Nathan Hansen's column: Going crazy from the cold
Minnesota residents kind of lost their collective minds this week as the result of some colder than usual weather. Governor Mark Dayton canceled school statewide Monday, making him a hero to thousands of Minnesotans who are too young to vote for him. Rainbow stores closed their doors early to protect the well being of potential customers who were at risk of getting frostbite while buying Twinkies. And I’m pretty sure dogs everywhere reconsidered their commitment to housebreaking.
To be fair, it was pretty cold Sunday and Monday and even into Tuesday morning. There was a clear departure from Minnesota’s usual winter, “Gosh, it’s nippy out!” to the much brisker, “What’s the real estate market look like in Arizona?”
It was the kind of cold that lets meteorologists break out their bag of Mr. Wizard science kits to demonstrate just how cold it is outside. I guess in case people didn’t notice when they went outside.
So, television weather folks spent their forecast time tossing boiling water into the air and watching it freeze, or pounding in nails with bananas or freezing Han Solo in a block of ice for transport to Jabba the Hut.
I actually might have seen that last one in a movie, now that I think about it. I think it was The Color Purple.
The temperatures, which in some parts of the Twin Cities neared 30 below zero, could be overwhelming. Even more overwhelming, though, is all this talk about how miserable it is. Friends and neighbors hung blankets from the wall and cranked furnaces into overdrive as they tried to cope.
People went bonkers at the grocery store. Crowds of descended on the aisles, ransacked shelves and fought over cases of bottled water as they stocked their well-insulated bunkers for a cold snap that is expected to last one day, maybe two. I don’t know. Maybe they were worried their doors would freeze shut and they wouldn’t be able to resupply until February.
But, you know, it’s Minnesota. In the middle of winter. This kind of thing is to be expected. It’s two-thirds of the reason wool socks were invented.
If we didn’t have days of bitter cold, how would we feel superior to the people in Florida who cancel events when the temperature plummets into the 40s? What would we post on Facebook if we couldn’t share photos of our dashboard thermometer readings? Presumably as we sit with the heat on full blast and our seat heaters giving us that confusing mix of emotions — a little bit of, “Gosh, it feels good to have a toasty tush” and just a touch of, “It kind of feels like I wet my pants.”
The cold is serious business for some people, of course. It can be deadly for the homeless, and it can be a challenge for people who take the bus. Days like Monday, mail carriers probably really regret that whole “Neither sleet nor rain nor dark of night” thing.
Most of us, though? As we go from our temperature-controlled homes to our seat-heated cars to our offices? It’s mostly an inconvenience.
It’s not even that bad. I walked 15 minutes Sunday from my car to a Gopher basketball game, then 15 minutes back when the game was over. I didn’t lose a single extremity to frostbite.
I mention that not so you’ll think I’m really tough — although, it’s at least a little impressive, right — but to point out that aside from a wind that made my face feel like it was contracting against my skull as I walked into it, it was actually kind of a nice day. The sun was out. The sky was blue. And there were hardly any other people to get in my way on the sidewalk.
That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?
Oh, forget it. I’ll see you in Phoenix.