I come to you today to issue an apology, not only from me but from all the people of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, including people in Gurnee and Gray’s Lake and even the Buffalo Grovesters, who didn’t know they needed to apologize.
But we do.
Because the whole polar vortex thing was not our finest hour and, in fact, it exposed us for the frightened little weenies we are.
Every winter, people in our area read from the same script whenever it snows or sleets or drops below freezing in Washington, D.C. or Atlanta or Memphis or any other town that’s south of 95th Street. We watch the video of the cars skidding or the closed stores and we bray like asses.
"What a bunch of wimps, whining about a little bit of snow or ice or sleet or hail. You’d never last a minute in a Chicago winter. Hah. Hah. Hah."
And what did we do last week when the polar vortex paid us a visit? We closed our stores and skidded our cars and posted memes about Chiberia and pointed out that it was colder here than in Antarctica. Except, of course, that it’s summer in Antarctica and temperatures above zero are what they call a heat wave.
Then, almost all of us enjoyed a day off like federal workers on a furlough (too soon?), pretending to work from home while we spent the day online. In other words, it was like pretty much any other workday for 75 million Millennials.
Yes, the polar vortex was absolutely cold and dangerous and a miserable thing, but Chicagoans need to take a lesson in stoicism from some of our northern neighbors. You know what they were talking about in Cotton, Minnesota? No, you don’t, because it isn’t a major media center and the entire population is three lumberjacks and a reindeer. Ditto for Norris Camp, Minnesota, although they just got their second reindeer.
When the temperature dropped last week to 56 below in Cotton and 48 below in Norris Camp, and even Cedar Rapids hit 30 below, the locals dealt with it. In Chicago, we were all beating our chests and sobbing—at the same time—about 21 below. Who’s the wimp now?
In Grand Forks, North Dakota, the local paper dismissed the whole month of January as cold, but not as cold as in other years. That’s what tough people do. They scoff at the also-rans and the nice tries. Come back when you’re a real man, Jack Frost. Clearly, I want someone from Grand Forks with me when the going gets tough.
Our alternating braggadocio and whimpering is a basic human condition, of course. We all need to be better than, smarter than, holier than, hardier than…even more-put-upon-than. It’s the same need that drives consumerism and elitism and racism and the insufferable smugness of political purists. We don’t just want to be special. We want to be more special than everyone else, even when we're not.
The fact is that winters aren’t nearly as bad now as they were when I was a kid, and not only because my grade school was swallowed by Mastodons. Back in the '60s, people worked in factories and had to show up at the plant if they were going to make anything. Now, we all sit at computers in coffee shops and communal workspaces, or we work from home when the mood strikes us. Weather simply isn’t the same issue it was in the old days.
Even better, we have the gig economy today. When Ma Nature dumped 23 inches of snow on the city during one day in 1967, we had no choice but to grab the sled and dig through the streets to buy some milk and bread at Jewel. Then we dug out the car and called dibs on the parking space until the thaw in June. Today, Instacart delivers our groceries and we leave our cars buried in the snow while we order rides from Lyft. Except for a handful of drivers, delivery people and the folks who keep the electricity flowing, we can all stay home and not be missed. In a few years, we won’t need any people at all.
Before then, I’m hoping my fellow Chicagoans will awaken from their weather benders and regret all the things we said last night(s). We were wimpy, whiny, little babies who sat at home and made screen shots of weather.com pages and craved the sympathy we deny to other cities when they get a few days that are colder than the norm.
I, for one, am so, so sorry, and embarrassed, and contrite and I want to send an especially sincere apology to the people who soldiered on, without complaint, through much worse conditions in Grand Forks and Cedar Rapids and Cotton and Norris Camp.
And your reindeer.
If those reindeer could read, they'd be signing up to subscribe to dadwrites and absorbing all our wisdom every week. Be sure to obtain a gift subscription for Prancer and Vixen, or for yourself, by clicking here. If nothing else, you'll have something to read if you're stuck inside during bad weather.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.