Of course as most of us are aware, its snowing outside, although the media would have you believe that civilisation as we know it has in fact ended. Inevitably as the snow fell the SAPS (Save Ass Policy Schemes, where elf N’ safety is invoked not due to a genuine safety risk but as part of a work avoidance strategy or for reasons of liability avoidance) swung into action.
Many schools closed because of snow, effectively forcing working parents to stay home from work. Yes, like the rest of us, school principals had weeks of advanced notice of impending snow, but apparently they have since discovered that snow is slippery (Jasus! who could have known!). Yes, and its also slippery when it rains! And the school run becomes treacherous when its foggy, yet we don’t see fit to close school’s then. One assumes this is because school heads would be laughed at if they did.
Indeed I would argue that one of the reasons the country grinds to a halt every time a few snowflakes fall, is largely because we can make excuses that in other parts of the world would be dismissed. If they closed down the rail network in Sweden or North America because of a little snow, they’d be laughed at and called “girlie men“. But in the UK faced with the choice of going out in the freezing cold and fixing a signal fault or blaming elf n’safety and staying inside in the warmth, its all too easy for railway staff to do the latter.
In the university on Friday, things started off well. We got an e-mail from the boss, the gist of which was, its just a bit of frozen water, don’t be a wet blanket, business as usual! However, inevitably after the students began making excuses (a rumour got going that all the buses were cancelled, not true they were running, just taking detours around certain ungritted roads) and trying to get out of going to class (of course I pointed out that if they ended up having to walk home/get a taxi they’d be in exactly the same boat after class than if they skipped it, so they may as well stay). But inevitably the SAPS kicked in and closed the uni down….and told us to leave the building (where there was no snow inside) and go home…via that same “hazard” they’d just shut the uni over!
While I admit I did cancel some appointments with students for Friday the night before, this was more because I didn’t have a lot to say to them (busy with marking) and didn’t want them fighting their way in only for me to say what’s the craic!
Why don’t we grid pavements?
Of course the powers that be seemed to have long realised the benefits of gritting roads and clearing away the snow, but why not pavements? I mean more people walk on pavements than drive (and drivers have to get out of the cars at some point). I fear this again may boil down to SAPS.
Back in Ireland we are no better, if not worse than the UK. But I recall a radio phone-in programme, where a householder was advised to stop gritting the pavement outside his house on the grounds that if some slipped on the grit he could be sued….but if they slipped on the snow it was considered just an accident!
Now if this is true, then that’s just plain stupid. In Germany the opposite rule applies, if you DON’T clear the snow and someone slips you can be sued (that said, Germans suing Germans is a fairly rare event) but if you make some effort, you can’t be sued.
While I won’t go as far the Germans, certainly a bit of common sense would sort this all out. I would propose a law that declares snow to be slippy (like Dah!)…but! in incremental weather everyone needs to accept the risks they take when they step outside. If you slip, regardless if a pavement has been gritted or otherwise, its just an accident. As a courtesy, householders, businesses or the council are free to take measures to make things a little less treacherous, but its assumed people will apply a bit of intelligence (wear sensible footwear, travel with care, bring a walking stick, etc.). Similarly, schools stay open regardless. If parents feel they’d rather not risk the wee’ins in snow, they are welcome to keep them at home. But otherwise, its business as usual.