What's the sitch with Snowdenfreude?
The German word schadenfreude is a term used to describe pleasure taken from the misfortune of others. It literally translates to, “harm-joy.”
As Minnesotans, or more generally, as people who live in a northern clime, we are used to dealing with snowfall. It ain’t no thang. Our response to two inches of snow is largely the same as our response to a foot of the stuff. Our plows are at the ready, our snowblowers are full of fuel, our hardware stores are stocked with bags of salt, and when the ram’s horn is blown, we mobilize all of these resources and deal with it. Streets and sidewalks are expected to be clear within 24 hours, max, and usually much quicker than that. It is rare that our daily schedules are drastically altered, aside from adding 10-20 minutes to transit time, and choosing to strap on your real winter boots when proceeding by foot.
On the other hand, snowfall of greater than four inches on either coast, or south of say, Kansas City, will shut an urban center down for days. Even the expectation of such snow often closes down schools or the government. And I’m not suggesting it’s their fault. These are rare climactic occurrences in those areas. Why should a city spend public funds to prepare for something that is unlikely to happen on an annual basis? How could the individuals in those populations know how to respond if they don’t have the experience?
Never-the-less, it is pretty funny. Watching Weather Channel anchors talk about the historic snowfall headed for the East Coast, and how the cities are in a state of emergency based on the prediction that some frozen water may soon float down softly onto their streets... Minnesotans can’t help but smile.
We take a smug pleasure, not from their real misfortune, but from the hysteria caused by something that we would respond to with such ease. Without a second thought. We gather around our televisions, smirking as CNN reports live from the empty streets of Washington D.C., millions of their citizens already holed-up in apartments, shelves stocked with enough food to last for the two weeks they are expecting to be trapped inside. All of this based on the predictions of meteorologists, a profession with a lower accuracy rate than the guy who writes fortunes for the cookies at a Chinese restaurant with two and half stars on Yelp.
This is not a new phenomenon, but we do feel it is important to give it a name, as it does come up so frequently in winter months. Snowdenfreude appropriately expresses the joy we feel when denizens of mild-weathered cities panic at the thought of snow. It is the pleasure we take from watching these lower-latitude metropoli close all of their public institutions because enough snow has accumulated to slip over the ankle-edge into their low-top Prada boots.
Next time you can’t seem to look away from a news report about a city’s overreaction to a little snow, you’ll be better prepared to describe the warmth you are feeling. Snowdenfreude.
*Sitch suggested by the always napping J.W.