Sunday, February 21, 2021

When Hell and Minnesota Freezes Over

 I was really foolish thinking that winter being so mild in January, with no below zero temps, would bypass the bitter cold we usually get. I was wrong. It just instead has happened in February, when most of us are starting to plan Spring things for May.

The past two weeks we have been well below zero for several days in a row. A few mornings, I have awakened to -35 below with wind chills nearing -50 below.

Basically to put it in perspective, weather like that, when you’re outside with any unprotected covered skin, will frostbite or freeze within a few minutes. Your eyes will sting and water and then freeze from the cold air, if you have a beard it will frost up and freeze icicles coming off it. And your nostrils will stick together and freeze shut until you exhale out warm air through your nose. It is quite the experience for the senses.

And even then, a true Minnesotan, will be outside doing trying to start their frozen vehicle or helping the neighbor with theirs. Or possibly just hanging outside curbside chatting. And sure enough in the midst of the short conversation there will be a “Cold enough for ya”, with no real answer expected, but possibly you’ll get a “Ya you betcha” or even better a memory of a colder time from years gone by will be shared. Minnesotans are true oral historians when it comes to weather.

I love when it gets bitterly cold, because that’s when the awesome attire every Minnesotan has comes out and is displayed for all to see. Once the temps drop to around -25 to -30 below., the Fargo jackets come out. You know the ones with a million pockets and special pockets up close to the armpits to warm your hands? The hood will zip up high so it looks like a furry periscope with a set of eyes looking out. That is if a non-Minnesotan is wearing it. But for a true Minnesotan, the hood will be down in order to display the Buffalo plaid Elmer Fudd earflap, fur lined hunting hat. Ear flaps will most definitely not be unfolded or chin strap used. To be authentic earflaps up, hat pulled low and straps swinging in the wind. And to add to the ensemble, there may be a scarf handknit by a grandma, chosen from the laundry basket full of scarves obtained over the years. You just never get rid of your grandma scarf, any of them. To finish off the “official” Minnesota winter gear, a pair of wool mittens tucked inside a pair of leather “choppers” as we call them. You know the heavy duty leather mitten that barely bends with the wool mitten inside? I always enjoy watching someone with a pair of choppers on try to open a jug of heet or windshield washer fluid. It becomes a show all in itself. We become more primate looking without the proper use of our thumbs. Most people will take the chopper off one hand before embarrassing themselves trying to do it with the chopper on.

The bitter cold here does something to us Minnesotans. While most would rather bypass the bitter cold spell we get, many of us have learned to embrace it and just deal with it. And to be honest I think it makes each of us a little more kind and helpful to one another.

The other day I was in the Jeep and the power steering fluid got low so I couldn’t steer at all. I pulled into a parking lot and flipped open the hood to see where the fluid went and then waited for my Knight in shining armor to rescue me with some fluid for it. While I was waiting, there were 4-5 cars stop by to see if I was alright and if I needed any help. They were willing to give the Jeep a jump if needed, pour Heet they had into the gas tank, or even let me wait in their vehicle to stay warm in case my heat wasn’t working. They almost seemed let down when I said help was on the way and the heat was on so I was good. I was starting to feel a little guilty not accepting their help. That’s a whole nother Minnesota thing. We look out for each other when the temps get to -30 below.

Well we have a few more days of the bitterly old stuff and then it is supposed to warm up into the teens and then possibly 35 above! The Fargo jackets, Elmer Fudd hats and choppers will all be buried away in the way back of the closet until next year. They will be replaced with hoodies, baseball caps and possibly shorts for a few that want to believe Spring is near. After all, the temps will be almost 70 degrees warmer than last week. Ahhh…..MInnesota winters, always changing and leaving us challenged in what to wear.

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