Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Sky Is Falling And You Will Too

Wintry Mix, 1978
We're in line for what the weathermen typically call a "wintry mix." They call it a wintry mix because they don't know what else to call it. People like to complain that we have the same weather day after day, but every now and then we just have all the weather at once, and that's your Wintry Mix. It's not imaginative. It's like when the women's magazines publish a new Christmas cookie recipe and they don't want to come right out and call them Sugar Gum Goo Bars With Some Kind Of Breakfast Cereal And An Unknown But Hopefully Botanical Adhesive, so they call them "Festive Treats."

People from colder climes like to bitch about how no one here knows how to drive in winter, but odds are they've never seen this before. They zip around in a nice grippy snow powder you don't even need chains for. But not only do we not know what we're doing, our weather doesn't even know what it's doing. It's supposed to either come in a little warm from the ocean and rain all over us, or come in cold but dry from the other direction. When by chance we start to get some cold and some precipitation at the same time, the moisture just hangs up in the atmosphere rooting around in the glove box for the manual, and there isn't one, and then it's all finger-pointing and recriminations. Up top it's crowded with snowflakes and they elbow each other until they start to fall. But then some of them come back up and report that there's a whole warm layer down there and they're falling apart, and then the snow on top says jeezy peezy just keep going, it gets colder at the bottom again, and they go back and forth and eventually everybody hits the ground as either hail or snow or sleet or Rice Krispies or plain rain--for a minute. Then it seizes up. Everything's coated slicker than polished goose shit. If we could just put this stuff on the Hubble telescope we'd be able to see up God's nose.

One of my last winters Moving The Nation's Mail we had four days of this. By the third day the frozen rain had humped up over previous piles of Wintry Mix. It might have been possible to ambulate on something resembling an ice rink, but not this bumpy crap. Every step sent you three directions at once and your strongest tendons determined your trajectory. "I'll walk you to the bus stop," Dave said, as I headed off to the post office (during the dark of night, be it noted). "No need," I said, "I can manage two blocks," but then I disappeared briefly and turned up under the truck. Dave hoicked me back up again and we made it to the bus stop as a single four-legged teepee, and I showed up back at the house three hours later. The bus had made it about five blocks, sometimes sideways, and I'd demanded to be let off before it went downhill. The three blocks home took me a half hour to walk, plenty of time to determine my bones are not brittle.

You show me a good Minnesotan who knows how to drive in that, and I'll show you what the bottom of his car looks like.

But now I've got fuzzy slippers, a wood fire, and a beer with my name on it in the fridge. I'm going to enjoy my wintry mix. If you're a retired mailman, there's no finer weather on the planet.

43 comments:

  1. There's no better way to enjoy the wintry mix than in fuzzy slippers by a wood fire. Icing on the cake would be an apple pie warming in the oven. You've got that too, right?

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    1. Hmm. Plumb out, in the freezer. And making one now is not compatible with serenity. But a good thought nonetheless.

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    2. Plan ahead, for next year.

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    3. Yeah, I try to get all the pie-making over with in one horrible August week.

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  2. Here in Delaware, people really don't know how to drive in any kind of precipitation whatsoever. That doesn't stop them from driving, however, so that they end up in accidents which bring the interstate to a grinding halt. Then there are the employers who open even in Snowmageddon conditions, because a single daft customer might wander in. The governor, thankfully, has solved this little problem by declaring a "state of emergency" in weather that any sensible person could drive in, sometimes before even a single snowflake appears. Most sensible people here stay home, however, because of all the morons driving around out there as if it were a sunny day in June.

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    1. When I was a kid in Delaware we had a 4 inch snowfall. It shut down school for 3 days. In Minnesota it's called a dusting.

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  3. When I moved to Atlanta, an acquaintance told me that when the weather is bad, the average IQ goes down by 10 points and the average speed goes up by 10 mph. That's probably an old saying that is told in any large area with too many cars on the roads, but it's probably true anyway. And what possesses people to try to drive on ice?!

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    1. I've made a personal promise to myself not to go downhill in any vehicle sideways.

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  4. Mrs. C claimed out local forecaster was racist when he said to beware the Black Guys until she realized he was saying Black Ice.

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  5. Yep. Winter wherever you are is best enjoyed in front of an indoor fire, feet up, no falling involved.

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    1. I could probably fall out of a recliner, but so far so good.

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  6. The local name for it is, as you know, 'silver thaw', which sounds so benign. When I lived in SW, commuting up to pill hill I could tell in the morning if it'd snowed or there was ice....silence. No traffic noise.
    Here in Butte the snow on the road for months straight forces one to learn, but what happens is people get used to it, and start to drive as though it's not there. There are few non-dented vehicles on the street from Oct to May.

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    1. See, there was that time I was in Maine and had to drive 45 miles to the airport in a blizzard with no chains, and I was terrified, but then I got in the car and started out and it was like the road was gripping the wheels. It was about zero degrees out so maybe that was a factor.

