As the weather in St. Louis changed from beautiful 80 degree days to autumnal highs of 53 a couple of days ago, a friend complained to me, “I can’t stand the weather here.” I gave him a look of disbelief.
He’s complaining about the days becoming crisp and cool at the same time tens of millions of people are preparing for a giant storm which will drop inches of rain and major gusts of wind along the east coast. While my daughter and other family in the northeast will probably be unable to go outside for the next 48 hours, and will be lucky if the power stays on, he’s upset that he has to put on a sweater.
While our midwestern weather can be a bit dicey in the spring and summer, with tornadoes and hail and severe thunderstorms and oppressive humidity, it’s nothing compared to the winters I used to experience when I lived on Long Island and in Hartford. In those days, I did morning radio shows, so I left the house when the temperature was lowest, and froze all the way to work because the car never warmed up sufficiently in my 15-minute commute for the heater to help one bit. That’s one of the differences in dealing with hot and cold weather — even in summers like the one we just had, when it was 105+ degrees for 17 days in a row, I could still get in the car, crank up the air conditioning, and start cooling off within 90 seconds or so. And I never once had to shovel the humidity off my driveway.
Speaking of which, I didn’t have to clear snow off my sidewalk a single time last winter. The biggest accumulation we got was about a half-inch, and I wasn’t going to waste my time with that. On the other hand, I remember many winter days in New England when the snow was waist-deep and it took a half-hour just to dig out the car. Or we’d get an ice storm or freezing rain, which meant a desperate attempt to scrape a little six-inch by three-inch horizontal opening in the frozen windshield so I could see at least some of the road as I drove down deserted streets to get to the radio station — where most of the morning was spent announcing school and business closings due to the conditions.
I also remember a storm that hit in 1978, when I was in college in Stony Brook, New York, and so much snow fell in a 24-hour period that we couldn’t open the front door to the ranch house I was renting with some roommates. We had to open the window in my room (which had no screen), then dig our way out and up through the snow, in drifts that reached the roof. Needless to say, classes were canceled, so we spent several hours climbing up and jumping down into the 8-feet high snow. Fun for college kids, but a pain in the ass for anyone who had to get anywhere in the following week.
I’m not saying the weather is perfect here — the pollen gets so intense from March through May that hay fever attacks my sinuses harder and faster than Chris Christie consumes a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts — but I don’t foresee moving back into a frozen climate in the future. And I really don’t understand how people live in the parts of the country where winter gets really extreme. For instance, International Falls, Minnesota, known as The Nation’s Icebox, the town that consistently sets records for the coldest place in the continental US, where it’s a great day in February if the number on the thermometer doesn’t have a minus sign in front of it. Why would anyone stay there, year after year, and if they do, how old are they before they kill the next person who asks, “Cold enough for ya?”
Everywhere you go, you’ll always find someone whining about the weather. But falling leaves and football-perfect weather are not a reason to complain.