On Wednesday morning, I padded into the kitchen at 7 a.m., pushed the brew button on the coffee maker and squinted out the window at the outdoor thermometer, which read a barren and lonely “1.”
“Thank God,” I said to the dog, and while I was still not awake enough to be struck by the incongruous relief that it was not sub-zero outside, by the time my husband got up, I was positively giddy.
“Guess what?” I said as he climbed on the stationary bike that we gave him for Christmas. I figure it’s already saved his life several times over since nothing it seems, not getting hit by a car or icicles forming on his eyebrows, prevented him from riding outside. “The high is going to be 14 degrees today!“ I chirped.
“That’s great news,“ he said. He was serious.
For the past two weeks, we’ve become fluent in the polar vortex, the Alberta clipper and the Siberian express. Weather has taken center stage, the ice breaker of all conversations (pardon the pun), the force with which to be reckoned before the start of each day. Who’d have thought we’d be celebrating a forecast high in the teens?
Lest you not find our recent winter blast anywhere near interesting, consider that on Tuesday the National Weather Service tweeted: “Detroit has just broken their record low. It's -9 at 6am, and the previous record was -8 set in 1977.” On Monday, the NWS reported that the mitten had more snow cover, mile per mile, than any other U.S. state.
And just to let you know who was in control, Mother Nature served up snow in both Florida and in Hawaii, while in Anchorage, Alaska, it was a positively balmy 45 degrees. Meanwhile, at the Australian Open last Friday, it was so hot — 40 C, which is 104 F — Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic tweeted a photo he took of an egg he fried on the court.
When this whole polar vortex business started here at home, ice on the expressways refused to succumb to salt. Black ice became our nemesis; it was like an evil superpower: invisible, appearing without warning and rendering its victims completely powerless. On Martin Luther King Day, my husband, Chris, called after his morning commute to Clarkston to warn me about the roads. He sounded shook up. He’d passed a bad accident on I-75 in which a Ford Focus had slid into the left lane and was struck by a van. It was crushed like aluminum foil.
It took me two hours to drive downtown to work that day: two very white-knuckled hours. But I made it. That night, the news reported that the driver in the Clarkston accident had died.
Facebook was peppered with “It’s so cold that …“ stories. I saw numerous postings of “boiling water” tricks; one friend’s son made instant snow with hot water in a big squirt gun. Determined to find mittens that curb my Raynaud’s disease (a condition in which cold causes my fingers to throb in pain), I hit the jackpot with some wool Broner mittens at the Army Navy surplus store.
Likewise, Chris had to search high and low to replace his snow boots. He went to Dunhams, REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods, an Olympic feat for someone who hates to shop as much as he does, but they were all sold out. “Do you suppose I have to go to DSW?” he said in a tone that suggested the place might have cooties since the only people he knows who shop there are women.
For those of us women folk whose feminism stops short of knowing how to operate a slow blower (those propellers really freak me out), never was there a sweeter sound than the rat-tat-tat coming from the driveway, especially while under the covers.
Having said that, I can’t remember when I’ve had more admiration for my single woman friends. Terry and her daughter, Sarah, stood dumbstruck in the basement as freezing cold water gushed down from the ceiling. It was 1 a.m. The next day, Terry found a plumber, and while she can now expound on the many horrors of galvanizing plumbing from now until kingdom come, she will not. Instead, she says with a wave of her hand, “Oh, you don’t want to hear about that.” Which is one of the reasons she is such a good friend.
My niece, a single working mother of a preschooler and a first-grader, was no doubt climbing the walls during what seemed to the umpteenth school closing day. Alongside a photo of her girls she posted on Facebook: “It takes a village. And lots of wine. Thank goodness I’m surrounded by both.”
By the time Chris finished biking, the temperature had climbed on the thermometer to a whopping 5 degrees. When I took the dog out a couple hours later, it had soared to 10! It was still freezing, but the sun was warm on my face. That’s all I need. I’ll take the cold any day, so long as the sun is shining.