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  7. Being on the ocean, we have wintry mix here all too often. And, yes, it's when it subsequently freezes hard as a rock that the danger to life and limb really goes up. I'm not sure why we don't have a hundred words for snow like the REALLY northern climates do. Instead we're groping around with long phrases like "when I try to shovel, the water runs out the bottom of the load" or "fluffy on top, greasy on the bottom" or "aargh - feels like needles in my face" ...

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    1. I've been entertained by reading the ten-day forecast and seeing how many ways they can say "rain." Because, you know, a good writer tries not to repeat himself.

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  8. In a normal year we just have snow, but this year more of the Wintry Mix. Which is basically freezing rain that stays frozen. I am usually careful when I walk, but look more like Tim Conway's Old Man shuffling along than a polar bear plowing through the snow. My public image is suffering.

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    1. Maybe, but some girls are fiercely attracted to Tim Conway.

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  9. Ha! Am on the bus in Minnesota surrounded by people dressed in the coat equivalents of sleeping bags - and a smattering of teenagers dressed in leggings and what may be tube tops. Welcome, winter!

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    1. Oooo! A genuine Minnesotan in the house! I love them. I want to collect a complete set.

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  10. "If we could just put this stuff on the Hubble telescope we'd be able to see up God's nose. " Such a way with words :)

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    1. Well, it's slick. I guess that's another way to put it.

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  11. Oh, you just set me to reminiscing about the year #1 Son was about a year old - so that would be 1976 - when we were living on the north side of a sort of hill such that the sun only shone on our driveway between the ours of 10 AM and maybe 2 PM - and it snowed a goodly number of inches and then turned to freezing rain. It looked like white patent leather (remember that?). We actually had to go purchase crampons for our boots. And then I would get as much of a running start as I could and get my little VW Beetle (old style) about 1/3 of the way up the drive and have to leave it there and get out carrying the kid and the groceries and try to schlep up the hill, sliding backwards one step for every two steps forward (if I was lucky). Our driveway, because of getting virtually no sun, stayed frozen for WEEKS. Eventually we moved away from that hell hole.

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    1. As if schlepping groceries and a baby at the same time wasn't enough of a bother. One day during the last ice storm Dave and I tried to go down the street a ways and I discovered that my Ugg boots with that rubbery crepey sole were really good on ice. Just so you know.

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  12. Over here rain is a driving issue. Snow? It would be if we got it more than every twenty years or so.
    Driving in the rain here has some simple rules followed by far too many.
    Drive as close to the car in front as possible. They will get wet and you won't.
    All cars are made of cardboard. Drive home quickly before it dissolves.
    I suspect the snow rules would be similar. And equally profitable for the crash repairers.

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    1. We've got the added rainy fun of landslides going for us now, too. Everything's trying to get flat. We're going to make one mess of a sedimentary layer some day, aren't we?

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  14. Glad you can still make good plans after being hit with THE wintery mix.

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    1. You know, when it comes down to it, a lot of my plans involve sitting down indoors.

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  16. I think the Chicago Laws of Physics insist that automotive speed increase proportionally with the amount of frozen precipitation currently adhering to the roadway. Since drivers around here are adept at changing tires at 55mph, doing less than 85 on an ice encrusted interstate is considered rude. It's like driving the Monaco Grand Prix, if Monaco was located at the South Pole.

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    1. Shackleton could've done it. Oh sure, he might have gotten stuck in a Godawful pileup and watched his car crack up, but a couple years later he'd make it out just fine.

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  17. My old walking partner and I were out at 5 am in one of our last ice storms. We were proud that we had finally found a use for our ice spikes that we managed to put on over our walking shoes. We knew we were in trouble when we were walking down the street clutching each other and a slow moving paper guy in a car offered us his walking stick. That was the morning we just walked around the block and lived to tell the tale.

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  18. NO! No snow, ice, wintery mix, winter fuzz, or ice! I am not happy when we get it and will stomp my feet and growl!

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  19. As you may (or may not) notice, my outdoors blog had a recent post about the weather here. Downright scary. Almost like a good looking human (in a scary trench coat) offering candy. I am sure we will get some winter, some time, sooner rather than later, maybe.

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    1. Or maybe someone else is getting your winter.

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  20. Me and The Shrink agree, for once: one of your best ever!

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    1. Of course, she looks at it from a professional point of view...

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    2. I'm hoping both of you can endorse the beer with my name on it--if only for me!

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  21. I will complete your set of Minnesotans-Jono and Pearl got here first. We have had just a little snow, and some "warm" weather so far. But in true Minnesotan style, we are sitting around with snowblowers running, just waiting for the real winter to hit. Or, as I so often hear, "We are going to pay for this nice winter weather". Driving in snow/ice has become much more dangerous since the proliferation of the four-wheel drive-known locally as the 4X4's. The drivers believe that they are invincible and weave between the more timid drivers going 65 on the snow and ice-packed freeways in order to travel at 80. Often they will be seen stuck axle-deep in the snow-filled ditch a mile or so ahead.

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