Winter is Lurking
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” William Shakespeare
I hate winter. Hate cold, snow, ice, coats, boots…snow, did I mention snow? Having exiled myself to the Midwest, the last ten years have been miserable from about the end of October until April most years. I am convinced that the only reason this part of the country is inhabited is because pioneers, while pushing southwest got their wagons stuck in the muddy banks of the Missouri River and then winter came and all their oxen froze to death. They were stuck, stranded in the icy wilderness. Then when it finally did warm up a little, they discovered corn, made whiskey and lost all their ambition to leave.
The girl I married was from here but her father had the good sense to leave and move to Texas when she was just 13. He moved to Texas to avoid the cold. He was a smart man. There is nothing remotely redeemable about living someplace where you could die from locking yourself out of your car. The descendants of the owners of the unlucky oxen teams talk about how much they look forward to the first snow and how pretty it is. I think they’re lying. I think they put on an act because they own property here and their DNA won’t let them formulate the thought of leaving.
In Texas, where I was born, when it snows, which is seldom, at least we have the good sense not to get out and drive around in it. Here, just after the first snowfall, all the people get in their cars and immediately go someplace. About 10 percent of them run into something with their cars and the fellow on the radio reminds them that the police aren’t coming to accidents without injuries because there are so many of them. They pre-record this radio message so they can play it every year because every year is the same.
Another big deal is shoveling your sidewalks. Who the hell goes out and walks around in sub-zero windy weather anyway? People without oxen to pull their wagons…obviously. There isn’t a winter that goes by where there aren’t stories about people my age who drop dead shoveling snow. These are people, like me, who live on cul-de-sacs where nobody is walking on the sidewalks anyway. When I lived in Dallas we didn’t even have sidewalks in a lot of places. We had cars. We parked them in the garage when it snowed.
The biggest winner in this part of the country are the people who sell heavy clothing. Coats, gloves, stupid looking furry hats, etc. “Wear lots of layers” they tell me. So then, I am wearing all these layers, my armpits are sweating and there are trails of frozen sweat on my sides and my feet are cold as a trudge out to shovel snow of a sidewalk nobody with any sense is using. Other companies that make money are the people who sell sleds. People buy them and after the one use, where they figure out dragging them up the hill isn’t worth the thrill of riding them down, hang them in their garage. I think every garage in the city has a sled hanging in it and all the sleds out on the few hills where sledding isn’t forbidden are covered with brand new ones.
One of the great things about warm climates is swimming. No matter how hot it gets, you can always strip down and get in the pool to cool off. Here, the swimming season is about 12 days long straddling the end of July and the beginning of August. The water is still cold. They have a lot of indoor pools but those are generally in hotels or schools. I live here, so hotels are out and the schools take a dim view of showing up to swim unless you are a student. So, I haven’t been swimming since I moved here except that once, when I discovered that shivering in water wasn’t relaxing. Back home, the water sports season lasts from around the end of March until October. Around here, they have to use a saw or an auger to go fishing. A saw…fishing.
Right now, it is about 38 degrees Fahrenheit, it is pouring down rain, so it could freeze up any minute sending thousands of people out onto the roads. Winter has arrived. Coats and gloves are out of the closet. I own property and have whiskey so I can’t very well move.
Phillip J Hubbell is a project manager, writer and job seeker living in the American Midwest, where it’s cold.