Here’s a surprise observation: It has been cold outside.
They tell us the early January 2014 blast of arctic air was the nastiest in a decade, which meant there were plenty among us — pampered youth and immigrants from climes where wind chill is a theoretical concept akin to dark matter and the Higgs field — who look on long underwear as a fashion statement, have no working knowledge of heat tape and are under the impression that the plugs poking through the grill of older autos bearing Minnesota plates are evidence of an early and obscure version of the Prius.
These are people who have never stepped outside and been pleased that the cold no longer demanded a profane modifier. They are MINOs — Minnesotans In Name Only. I feel for them.
It’s been a while since Minnesota has been Minnesota.
But it’s been baaaaack ...
Of course, since I’ve spent virtually all of the past few days indoors, the exterior temperature has had minimal impact on my life or well-being. Central heating, a plenitude of natural gas and a working car heater have seen to that — as it has for the most of us. It’s a rare and stalwart soul who is so deeply green as to eschew fossil fuels when the wind chills slide into the life-threatening range and even the penguins at the Minnesota Zoo huddle indoors.
Truth is, there are few things like a good old-fashioned Minnesota winter to give a man a renewed appreciation of Exxon-Mobil and the wonders of the great indoors.
Yeah, I know ... carbon footprints, climate change, vanishing glaciers and polar bears swimming for their lives. The inevitability of extinction is most unpleasant to contemplate, but it’s really hard to work up a full measure of global warming guilt while warming up the car at 4 a.m. so it has half a chance of starting when it’s time to head to work at eight. There’s nothing like the prospect of imminent hypothermia to make even the most chilling hot house scenario appear more the promise of affordable heating bills than a harbinger of the coming apocalypse.
That’s understandable. All any one of us has to do is take a look in the mirror as we step out of the shower and view the facts of our essential unsuitability for a boreal climate laid bare. Were it not for technological intervention, our kind could barely have strayed much north of the latitude of New Orleans — but, provided with fur and fire, we looked north and laissez les bons temps rouler.
At least until the stray arctic vortex wanders through.
There is a positive aspect to persistent subzero cold — after the first 24 hours or so nobody’s asking, “Cold enough for ya? Heh, heh.” On the other hand, that’s when the smug, Gore-Tex-clad sniff their disdain for the chilblained masses: “There’s no bad weather ... just bad clothing.”
It’s evidence of the depth of our civility that the shivering mob has thus far stifled the urge to strip them of their designer parkas and put them to making heavenly hosts of nude snow angels.
I really doubt that many of the folks making such silly claims have had to be out in really bad weather without the option to come in when it’s no fun any more. It’s the difference between spending a Sunday afternoon ice fishing and hauling nets on a trawler in the Bering Sea. The guys hauling buckets of boiling water to thaw frozen hog waterers, the kids bundled up like walking closets to deliver the morning paper, the crew chipping through the permafrost to get to the busted water main — they know bad weather and know we’ve been having some.
And it’s about time it went away.
From Jan. 8, 2014 — it was cold then, too.