Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Bronze Medal at the Winter Olympics

Winter supposedly ends in a few minutes. I'm here to write its obituary.

It was the third-snowiest in Chicago history. And it doesn’t matter if you use the traditional measure (the duration of the winter solstice) or the meteorological one (the period between December first and the last day of February), it snowed a lot.

This near-record snowfall was accomplished without the benefit of a single blizzard. It was through a grinding, unrelenting, inch-by-inch accumulation that its bronze medal was won. Not only did it snow a lot, but it snowed on many days.

So many, many days.

And we at the Square Peg were made corpulent with delight.

And we shouldn't forget the cold. The winter just concluded was likewise the third-coldest in our history. It stands an Olympic-like three-tenths of a degree from the record low average of 18.3 degrees Fahrenheit posted in 1903/04. It is sobering to realize that for giant stretches of time, it was warmer in the freezer.

I am grateful I did not die while shoveling snow. This because owing to the bronze medal cold, much of the bronze medal snowfall was dry. To those luxuriating in blissful ignorance of such things, a heaping shovelful of dry snow weighs much, much less than does a heaping shovelful of wet snow.

So there’s that.

But I can’t summon similar gratitude over the 2,628 times I had to scrape ice off the windows of my car. Or sweep snow from it or remove the cement-like accumulation from the wheel wells and front and rear undercarriage. Nor am I dancing a jig over the 104 additional gallons of gas I burned at $3.79 per warming it up.

The layers and layers of clothing I was forced to don every time I went outdoors and then had to remove when I returned indoors also left me distinctly unenthused. Ditto the considerable irritation I experienced while buckling my shoulder harness and seat belt in an already narrow space made narrower by bulky winter clothing.

And what of the snow and howling wind that inevitably finds the exposed flesh between the end of a jacket's sleeve and the top of a glove? Or that bit between a scarf and the northern terminus of a coat’s zipper? At wind chills below ten degrees, it may as well have been a knife at your jugular.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t shine a light (preferably an LED with fresh batteries) on the bane of all calcium-deficient human beings: falling.

I myself fell several times this winter. Fortunately, nothing broke. As shippers the world over have learned, it is difficult to break something wrapped like a Ming vase about to be offloaded by longshoremen.

(Which isn't to infer that I, in any way, shape or form resemble a Ming vase. Actually, I look more like a Jin Dynasty ewer.)

But as scientists point out, we do adapt. There is such a thing as acclimatization. While the thought of a post-work stroll through an open parking lot in nineteen degree weather would have been horrific in September, last week it seemed (all things being relative) balmy.

Yes, it’s true. I sauntered to my car in an unzipped coat. Carrying my gloves instead of wearing them. At the risk of diminishing my robust display of acclimatization, I should add there was no wind chill.

Combined with the two occasions this month that have seen the thermometer register a positively tropical fifty degrees, and there is tangible proof that even permafrost can be rendered impermanent.

But the ice scraper isn’t going anywhere. Snow is predicted later in the week.

My obituary is premature.

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