).

OP, I do agree with AAM and many commenters that you are not making the right judgments about whether or not to come in. But, if you continue to be unwilling to drive in, here are my thoughts:

It’s not clear to me if you have PTO or separate sick and vacation pools. If they’re separate, it’s not appropriate for you to take sick days on snow days (I mean, on the days when you are not sick but unwilling to drive in the snow). Use vacation leave for that.

Also, I’d definitely look into whether you can telecommute on those days. I think that will go over with your coworkers & boss a lot better (I guess it could depend on your office culture, though).

57. Ethyl*

You know, all the other discussion about whether it’s normal in your area or whether you should learn to drive in the snow is good, OP, but what it comes down to is that if your timekeeping is causing your boss to get annoyed with you, then it IS a problem regardless of who is being the dramallama. So have a conversation with her, use your words, and maybe see if you can take a winter driving class if regular snow is part of where you live right now.

58. JoAnna*

I lived/worked in North Dakota and Minnesota for several years. I remember calling in due to the weather once, maybe twice. (And one of those times I did some work from home.)

59. j_e_tothedouble_n*

I remember at my last job we were expected to be at work no matter what. Even if the roads were closed. One time I was specifically chided for calling off because the roads were closed and was told “You are expected to be here even if you have to break the law to do so. Buck up and break through a few roadblocks”. Yeah…. :-/ Not the best work environment.

That comment particularly makes me laugh now because I remember that I was one of three employees who lived 40-45 mins away from our place of work. Everyone else (including the manager who stated the above comment to me) lived right around 10-15-20 mins from the office. Anyway, we had a particularly bad snow day a couple years ago and I bucked up and got there on time, somehow. I walked into an office of three people, including myself. And just wouldn’t you guess who those three people to actually show up were? Yep. Me and the other 2 employees who live 45 mins away. Everyone else had called in sick due to snow.

I was a little irked at the employees who didn’t show, particularly because they were a lot better at maintaining the roads near my work than in my rural township and I made it in. We worked for most of the day until, in the late afternoon, we were told just to go home.

60. [anon]*

If you’re a parent in metro DC, though, you kind of *have* to use the schools as your guide. Because someone has to stay home with the kids when the schools aren’t open. Even if you’re friends with your neighbors and have somehow worked out a system where four families can split the duties, you’ll have to take your turn eventually.

(In related news, as a DC/NOVA resident who is sick to death of this winter, I am really very glad that I can work from home whenever I want, without penalty or question.)

1. VintageLydia*

Us too. I’m a SAHM so childcare is an issue but it was nice yesterday that Mr. Vintage’s only commuting issue was navigating the icey steps up to his home office (its over our garage with a separate outside entrance. Perfect because otherwise the kid will be banging on his door all day no matter what I do to distract him.)

2. Judy*

Where we are in the mid west, the church that houses a daycare and the before and after school care that my kids go to does snow day care. You call in at 6am and see if there is space in the school age class. It’s very rare that that daycare is closed. Most of the organizations that offer both pre school daycare and school age care offer this.

Our local Y also has snow day care, X number of kids based on call-in order. The kids get to play in the gym and swim.

Our Y also does “spring break camps” and “summer camps” that are school aged daycare.

The hospital my sister practices at has snow day care for school age kids. It’s important for them to have their employees there.

61. Allison*

My boss is super flexible with when/where I get my work done, so I’ve been working from home a lot this winter. snow? working from home – because I’m not just worried about my own driving, but the whole spectrum of terrible driving I have to deal with on my commute. Not to mention I’d rather not have to brush off/dig out my car (which is parked on the street) during rush hour if I don’t have to.

That said, I make an effort to go into the office when I can, and I wonder if I should check in with my boss to make sure he’s 100% okay with the amount of time I’m working from home.

All this said, I realize I’m fortunate to work for a company that’s generally cool with people working from home. Last winter I worked for a company that didn’t encourage working from home for any reason (we were technically allowed when absolutely necessary, but they never really instructed us on how to do it), and we all showed up to the office in all kinds of weather. Bad storm? We came in and stayed until we were dismissed so we could get home before the transit system shut down.

