Toiling over temperature
In addition to crops, college sports and state politics, the weather ranks high up there as one of Iowans' favorite talking points. The season doesn't matter – it can be the dead of winter or heart of summer – discussion about climate always tops the list when people greet each other at the store or pass by on the street.
Such was the case during the past week. Classes at area schools and other activities were cancelled Monday in preparation of the utterly frigid temperatures and wind chills, and the arctic blast was definitely the coldest in recent memory. You'd have to be somewhat insane to venture outside unless you absolutely had to in conditions that felt like 50 degrees below zero.
This winter has already been quite cold as far as winters go. The wind just hasn't quit, and it seems every other day brings with a storm advisory or temperature warning. All this griping got me thinking recently about how much my attitude about the season has changed over the years. Despite denial and repeated attempts to prove myself otherwise, I've come to one full-blown conclusion: I'm becoming a winter wimp.
One of my previous columns already outlined my disdain for the season. It's cold, nobody likes shoveling, the days are short, etc. This list has expanded over time as I've grown further and further distant from once happy childhood winter memories. No longer does the season bring with it the excitement of snowball fights, snow forts and snow tunnels.
However, this past week has made me realize that it's really not the snow that I hate – it's the darn cold temperatures. Snow can be pretty, and more often than not I find myself admiring the white stuff as it fluffs down from the sky on a crisp winter evening. At the very least, it makes it so we don't have to stare at the brown, lifeless ground for four-straight months. If it didn't have to be plowed, pushed and piled, snow might actually be down right pleasant.
Temperature is completely different. You never hear someone sing, "I’m dreaming of a subzero Christmas," or say, "Boy, I'm really looking forward to breaking out the long underwear and wool socks!" It seems that no matter how many clothes you add, you still feel the chill to all the way to your core.
Through my various on-the-job interactions since moving to Hampton in May, I've had to introduce myself to new people quite regularly.
"Where are you from?" folks usually ask.
"I just graduated from the University of Iowa," I respond. "But I'm originally from northwest Iowa – about 25 miles west of Okoboji just south of the Minnesota border."
"Oh, so you're used to all this cold then!" they often reply.
The truth is, no – I'm not used to it, and I don't think I ever will be. My tolerance for the cold has waned significantly during the past five years since being away from the tundra that is northwest Iowa. Winters are long, the wind bites and snowdrifts can completely consume cars if conditions are right. I think that's probably the case throughout most of the upper half of the state, but people sure do think northwest Iowa is some sort of mini North Pole during the winter. I wish I was some hardened winter veteran unaffected by frigid temps and three-foot deep snow, but that's just simply not the case.
It wasn't a walk in the park, but this recent cold snap made me realize I had very little to complain about. Road crews, farmers, construction workers and many other people with outdoor-related jobs probably wouldn't mind spending a day in a heated office like me. The most outdoor exposure I had was covering a fire near Geneva Friday, and even then I hightailed it out of there after about 20 minutes. Toe-tingling temps and an extremely hard wind gave me a whole new appreciation for our local firemen as they fought the flames.
In any case, there's still 3 months of winter left. Be smart, stay warm, and for cryin' out loud just stay inside when it gets this cold!
Nick Pedley is the editor and a reporter for the Hampton Chronicle.