After storm column, some readers ask, ‘Where funny?’


I’ll say this for myself: when I make a mistake, it’s a doozy. Regular readers will remember that last week, I spent a lot of time making fun of the hysterical media build-up to the storm they were calling the “Snowpocalypse,” which turned out to be kind of a dud, at least here in Middlesex County. I also made fun of people buying all the milk and bread at the supermarket, as if they were members of the Donner Party, getting ready to cross the mountains in winter. I was having a good time.

Then, the next Wednesday, the real storm hit and pretty much shut down the entire Eastern Seaboard. I won’t go into details about what happened, because that’s been on every news station in the world, and if you live out here, you were probably able to look out your own window and see what was going on.

It clobbered us in Middlesex County as well. My wife got a snow day and spent it cooking great food and fooling around with the snow blower. When there’s “big weather,” as she calls it, she can hardly wait to layer up and get outside.

I spent the day of the storm sipping hot cider with a good book in front of the fire, and my dog curled up at my feet. From my recliner, I could look out the window and watch my neighbor plow my driveway three times. He’s a great neighbor to have. Not only is he a home-improvement professional, which comes in handy, considering the five thumbs I have on each hand, he operates a snow-removal service and has a couple of trucks with plow blades. He parks one of them in my driveway on the day before big storms, so my little stretch of blacktop is the first thing he plows.

So we didn’t suffer. We didn’t run out of milk, or bread, the power stayed on, the house was warm and I ate well. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

But I did feel bad that the very day the column I wrote was being printed and delivered on people’s driveways and posted on the website, it was snowing too hard for people to go outside and get the paper. And I took a few lumps from readers who emailed me to point out my meteorological and empathetic deficiencies. I guess I had it coming.

One reader, who didn’t sign his or her message, was representative:

“While I appreciate your attempt at humor, timing is everything. Another storm is about to hit tonight. It will probably be another foot or more. Sure, some places in N.J. only received a dusting of snow last weekend, but many of us had well over a foot. Southern parts of N.J. … suffered downed trees and utility poles and are still without power five days later. Cape May was hit with two significant storms back to back

“I am sure the elderly and disabled would not see the humor in your piece if they are stranded without phones, or power for oxygen or other medical equipment or HEAT for days. It might have been funny in Middlesex last Sunday when you had no cleanup, but that is not the case where I live. I still would rather have the opportunity to prepare and have the weatherman be wrong, than not to know at all what might happen …

“And Mr. Bean — everyone knows you do not keep bread in the refrigerator. Bread is stored at room temperature or in the freezer — never in the refrigerator!

“Have fun shoveling tomorrow!” I understand that not everyone appreciates my sense of humor. I once wrote a column about keeping kids occupied on long car trips by having a contest to see which one can fill up a soda can with spit first. That column got more mail from disgusted readers than almost anything I’ve ever written. I thought it was hilarious, and still do.

Not everyone was put off by the “Snowpocalypse” column, of course. Kevin, from Plumsted, was one of the readers who thought it was pretty funny.

“I had to write to you and say, ‘Looks like we survived the storm of the decade’ was one of your best! It brought me to my knees with laughter. What this does point out though, is how the media outlets can control anything they want to … The Media says, ‘It’s going to snow!! Stock up, you will not be able to get out.’ Off they go to the store to buy the milk, bread and eggs (that they will have to throw away).

“I must say, while I was clearing my drive of the snow I ran out of gas for my snow-blower. I got into my truck and off I went to the gas station to fill up my portable can (shame on me, I didn’t prepare by buying 500 gallons beforehand). Guess what — the roads were (mostly) cleared and I was able to get to the gas station without any problem.

“Can you please get your buddy Al Gore to get this Global Warming thing going? I am worried about these people surviving another snowfall.”

In my own defense, I’ll just say I write these columns a while before they’re actually printed, and when I wrote that column making fun of the storm hysteria, they weren’t even predicting the helliferocious blizzard that socked us a few days later. Still, I ought to know better than to secondguess Mother Nature.

So I’m sorry I made fun of people who probably didn’t deserve it, and as they say in the newsroom, I regret being caught in that error.

On the positive side, the federal government in Washington, D.C., was closed for four straight days on account of the storm, which is the first time that has happened in living memory. So while most of us were stuck at home, so were the men and women in Congress who usually have their sticky fingers in our pockets. They’ll probably make up for it now that they’re back at work, but it was nice while it lasted.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at