Culture is key here. If you work in an office that expects you to suck it up and show up in no matter what, either suck it up and show up or look for a job that’s more flexible and accommodating.

62. The Other Dawn*

As a former manager, I’d be really annoyed with someone calling out for snow all the time. It makes the person seem unreliable, paranoid, and unable or unwilling to plan ahead. If you know the night before that it’s going to snow, plan on getting up early so you can leave earlier. Drive slowly.

Pretty much the only situations in which I’m OK with someone calling out for snow is when the person lives quite a distance away or when the roads are closed due to the weather. Or of course when the schools are closed and no one else (I mean no one else) is available for child care. If you have a driveway that needs to be plowed and can’t get out, then I would expect you to be late, but not necessarily call out.

1. The Other Dawn*

I forgot to add that it’s really annoying to the other coworkers who sucked it up and came in. They’re the ones who have to pick up the slack for you, plus get their own work done.

63. Ursula*

I think that it is interesting that no one has suggested that you (OP) perhaps walk, either to work or a place near a coworker’s route to work for carpooling. No crashing down the hill. As long as you haven’t got physical limitations and it isn’t the middle of a blizzard, you should make an effort to get to work.
A number of years ago I did payroll and walked 5 or so miles to work in order to make sure it was done since it was right before Christmas. It certainly didn’t kill me, and gave me a great reputation at the company!

64. Samantha*

Depends on where you are. I live in the South and today 1/2″ of snow virtually shut down the city. People are not used to driving in snow/ice and cities do not have the equipment to handle it. I saw 7 wrecks during my 7 mile commute to work this morning. The nonprofit I work for does follow the local school district as far as closures go, as do many other businesses in the area.

65. shawn*

I live in an area that gets snow many times per year, usually just measured in a few inches at a time. I have some sympathies on both sides of the fence.

On one hand, there is a distinct difference between CAN’T make it and DECIDED NOT to make it in. A few inches of snow is almost never going make your commute impassable, yet most of the people in my office who regularly no-show on snow days act like 2 inches of snow on the grass is equal to 2 feet on the road. It’s not. You can get here, but for whatever reason you chose not to.

On the other hand, I know some people are legitimately terrified of winter driving. These people get a pass from me. We can argue whether that’s ok or not, but it doesn’t do any good to belittle or shame people like this. If they really are that scared of winter driving it probably is best for everyone, including you and I, if they stay off the roads. Figure out a work from home strategy if missing time is an issue.

Then you have the rest of the snow no-shows who, from my perspective, just don’t want to deal with the hassle of commuting in the snow and/or believe they shouldn’t have to. They could do it, they know they could, but it’s snowing so why should they have to? My belief is these are the majority of the snow no-shows, but that isn’t scientific. These people ruin it for the ones truly scared of driving, and you feel like you can never tell the difference.

In my own experience those who regularly miss work due to snow are typically thought of as low performers. Not necessarily due to the snow, but that probably plays a part. There seems to be a connection. A players find a way to get to the office and/or make arrangements to get things done.

66. Anonymous*

Your behavior sounds totally irrational to myself, a person raised in Chicago and who spent a decade in Michigan.

However, I recently transplanted to a desert area that gets snow once or twice a year. People here think that staying home on days where it snows is normal. The boss left work early the las ttime it snowed, to help his son in high school get home. It was the boss’s son’s first time driving in snow.

I criticized this to my supervisor, a Texas transplant, who told me he thinks it’s crazy to drive in the snow if you don’t know how.

The point is that it depends both on where you live and what your colleagues (especially your manager) consider reasonable. Sounds like it is time and past time you learned to drive in snow.

The cold (har!) hard fact is that driving in snow is not all that difficult, though. A little bit of snow and ice should not regularly shut down cities, businesses, or schools. Dangerous driving conditions or an inability to get your car onto the roads are a different matter subject to local infrastructure and weather conditions.

67. Julia*

Snow, what’s that?

I’m working from home today because, when it’s forecast to get close to 40° (C), the rail and tram lines buckle and they cancel train services so that all the other trains can run slower – which will make my commute unreasonably long and annoying. Luckily my employer encourages telecommuting.

