Over Easy: Maybe it’s cold outside


For the Valley News

Published: 02-04-2023 12:09 AM

If the weather predictions have come true this week, it is, as you are reading this, minus-70 degrees out, too cold even for snowmen and polar bears.

Cars won’t start. Dogs won’t go out. Water won’t boil. It’s so close to absolute zero that icicles are shivering and making a low moaning sound.

“DANGEROUS HOMICIDAL MEGA POLAR VORTEX,” the weather shamans on the NBC Nightly News are saying, as one reports live from sea ice near the North Pole to warn you, the home viewer, to stay inside.

“The hypothermia threat is real! I’m already experiencing shivering, slurred speech and some confusion. Wait. Over there. Isn’t that Elsa and Anna from Frozen, or am I seeing things?”

“Reporting live from the North Pole — HELP!”

Well, they are excitable about “weather events,” otherwise known as weather.

Mother Nature has gifted us a two-day staycation on the tundra, but this winter has been a Debbie downer, not much below 30 and hardly any snow to speak of, or ski on.

Recent seasons have been moody as a teenager, with Jack Frost buried in his room staring at TikTok on his cellphone. They arrive later than they used to, like a teen who has to be cajoled and bribed to visit the (“BORING, ugh”) relatives.

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We did have the Yucky Heavy Lumpy Storm of December 2022, which forced us to take down an exceedingly droopy birch tree in our front yard. The price rose by $500 when the arborist got here. “Emergency rates,” he said. I looked at the branches over the power line and the trunk aimed at our front window and realized my options were limited. Such is winter and such is life.

Overall, winter 2022-23 has reminded me of my youth in Rhode Island, which is the Ocean State, not the Packed Powder State. We had snow, and we played in it, but it was mainly melty. We grew up with soggy feet and sodden boots. Likewise our pants, which came from discount department store bins, not Patagonia. Most kids carried an extra 5 to 10 pounds of water weight after a hearty day outside. We also made a squishing noise as we trudged home — no sneaking up on siblings or rivals.

The upside of lukewarm winters was that the snow was great for snowballs. We hurled them at each other, and also at cars, a memory that appalls me. In my hooligan youth I thought automobiles were meant to be hit with snowballs, and saw no harm in it. It was sport, not mean-spiritedness.

An occasional driver did not see it that way, and stopped, yelled and threatened to chase us. He would have a shot at catching us snow-throwing miscreants in our waterlogged boots, but adults were mostly bluster — unless we were already within arm’s reach.

It was more fun to throw snow than it is to shovel it or battle it with rock salt. Now I fret about people falling on sidewalks and driveways, especially me. I am taller and older. I have further to fall and more at stake.

Which brings us to an important point about infrastructure. Thus far, the sidewalks in West Lebanon have been pretty clear and slip-free. The city employs a sidewalk plow that zips around and rams through snow piles and ice. It wasn’t that long ago that the city had a dodgy little machine that broke down a lot. Someone in authority made the decision to invest in something better. He or she deserves a promotion — or maybe the GOP nomination for president. We could do worse.

In any case, December and January are behind us and February and March ahead. I imagine there is more cold weather to come, but as I have written before, I don’t really mind it. In fall I armed myself with an L.L. Bean Mountain Classic Down Parka that is rated among its warmest. It cost a lot, but less than $200, and much less than the fancy brands that I associate with Aspen, Ferraris and dining at restaurants without a coupon.

I went back and forth about the purchase until my wife, Dede, couldn’t stand seeing me in such miserable indecision. I think she said I’m “worth it,” but I still have my doubts.

In the end, you can’t buy your way out of winter, unless you fly to Florida. And it just so happens that I avoid Florida, land of crocodiles, alligators and reptilian politicians. I might visit, but I won’t stay.

So here we are, in winter, in the Upper Valley, counting our blessings and putting on another sweater, hoping for good snow, not the lousy wet stuff that belongs somewhere else.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.