How I Learned to Sled Without a Sled

I was one of those people totally unprepared for the massive snowstorm currently hitting D.C. that's headed up north. This fact leads me to why I am writing this—fear not New Yorkers and other Northern-folk, there are lots of ways to have fun in the snow when everything is sold out.

Last night when my friend Colleen mentioned renting cross-country skis I thought, brilliant! we are so ahead of the game! Urban skiing! She had called me while I was walking to get potatoes for our dinner with kids that night. The lines at the market stretched 40 people deep because, as it turned out, all D.C. residents were preparing to stash provisions and hunker down for the weekend. I should have realized that was a sign. As we waited in line, Colleen called back: the rentals had all been snatched up, as had all the skis for purchase. Not to worry, we decided. Sleds, we’d get a sled!

I walked toward Logan Hardware in Northwest D.C., 5-year-old in tow, only to be met with a sign that read: Snow Shovels—SOLD OUT, Sleds—SOLD OUT, De-icing salt—SOLD OUT. Same story all over town.

After dinner, we found some slabs of cardboard and packed them into the car just as a backup measure. We actually used to own a sled, but after two winters of no snow, I had given it up as a victim of global warming. This morning we woke up to six inches piled up in the garden outside our home, and a few hours later it was up to 10 inches (it must be more than 20 now). Stores were closing. There would be no sled for my son.

We trekked over to Meridian Park on 16th Street and Euclid in a Siberian death march dragging those same cardboard slabs (which catch in the wind and throw you off your game, I discovered). The few cars that ventured out were getting caught in the snow, wheels spinning.  But when we reached the park it seemed all of the neighborhood was out in force, and, as it turns out, we were not the only desperate ones.

I could go on, but the takeaway is this: one does not need a sled to sled. In a shining example of the bygone art of service journalism, I offer you this, Human Condition reader, a rating from 1 to 10 of the options brought out by unprepared D.C. residents who also faced that SOLD OUT sign. They make me proud. Come on, New York, let's see you beat this.

Aluminum turkey-roasting pans, perfect for 2-year-olds—9

Plastic storage tubs or their lids—7

A kayak—1 (hard to direct, but an A for effort for the guy who brought it out, very impressive)

Cookie baking sheets—5

Inflatable swim tubes—8

Food trays lifted from Potbelly sandwich shop—4 (The perpetrators promise to return them; desperate times call for desperate measures!)

Food trays from Potbelly placed inside Glad garbage bags—9

Glad garbage bag wrapped around entire body (poke your legs through and curl up into a ball if you're tall)—7

Borrowed sled from prepared people—10


Orange traffic-control drum—0 (surprisingly difficult to manage despite such high hopes)

Cardboard slabs—7


And the winner? Yoga mats—10++. Fast and furious. Who knew?