J (in Melbourne)

1. AnaMaria Sonrisa*

Ah, opposite end of the spectrum! Wish we could send over a temperature reduction to you, and vice versa!

68. CaliSusan*

This post makes me reeeeeally glad I live in Northern California, where Mother Nature loves us :-)

69. MR*

I’m sure it’s been said above, but if you are living in an area where snow is a common occurrence, well, you better get used to dealing with it. All of your bosses and coworkers have to deal with it, so they don’t want to hear about your excuses.

If you can’t handle the snow? Well, you might as well move to a location where it doesn’t snow, or snows infrequently.

This ‘annoyance’ coming from your boss and coworkers will also likely creep into other areas of your work life and possibly make things more difficult, especially if you are viewed as a complainer.

Suck it up, or relocate. Those are your only two options in this situation.

70. BB*

Here in Los Angeles, I once had a co-worker who would ask for the day off or to leave early any time President Obama was in town. ‘Cause, you know, TRAFFIC. As if the rest of us didn’t also have to deal with it…

1. Cassie*

It’s a pain, though, and our institution always asks managers/supervisors to be “flexible” in their workers’ schedules when the president is in town.

I know one coworker who had to sit in traffic for a few hours because of a presidential visit, and because of health reasons (diabetes, I think), it was more crucial than just “sitting in traffic”. Not that it’s fun either way.

OP, I am not totally convinced that you are saying you call off every time it snows. Frankly, I do not see anything wrong with calling off in cases of ice storms, or all day blizzards. Generally this meant 1-3 days per year for me. (Three days on the bad winters.)

And I am a huge winter time driving whimp. Probably has a bit to do with the scar on my face from that one storm. What raised my anxiety to all time highs was the insistence that I was very replaceable. (That statement directly conflicted with the statements about being top performer.)

Take a look at the whole picture. Is your boss one who eye rolls over every thing that comes up? Is your boss snarky on other issues as well? What about the group, are they usually nice? I kept going because the pay was okay. But I find now that having a pleasant work environment makes winter time driving oh-so-much easier than when I had a toxic work environment. I do not worry like I used to.
I have a boss now that kicks me out. I don’t even decide when to leave- I get told to go. This makes me even more willing to bust my back to get there.
My point is that it’s no one factor that goes into the driving issues. If you change one variable you may find that you, yourself change. That variable might have nothing to do with your car, your tires or the route you take but rather have everything to do with your level of motivation. It did for me.

72. Kimberly*

I think that it depends on where the LW lives. I’m in Texas – and we have been shut down 2x this year by ice. I live a good hour north of work. My principal told me that if the district I live in shut down and our district stayed open, I was to call in a sub then call her. My team had a plan to divide my kids up and cover for me.

If the LW lives where snow and ice is normal and the roads are open (ours were close) then theLW needs to learn to drive in those conditions.

Now if the police/fire/dot is saying stay off the roads, any boss that requires non-first responders to come to work needs a clue by 4 upside the head.

73. Cassie*

Living in California all of my adulthood, I’ve never had to make a decision of going or not going to work because of snow (or any inclement weather, for that matter). I noticed the OP said that the boss and the people who do work on the days it snows is not just annoyed with the OP, but also the other people who don’t show up. So, to me, it looks more like a case of “we were able to make it in, everyone should have”, and not necessarily because some people always call in (although that probably has something to do with it).

And I’m also assuming that the OP’s coworkers and/or boss have to cover for people who are out. For my job, if I’m working from home, I can still do about 95% of my duties. For the other 5% (which is like sending faxes, making copies, mailing a letter, etc) – that would either have to wait, or one of coworkers *could* help out. (For what it’s worth, when my coworkers are out, or simply at lunch – I help out when I can).

74. Diane*

A naked guy just ran down my sidewalk. In a foot of snow. I was on the front porch cleaning my boots and STILL managed to miss it.

75. Editor*

OP — I worked with someone who always thought the worst would happen when the weather was bad. She always left early when a storm was predicted and we got so we teased her about her anxieties, in part because we didn’t get to leave when it was bad because we had responsibilities that couldn’t all be handled with telecommuting. Please don’t underestimate the resentment you might be creating.

