Defrosted from the archives

For all y’all who’ve spent a lot of this week snowed in …

Washington was spared (this time) but for some reason I was having vague memories about this piece, from February 2003, and I wanted to go back and make sure I wasn’t imagining that I actually wrote it. I remember it was inspired (and suggested) by Frank Ahrens. It’s short. It’s about how guys go all macho when it snows and stomp in to the office unshaven and fleeced out.

Enjoy it all over again, or for the very first time.


By Hank Stuever
(c) The Washington Post (originally published Feb. 8, 2003.)

A good five inches of snow falls, and the cubicle landscape is suddenly populated the next day by more manly men, who seem to have hiked in from the backcountry, or driven in on their imaginary snowmobiles.

Gone are the gray suits, the khakis, the software-logo golf shirts and tassled loafers. When it snows, the American office starts to look like Stein Ericksen’s ski lodge, filled with variations on the Brawny man — at least as far as the guys are concerned. This is a good thing, since Office Park Dad spends so much of his life feeling somehow less a man. He is a Shetland wool bonanza — layered, hat-haired, rosy-cheeked. He looks ridiculous and still, remarkably, sexy.

Never mind that the roads were cleared by 8, and that he parked the Jetta in the garage under K Street, barely stepping in a puddle. He’s here, everybody: Eddie Bauer has arrived for his workday.

Nothing completes a winter wonderland downtown like the sight of guys who wear the same thing every day wearing something else. At last you see the too-thick sweaters they got for Christmas, or the outerwear they buy for fun. The Gore-Tex, fleece, and puffy parka factor goes off the chart. All that flannel plaid makes us think of the logging industry or not-so-romantic camping weekends. There’s a certain swagger to cold-weather guys, which may mean: long johns.

Photo: Reuters

They don’t shave (the prep time instead went to shoveling the driveway), and they exude a harmless machismo of self-satisfaction because they made it in, as opposed to those suburban Maryland wussies who decided to stay home with the brats. Lunch tends to run long on a day like this, and it seems like all the guys decide to eat together at pubs and taverns instead of girly-man places like Au Bon Pain or Chicken Out.

After that, it’s time to hit the slopes for the rest of the afternoon, schussing back to the cubicle, ready to chop down the forest. The coat closet by the reception desk smells ripe and woolly. Snow Day Man sits at his desk and waits for the avalanche search-and-rescue distress call that never comes. (He is indifferent to the snickerings over there of Snow Day Woman, wearing that silly pashmina — or worse, tights — and her Incredibly Dumb Hat.) The daylight wanes and he begins to think about his journey home. He can handle whatever Old Man Winter deals him out there on the Beltway frontier, because he’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay.


Leave a Comment