It starts roughly the day after Valentines Day – the upper midwest’s snow and ice whining season. This is the time of year when typically upbeat midwesterners complain bitterly and incessantly about, of all things, snow in the winter.
To outsiders, complaining about snow in February and March in the upper midwest might seem about as logical as complaining about sunsets at days end. Or Vikings collapses in January. After all, these are statistically inevitable occurrences. But still we whine.
Actually, we’re not always this unstable. There are distinct snow psyche seasons in the upper midwest. From mid-October to Thanksgiving is the Giddy Season. If it snows in the Giddy Season, we frolic. We also wrap our SUVs around telephone poles. After all, it’s been six whole months since we’ve driven in the stuff.
From Thanksgiving to New Years is the Romantic Season. During the Romantic Season, snow is a highly coveted holiday prop. Sure, we bitch a bit about its effects on our travel plans, but gosh our holiday decorations look so much prettier with snow in the background. Budweiser ad-driven nostalgia wins the day.
From New Years to Valentines Days is the Grin and Bear It Season. The novelty of snow and ice is long gone. But, hey, we get a chance to use the swell new skis and expensive Snowtex undies we got for Christmas. So we plod along without (too much) complaining.
But towards the end of the Grin and Bear It Season, Groundhog Day plants a very ugly seed in our Vitamin D-deprived brains. Groundhog Day reminds us that it is statistically possible for winter to end a bit earlier than average. And hope can be a very subversive force.
But still, MLK Day, the Winter Carnival, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentines Day, and President’s Day give us some days off and diversions, and so we muddle through.
Then it gets ugly. From Valentines Day until Ice Out on the lakes, the natives get restless. Though snow is still metereologically normal, we act as if the gods are playing cruel and unusual pranks on us when snow happens.
Our darting eyes start to take on the look of Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining. We curse our Minnesota heritage, and our neighbors showing off their precious Ft. Myers sunburns. We start panicking about how all that dog crap is going to smell when the glacier rolls out. We stop shoveling all but the largest accumulations in bitter protest. We wander catatonically in the garden section Target has cruelly resurrected. We’re not at our best.
And this year is much, much worse. Because this year we combine our wretched Ice Whine Season with the fact that much of the country has it worse than us.
You see, the only upside of Ice Whine Season is that it allows us to feel superior to our weak neighbors beneath us. But all of the joy of winter whining is lost when people in DC and Louisiana actually have it much worse than us. I have had midwesterners get very upset at me when I have had the nerve to suggest “at least we had a normal winter and don’t have it as bad as those poor people in Virginia.”
Trust me, in the Ice Whine Season, you do NOT want to deprive northerners their self-pity.
So here I sit under my SAD lamp, Jack Torrence eyes glaring at the Target Field live webcam, wondering when oh when the groundskeeper will start circulating heated glycol through the pipes underneath center field…and wondering how much it would cost to install something like that in the dog shit section of my backyard.