Also, watch your school district’s job listings. If they offer a job you are qualified for, you might apply. If you got it, you would probably have snow days off.

76. Bwmn*

Instead of looking at school closings – depending on where you live – looking at federal office closings might be a help. Anywhere the federal government has a semi-critical mass of offices (which is probably more cities/regions than you’d immediately think of) – there will be postings of closings or delays that might provide a different perspective from school closings.

77. Anonymous*

I’m nearing the end of a long career in IT (so I come from the days when everything was hand-coded to be keypunched onto punch cards).

My first job was at a company who had moved from the Land of Eternal Snow to the Land of Never Snows But Ices Occasionally And No One Knows How To Drive In It Nor Do We Have Equipment To Treat It. I didn’t get enough experience in it then and or now to be a safe driver. I lived about 20 miles from my office.

Back to the story, the first winter they were here, we had a little freezing rain, but it had been so warm that even bridges were unaffected. My boss had told us sternly that “we work in bad weather so show up”. We all showed up.

The next winter, it sleeted unexpectedly during the night. I was young and stupid and headed to work. I wrecked on black ice less than a mile from my house. Other than bumps and bruises, I wasn’t hurt, but I had a lot of damage to my vehicle.

After that, I had one rule: if there was ice on my back steps, I went nowhere because that meant the roads and bridges between me and the office were iced over.

They could pay me; they could not pay me. They could make me take vacation; they could give me the day off. They could fire me; I was looking for a job when I found them. They could make me work (even more) overtime to make up for being out. They could do any or all of the above, but the one thing they couldn’t make me do was risk my life and vehicle on icy roads.

Oddly enough, while there was always some grumbling from individual managers, the sheer number of people from the Land Of Eternal Snow who also wrecked that morning caused a general mindshift among management. For Operations people who had to be there to keep the systems running, plans were developed for them to be able to “live” there 24×7 until the roads were clear again. The rest of us were to use our best judgement and to take vacation or unpaid days off.

78. Melissa*

I understand, I’m a temp employee. I dont have health care and if I dont feel safe I wount risk it. Last weeks snow storm prevented me from being able to drive my car to the train station. I called my agency and was told “make it work”

79. K*

Reading this, I too was curious where the OP lives. If it’s somewhere that snows frequently I would have the opinion that they should learn to drive in the snow and get over it (or figure out a solution to work from home). Also, I live in an area where it is snowy/icey/cold most of the winter, but schools shut down after three or four inches of snow which isn’t really an accurate representation of when it is or isn’t safe to drive.
I still remember all too well when New England suffered a severe snow storm (blizzard?) a few years ago. It was so bad that in Massachusetts they literally banned people from the roads except in emergencies. I got out of work by 10:15 PM in NH after over two feet of snow had already fallen and what was previously a 15 minute commute turned into over an hour. I spun out on the empty highway three times, had to pull over multiple times to scrape the ice off my windshield while the defrosters were going full blast and got stuck in two or three snow drifts. Did my manager care? Nope – because the store was still open even though our only customers were plow drivers.
Long story short: Life sucks, commutes suck, but you still have to go into work. If everyone else can do it, you can do it.

80. Who Watches the Watchers?*

I know this is an old post but I wanted to chime in a little bit here. I think the best gauge for snowy weather is always to use your own best judgement. YOU know your car/driving ability. YOU know your area/route. YOU know your work/co-workers.

Don’t let anyone, not your friends, not your family, not your co-workers/boss, not random strangers on the internet pressure you into doing something you feel is unsafe just because, “everyone else can do it, so you can too.”

I live where we typically have mild winters. I am not a winter driver and the infrastructure here just is not equipped to handle lots of snow or ice. Period. That’s the reality of the situation. I always do my best to weigh whether or not to come into the office carefully and not just make a rash decision. Example? Today the roads were snow covered roughly 2 inches with a layer of ice on top. I got to work by taking the bus. The weather forecast for Friday is 8 to 12 inches. I’ve already taken the day off because I know the traffic will be awful, the roads untreated, and that my little 4 cylinder car won’t make it to the bus stop, let alone the office.