Dan Mackie: We’ve Lost Our Minds in Winter
I’m not what you would call a “winter person,” in that I don’t do many skateboard tricks in the half-pipe, rarely zoom down the luge track at 90 miles an hour, and my wife and I stopped ice dancing after losing faith in the judges.
I’m more of an “I don’t mind winter’’ person, since the cold doesn’t bother me much, and my two-mile drive to the office doesn’t require nerves of steel. I don’t love snow shoveling, or walking on icy sidewalks that threaten to toss me around like Putin’s thugs (maybe I watched too much of the Olympics).
But take your average winter day, say 25 degrees and sunny, and if you know how to dress right it’s downright pleasant.
To me, it has always seemed like winter was an nonnegotiable part of life, in that I was born in New England and can’t see myself wearing shorts and support hose in Florida some day.
So I accept winter, just as peasants in the Middle Ages must have accepted certain discomforts (pillagers coming by just when they had the fields nice and tidy), and conscripted British sailors must have accepted certain privations when they were sent across the Seven Seas without even a slice of lemon in their iced drinks, resulting in scurvy at worst, or an unpleasant aftertaste at best.
Just wait six months or so, I tell myself in November, and the punishing winds of winter will be done with. So I cheer up.
Not so my fellow Americans, who seem to be losing whatever winter resistance they had. It’s clear that Generalized Winter Anxiety is at record highs.
Except for a few hardy skiers, snowmobilers, ice fisherpersons (political correctness holds sway in bob houses, as you can imagine) and roof raking enthusiasts, most people seem to have — and there is no gentle way to say this — lost their minds.
A new Cold War is under way, at least judging by reports from the NBC Nightly News out of New York City, which is battling 20-foot snowdrifts, minus-40 degree temperatures (daytime highs!), marauding polar bears, massive icebergs on the Hudson, and 12-foot icicles falling from the Empire State Building. Or so it has seemed from the nightly alarms sounded by the broadcasts, of which I could cynically note that it’s so much cheaper to send a weatherperson just outside the office to exclaim about the cold with all the emotion of a dying opera singer than send a correspondent to, say, Europe, or maybe, Asia, where I imagine there might be news happening.
But Oh, No! Another 3-Inch Snowstorm is Barreling East! Threatening Millions! Soon follows what looks like stock footage of a sedan fishtailing a little as it drives around a corner, confirmation that the Sum of All Fears has occurred. Schools close. Businesses shut. A woman is interviewed who says, “I’ve never seen it like this,’’ and I note that the woman is maybe 40 years old and certainly could remember winters as bad as this IF SHE WASN’T FROZEN WITH FEAR. Or something.
I suppose it’s easy for me to get on my high horse, since traffic here isn’t bad and we have snow tires and snowplows and snow shovels, which apparently aren’t available anyplace else in the U.S. except for North and maybe South Dakota.
I expect the medication ads on the NBC Nightly News, now offering help for erectile dysfunction, arthritis and breathing woes, many with annoying side effects such as sudden death, will be joined by something new for Generalized Winter Anxiety. I’m sure top scientists are adding bits of rock salt to the SSRIs at this very moment, working toward a cure. The breakthrough drug will be named something like Chillax, and it will earn billions. It will be the Polar Vortex of pharmaceuticals. Like spring, it cannot come too soon.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.