January 11th, 2018
Somebody asked me the other day why I don't write humor columns about the weather these days. It's the same reason why I don't make many political jokes: They're just not funny anymore.
I've endured Indiana winters for so many years that they've become like my chronic back pain: I don't notice it as much unless I think about it. Another way to put it is that winter is like having dental work done while on nitrous oxide: You still feel the pain, but you just don't care anymore.
(No--the original source of my chronic back pain was not weather-related. But that would be a reasonable assumption.)
It's amazing how quickly people adjust to weather, which is seldom moderate in most of the country. After last week, thirty degrees suddenly looks good. In August, forty seems horrible. (Twenty is always bad. Anything with a minus or triple digits is always bad.)
As a volunteer, I've fought fires over a 130 degree temperature range, and that doesn't include the fire itself. One summer I took off my boots while on a break from a hayfield fire, only to have the asphalt pavement melt to my socks. At a mobile home fire one winter, as I've related before, it was so cold my breathing air regulator froze up while I was inside the building. It was like having a plastic sheet tightened over my mouth, only the plastic sheet was at minus fifteen degrees.
Before you ask, yes, I survived my headlong dive out the door.
Still, our winters here in northern Indiana have been relatively moderate, these last several years. I mean, moderate by our standards. Your average resident of, say, Key West wouldn't agree, but why would they be up here in winter anyway? Last winter the temperature only got below zero a few times. The Polar Bear Plunge, in which the insane dive into open water at New Years, was almost canceled for lack of a challenge.
But I remember the days when you couldn't open your downstairs windows, because the snowdrifts would fall in.
I remember having to chip the dog away from the fire hydrant. Very carefully.
Me being the pessimistic type when it comes to the weather, for the last several years I've predicted a return to truly winterish winters. "I have a feeling," I'd say every year, starting in October, "that this will be a really bad winter." My theory was that if the winter turned out to be mild, it would be a pleasant surprise, and who doesn't like those?
Every year I'd be wrong. I was okay with this.
But this year I've been right. I suppose I was bound to be right about something, sooner or later.
I'm never right about good things.
As I write this we've just passed through a record cold snap that put an ice coating over pretty much everything east of the Rocky Mountains. Several inches of snow are standing on a mountain in Hawaii, and California's turning cool and wet. Well, everything that didn't burn is turning cool and wet. The northeast is trying to recover from a storm so bad they had to drag out another obscure meteorological term for it. I just heard a prediction of a major snowstorm that will hit somewhere in the Midwest, but the forecasters say it's too early to tell exactly where--apparently it's the same system that's dumping rain on the fire-scorched Cali mountains.
I predict, here and now, that this major snowstorm will go right over northeast Indiana. In fact, I predict the worst of the snow will fall on Noble County, which I'm in the center of. It's Tuesday as I write this, and by Saturday we're going to be talking about the Blizzard of 18. And then, maybe, when I'm dug out, I'll come up with some new, original jokes about the weather.
But I doubt it.
"You promised me a nice walk. This is not a nice walk."
This is my favorite winter photo, because I was two feet from my front door.