This morning, I woke up to pigeon foot-sized flakes of snow blowing sideways into my window, the walls of my building quaking slightly from wind gusts, ice pellets pecking away at my window pane. Who cares? I thought, rolling over. Forecast for today: 12 to 14 inches of me not giving a fuck.
Earlier in the season, before the storm, storm, cold snap, storm and storm, I was in prime freakout mode, just like everyone else. I did the "stand in line at Trader Joe's buying bread and milk even though, like, I don't really eat that much bread or drink much milk" thing (guess I wanted to make sure that in case I ended up getting shut in by the storm, I was shut in with some of my least favorite foods). My office was closed, and employees were instructed to work from home for safety. Schools were closed. Hell, airports were closed. Safety safety safety. We will save ourselves by giving all the fucks about the snow. Bodega owners in Brooklyn prepared by landscaping the sidewalks in front of their stores with a gravel-thick layer of salt, like that will do anything. Local news featured wide-eyed reports on how to stay safe in the cold, as though no one in New York City had ever experienced temperatures below 30 degrees before. Stay warm out there! I remember one local news reporter in mid-December saying, with a straight face. Wear gloves! (OH YEAH! GLOVES! GREAT IDEA! Now I know what those strange hand-shaped coin purses are for). Temperatures were going to be in the twenties the next day. We were fools to shoot our weather wad that early. Fools.
As the cold season proceeded apace, shit got realer, and our already-primed winter freakout turned up a notch. Chicagoans and residents of the Great Plains entertained and horrified with a steady stream of weather app screen shots that forecasted highs in the negative-teens. Oklahoma businesses told employees to stay home. A polar vortex. More ice pellets. Miles of abandoned cars in Atlanta. The weather named storms without so much as a mandate by popular vote and newscasters were using those names to discuss them, like they were strays we were feeding, or a fecund religious couple throwing baptism after baptism. Prior to the winter storm season, the Weather Channel even released their list of planned names for storms that they'd deploy alphabetically over the course of the season. I'm sure we all remember Hercules, back in early January, a month and a goddamn half ago. But does anyone know or give a shit what this fucking storm* is called?
I'll tell you what this goddamn storm is called: it's called Why The Fuck Didn't I Move To New Mexico When I Had The Fucking Chance?
The endlessness of winter 2014 reminds me a lot of the sort of winters I grew up with in Northern Wisconsin. It would get cold in November, and then it wouldn't get warm again until April or May, and we just accepted that it would be snowing pretty much the entire time. The only time folks there freaked out about weather was when it got so cold people's pipes froze (which happened from time to time) or too cold to legally send the kids to school. Other than that, people dealt by hunkering down and learning to deal with winter as an unpleasant inevitability unworthy of reaction unless it was out of the ordinary — fatalism as a coping mechanism, if you will. But even though, on the surface, long winterites seem OK taking winter's punches, deep down, it takes a mental toll and even after 18 years of winters, I never really got used to it.
Even Chicago, the city I called home for almost 7 years after college, falls deep into what I thought of as The Surly come early February every year. The Surly is the crankiness that sets in after people collectively just can't with the fucking weather anymore and, bereft of hope for a warm up, they just passive aggressively focus their frustration on each other. It's characterized by a general irritability, vague hopelessness, muddy boot water fucking everywhere, snappiness, and inability to react to anything weather-related with happiness or excitement. It's all fucking terrible, says The Surly. The Surly is why for the first year I lived in New York City I was convinced that people here are nicer than they are in the Midwest.
The Surly is happening on the East Coast now, through the entire Midwest, and down through DC and into the South. It's already happened. You can see it in the hollow, bored eyes of local TV weather people, weather people who, over the past six weeks, have gone from a group of people who deliver news that very much interests me into a group of people that sound to me like how adults sound to the Peanuts gang. Fwa fwa fwafwa. Snow. Fwafwa fwa fwa fwa. Cold. You can see the surly in the increasingly reticent attempts of shopkeepers to keep aisles clean, in the fully stocked shelves and quiet checkout lines at the local grocery store. You can hear its silent despair in the vacuum left where pictures of lined up "blizzard booze" supplies would normally be gleefully shared between friends. You can hear it in the horrible Linda Blair-in-Exorcist-like sound I'll make at the next person who declares they "love snow," in the mournful endless scraping of snow shovels on sidewalks, clearing something that the shoveler knows will just be covered again in a matter of minutes. Facebook updates from friends in Minneapolis have gone from excited and a little braggy about their ability to withstand the cold ("SHORTS WEATHER TODAY! We're hitting 15 above! Heat wave!") to defeated resignations ("Stop, Winter. Just stop.").
It's not that things aren't bad, it's just that having my mobility severely restricted by weather has stopped being kinda romantic and novel and fun, like everyone is building a fort together, and started being what it always was: a pain in the ass. Winter can only be Little Orphan Annie'd into an exciting adventure for so long before the illusion dissolves, and we're left with foot-deep layer of dread so thick we can't feel anything anymore.